“You’re going to be successful, and rich. But you’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won't be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.” – Erica Albright, to Mark Zuckerberg
The greatness of “The Social Network” is established in its very first scene. Mark Zuckerberg, as unlikeable a nerd as one could possibly imagine, is having a drink with his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend, Erica Albright. Zuckerberg is a kid who scored 1600 on his SATs, got into Harvard, and looks exactly like the kind of guy who got his ass kicked on a regular basis in high school. In some movies, he’d be the hero. But in this one, he’s one of the great movie villains of all time – a guy who damn near manages to change the world, a guy who certainly changes the landscape of the online world, a guy who makes himself a billion dollars – and manages to do so in a way that leaves the viewer with nothing but contempt. Contempt for his personality, contempt for his methods, and contempt for his treatment of other human beings, from those he considers his enemies to those who consider him a friend. In short, Mark Zuckerberg is a douchebag of epic proportions, and Erica Albright has him all figured out – before he’s made one dime off of his ideas.
“The Social Network” is an across the board triumph – acting, screenplay, and directing. It is a triumph because, even at the moment you’re secretly rooting against Zuckerberg and hoping that someone just walks up to him and tells him to go f*ck himself (or better yet, slap his face), you’re drawn into the intrigue and the drama of what he did. And in the grand tradition of capitalists, I suppose that Zuckerberg isn’t any different from those who came before him – the Rockefellers, the Fords, the titans of industry who made this country what it is.
You have to wonder, for the artists in participated in the making of this movie, whether they realized that they were onto something special. I imagine that they did, and can only imagine (and envy) the creative energy that was taking place on the set from day to day. Even the bit players – familiar faces like John Getz and David Selby (who was in Dark Shadows, for crying out loud!) as the attorneys involved in the various depositions that frame the story; new faces like Rooney Mara (soon to be the American version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”), who, in her few minutes on the screen, absolutely radiates future stardom, veterans like Douglas Urbanski, “theater producer and raconteur,” according to his bio), who absolutely nails my vision of what a president of Harvard University would be like, in one of the best scenes in the entire movie (essentially, someone with an attitude of “what the f*ck are you over-privileged brats doing in my office, and wasting my time?) – are terrific.
The lead actors are, to a person, amazing. Jesse Eisenberg, who portrays Zuckerberg, Justin Timberlake, as Sean “Napster” Parker, and Andrew Garfield, as Zuckerberg’s “friend and partner” Eduardo Saverin, are just great. They’re the closest to a “love triangle” as there is in a movie that is almost entirely devoid of positive human emotions, and the subtle ways that Parker manipulates Zuckerberg into cutting his friend out of the action are sometimes hard to watch, they’re so brutal and unfeeling. Armie Hammer as the twins Winklevoss is also terrific, effortlessly imbuing the two with the privilege that makes people in this country want to hate the ruling elite.
And Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay? Hey, say what you will about the guy, but he’s an incredible writer. It’s an amazing piece of work. But don’t forget director David Fincher, who sets the tone and mood perfectly in every scene. Hey, I could go on and on…Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ soundtrack? Amazing. The cinematography, lighting, editing? All terrific.
The best movie of the year? You bet.