The Set-Up: It is a bravura opening that signals to the audience what it can expect from the movie for the next two hours plus. Like the Universe-expanding opening shot of Star Wars, or the opening speech from Patton, it sets the stage for the story to come. But, unlike, say, Patton, it is a duet, rather than a solo, and it happens at such a quick pace, it's a little tough to get one's bearings. But this opening back and forth cross-examination will inform the the procedures, testimony, and depositions that make up the bulk of The Social Network.
It is typical of the work of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who used to do this verbal parrying as a matter of course when he was the guiding pen of "The West Wing"—the only difference being that these participants aren't doing so down winding corridors of power. But, the arguments, counter-arguments, cross-talk, arcana and call-backs are basically the same. You have to keep up with the pace, even if sitting still.
The performances are amazing. The hyper-kinetic style of Jesse Eisenberg that has previously been used to portray insecurity (in such films as Wonderland and Zombieland), now suggest an arrogant tactician, the only betrayal of insecurity being his furtive glances to see that the verbal jousting isn't causing a scene in the bar. And Rooney Mara's persistent attempts to cut through the clutter of her date's thought processes play across her face in a manner that the player on the other side of the table cannot seem to display.
It boils down to one line: "I have no intentions of being friends with you." And Mark Zuckerberg will spend the rest of the movie building and defending his machinations to construct something that will lower the bar of what constitutes friendship, in an area of computerized relationships that has as its center, something that he seems to be incapable of being—the social network.
The Story: A boy (Jesse Eisenberg), a girl (Rooney Mara) and a bar—that's all we know at this point.
Action! (Or should I say "Opening Arguments?")
FROM THE BLACK WE HEAR--
MARK (V.O.) Did you know there are more people with genius IQ’s living in China than there are people of any kind living in the United States?
ERICA (V.O.) That can’t possibly be true.
MARK (V.O.) It is.
ERICA (V.O.) What would account for that?
MARK (V.O.) Well, first, an awful lot of people live in China. But here’s my question:
INT. CAMPUS BAR - NIGHT
MARK ZUCKERBERG is a sweet looking 19 year old whose lack of
any physically intimidating attributes masks a very
complicated and dangerous anger. He has trouble making eye
contact and sometimes it’s hard to tell if he’s talking to you
or to himself.
ERICA, also 19, is Mark’s date. She has a girl-next-door face
that makes her easy to fall for. At this point in the
conversation she already knows that she’d rather not be there
and her politeness is about to be tested.
The scene is stark and simple.
MARK How do you distinguish yourself in a population of people who all got 1600...
MARK ...on their SAT’s?
ERICA I didn’t know they take SAT’s in China.
MARK They don’t. I wasn’t talking about China anymore, I was talking about me.
ERICA You got 1600?
MARK I could sing in an a Capella group, but I can’t sing.
ERICA Does that mean...
ERICA ...you actually got
ERICA ...nothing wrong?
MARK I can row crew or invent a 25 dollar PC.
ERICA Or you can get into a final club.
MARK Or I can get into a final club.
ERICA You know, from a woman’s perspective, sometimes not singing in an a Capella group is a good thing?
MARK This is serious.
ERICA On the other hand I do like guys who row crew.
Well I can’t do that.
ERICA I was kid--
MARK Yes, it means I got nothing wrong on the test.
ERICA Have you ever tried?
MARK I’m trying right now.
ERICA To row crew?
MARK To get into a final club.
MARK To row crew? No. Are you, like--whatever--delusional?
ERICA Maybe, but sometimes you say two things at once and I’m not sure which one I’m supposed to be aiming at.
MARK But you’ve seen guys who row crew, right?
MARK Okay, well they’re bigger than me. They’re world class athletes. And a second ago you said you like guys who row crew so I assumed you had met one.
ERICA Should we get something to eat?
MARK Would you like to talk about something else?
ERICA No! It’s just since the beginning of the conversation about finals club I think I may have missed a birthday.
(can’t get over it)
ERICA There are really more people...
ERICA ...in China with genius IQ’s than the entire population of--
MARK The Phoenix is the most diverse. The Fly Club, Roosevelt punched the Porc.
ERICA Which one?
MARK The Porcellian, the Porc, it’s the best of the best.
ERICA Which Roosevelt?
ERICA Is it true that they send a bus around to pick up girls who want to party with the next Fed...
MARK So, You can see why it’s so important to get in.
