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'The Social Network' is worth friending
0930MARKER
Jesse Eisenberg, left, and Joseph Mazzello star in "The Social Network," a film that dramatizes Mark Zuckerberg's founding of Facebook.

"The Social Network'

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg. Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, Max Minghelia and Justin Timberlake.

Rated: PG-13 for sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language

Runtime: 2 hours

Bottomline: A definite top 10 movie

Because it doesn't already consume enough of our lives, Facebook will now take over movie theaters beginning this Friday. If the very idea of a Facebook movie makes you groan, believe me, I understand. That was my initial reaction, too.

But if you're thinking "The Social Network" is a quickie, opportunist piece made to cash in on a fad, think again.

It is not only destined to be one of the 10 best of the year (the Oscar buzz has already begun), this movie might have the greatest cultural impact of anything released this decade.

Think I'm overstating it? There are two things you need to know.

First, around 500 million people use Facebook (a number that grows every hour), and they are bound to be curious about a movie that dramatizes the creation of the site. And after seeing it, all Facebook users will remember the movie and look at that site differently every time they log on.

Second, this movie isn't really about a website that allows us to indulge our narcissism. It's about people and what drives some to sacrifice genuine relationships in the name of ambition.

Like the site, the movie revolves around Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), and it seems wise to clarify at the outset that I'm writing about the movie character rather than the real guy.

Mark is a computer programming genius who scowls around Harvard with an iMac-sized chip on his shoulder. The key to social acceptance on that campus is becoming a member of one of the Final Clubs, and Mark has little chance of getting into any of them.

It's difficult to decide whether Mark is angry because he's not in a club, or he's not in a club because he's so angry. Either way, he feels like an outsider and loathes the exclusivity of Harvard's class-obsessed social scene.

His only close friend is Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), who comes from money but doesn't act like it. He tolerates Mark's attitude in ways no one else does, which Mark doesn't appreciate nearly as much as he should.

A pair of waspy, crew-rowing twins, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer), and their partner, Divya Narendra (Max Minghella), hear about Mark's skills and recruit him to do the programming for a social network that would be as exclusive as the Final Clubs.

Mark agrees but immediately begins building a social networking site, called "The Facebook," for his and Eduardo's own start-up company. His version will be free and open to everyone-just the opposite of the Winklevoss' philosophy.

The site expands unbelievably quickly, but so do Mark's legal and personal problems. He is soon the defendant in two lawsuits. Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), creator of Napster, leaches onto Facebook and exacerbates all of Mark's problems.

We soon realize we're watching a classic American Dream saga.

"The Social Network" offers one superb scene after another. This might be the best work of Aaron Sorkin's ("The West Wing," "An American President") already stellar career. And director David Fincher ("Zodiac," "Fight Club") photographs and paces everything with his trademark intensity.

Eisenberg plays a nerd, as usual, but this time he isn't a stuttering wimp. He wields a razor-blade tongue that can slice even seasoned lawyers into a pile of ones and zeroes. The supporting performances range from strong to award-worthy.

The sum of all these excellent contributions is a masterfully written, riveting drama with more laughs than most comedies.

Does the movie stick to the facts? Probably not. The real Zuckerberg is already waging a public relations counter-insurgency (predictably, his first stop was "Oprah").

But who cares about facts when "The Social Network" offers truths on a profound scale?

The movie riffs on some of the defining qualities of the American character, particularly the class anxieties that fuel manic desires for wealth and acceptance. But it's also about whether fulfilling those desires brings happiness.

But mostly, "The Social Network" is about friends.

Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.

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