“Did you know there are more people with genius IQs living in China than there are people of any kind living in the United States?”
The first line of David Fincher’s The Social Network starts at the 16-second mark, just as the Columbia Pictures logo rolls, and just as we slowly fade into the middle of Mark Zuckerberg and Erica Albright’s date in a bar, in Boston, in 2003.
While studio logos are still flashing on the screen, we hear the first bars of The White Stripes Ball and Biscuit a song that has as much to do with what is about to happen as any dialogue soon to be spoken.
We hear a male voice over the song recount a questionable statistic about the number of genius minds in China related to the population of the United States, inspiring a female voice to retort it can’t possibly true, and before we even see the players in this scene.
A young couple sits bickering at a campus pub, a tale as old as time. They speak quickly and sharply about pressing student concerns: SAT scores, summer jobs, a cappella groups, and whether one of them used to sleep with the establishment’s bouncer.
Each character feels increasingly insulted by the other. By the end of the conversation, their relationship is through. “A fuse has just been lit,” notes the script at the scene’s conclusion, describing a dynamic—college breakup as launching pad—that is broadly familiar to audiences yet is also, in this telling, a portal to a great and eventually unrelatable unknown.
There is chatter around them as the place bustles, but the focus is on he and she as Zuckerberg zip past his own comment, slipping in his perfect 1600 SAT score and then to which ‘Final Club’ he wants to try and join, a final club being unofficially recognized Harvard social clubs notoriously difficult to get into.
Erica keeps up as best she can but there is a shift as the conversation presses on with indefatigable energy. Tension replaces interest as Zuckerberg seems taken aback by Erica’s attitude toward the clubs and which to choose She retorts that his speaking style is so disjointed–often saying two things at once–it’s hard to know where he’s going. The conversation continues but a seed has been planted, and it takes roots when she asks him which club is the ‘easiest’ to get into.
The perceived affront crawls under his skin, so he attacks back in his own blunt way, to which she further complicates by telling him he is obsessed with ‘Finals Clubs’ and needing medication. After correcting her use of Final rather than Finals, he explains that he believes his membership into a club will lead to a better life and therefore needs to do something substantial to catch their attention so that then and when he gets in, he will be taking her to events that will feature people she wouldn’t normally get to meet.
Insulted to a degree she can barely contain, she drops the bomb, asking him what it means that she couldn’t meet these people on her own, which begins a desperate tirade from him to try and collect her back. She leans in and tells him that one day he is probably going to be a “very successful computer person” warning him that he will think, all his life, girls won’t like him because he is a nerd, but that won’t be true. It will be because he is an assh*le. The proverbial mic drops and she splits. The date is done and the movie starts.
The opening scene of The Social Network, which only lasts for five minutes, took three weeks to edit. The drama’s opener, which sees Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) dumping Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) for his narcissism and insensitivity. The scene is all fast-talking putdowns and quick cuts, immediately hooking viewers and setting the tone for what would follow.
The film follows Zuckerberg’s university years at Harvard and of course, the inspirations of his world-changing idea and beyond. Jesse Eisenberg is spot-on with how most of us likely picture the rather elusive Mark Zuckerberg. Eisenberg doesn’t offer the film’s finest performance, instead, he is being matched note for note by Justin Timberlake’s spin on Zuckerberg’s semi-faux mentor and Napster founder Sean Parker and perhaps even more so by Andrew Garfield’s Eduardo Saverin, Zuckerberg’s academic peer and early financier and patsy.
Directed by David Fincher, and written by Aaron Sorkin, the duo adapted a book by Ben Mezrich to dramatize the founding of Facebook as well as the surrounding lawsuits. The Social Network was praised by audiences and critics alike for its excellent cast, incisive script, and exemplary direction. David Fincher who to this point had made some of the more mind-bending and twisted thrillers in modern cinema, including The Game, Fight Club, Se7en, Tand Zodiac, to name a few. To make a biography seemed a bit off track perhaps, but as the movie–and more importantly, the very story of the subject reveals–perhaps he was a perfect choice.
The Social Network has maintained a strong reputation since its initial release and is commonly cited by critics as one of the best films of its respective decade and century. The Writer’s Guild of America ranked Sorkin’s screenplay the third greatest of the 21st century. The film stars Jesse Eisenberg as founder Mark Zuckerberg, along with Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin, Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker, Armie Hammer as Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, and Max Minghella as Divya Narendra.