ERICA ...well, which is the easiest to get into?
MARK is visibly hit by that...
MARK Why would you ask me that?
ERICA ...just asking.
MARK None of them, that’s the point. My friend Eduardo made $300,000 betting oil futures one summer and Eduardo won’t come close to getting in. The ability to make money doesn’t...
...impress anybody around here.
ERICA Must be nice. He made $300,000 in a summer?
MARK He likes meteorology.
ERICA You said it was oil futures.
MARK You can read the weather you can predict the price of heating oil. I think you asked me that because you think the final club that’s easiest to get into is the one where I’ll have the best chance.
ERICA I asked--
MARK You asked me...
MARK ...which one was the easiest to get into because you think that that’s the one where I’ll...
MARK ...have the best chance.
ERICA The one that’s the easiest to get into would be the one where anybody has the best chance.
MARK You didn’t ask me which one was the best one, you asked me which one was the easiest...
ERICA I was honestly just asking. Okay? I was just asking to ask.
ERICA Mark, I’m not speaking in...
ERICA You’re obsessed with finals clubs.
ERICA You have finals clubs OCD and you need to see someone about it who’ll prescribe you some...
ERICA ...sort of medication. You don’t care if the side effects
ERICA ...may include blindness.
MARK Final clubs. Not finals clubs and there’s a difference between being obsessed and being...
ERICA Yes there is.
MARK Well you do--that was cryptic--so you do speak in...
ERICA I didn’t mean to be cryptic.
MARK I’m saying I need to do something substantial in order to get the attention of the clubs.
MARK Because they’re exclusive.
MARK He was a...
MARK ...member of the Porcellian and yes he did.
ERICA Well why don’t you just concentrate on being the best you you can be?
MARK Did you really just say that?
I was kidding. Although just because something’s trite it doesn’t make it any less--
MARK I want to try to be...
MARK ...straight forward with you and tell you that I think you might want to be a little more supportive.
MARK If I get in I’ll be taking you...to the events...
MARK and the gatherings...and you’ll be meeting a lot of people you wouldn’t normally get to meet.
ERICA (smiles) You would do that for me?
MARK We’re dating.
ERICA Okay, well I want to try and be straight forward with you and let you know that we’re not anymore.
MARK What do you mean?
ERICA We’re not dating anymore, I’m sorry.
MARK Is this a joke?
ERICA No, it’s not.
MARK You’re breaking up with me?
ERICA You’re going to introduce me to people I wouldn’t normally have the chance to meet? What the fff--
ERICA What is that supposed to mean?
MARK Wait, settle down.
ERICA What is it supposed to mean?
MARK ...the reason we’re able to sit here and drink right now is cause you used to sleep with the door guy.
ERICA The door guy, his name is Bobby. I have not slept with the door guy, the door guy is a friend of mine. He’s a perfectly good class...
ERICA ...of people
ERICA and what part of Long Island are you from--Wimbledon?
ERICA I’m going back to my dorm.
MARK Wait, wait, is this real?
MARK ...then wait. I apologize, okay?
ERICA I have to go study.
MARK I’m sorry, I mean it.
ERICA I appreciate that but--
MARK Come on.
ERICA --I have to study.
MARK You don’t have to study. You don’t have to study. Let’s just talk.
ERICA I can’t.
ERICA Because it’s exhausting. Dating you is like dating a stairmaster.
MARK All I meant is that you’re not likely to...
MARK I wasn’t making a comment on your parents--I was just saying you go to B.U., I was stating a fact, that’s all, and if it seemed rude then...
MARK ...of course I apologize.
ERICA I have to go study.
MARK You don’t have to study.
ERICA Why do you keep saying I don’t have to study?!
MARK Because you go to B.U.!
ERICA stares at him...
Do you want to get some food?
ERICA I’m sorry you’re not sufficiently impressed with my education.
MARK And I’m sorry I don’t have a rowboat so we’re even.
ERICA I think we should just be friends.
MARK I don’t want friends.
ERICA I was being polite, I have no intention of being friends with you.
MARK I’m under some pressure right now with my OS class and if we could just order...
MARK ...some food I think we should--
ERICA takes MARK’s hand and looks at him tenderly...
You are probably going to be a very successful computer person. But you’re going to go through life thinking that girls..
ERICA ...don’t like you because you’re a nerd.
ERICA And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true.
ERICA It’ll be because you’re an asshole.
And with that stinger, ERICA walks off we slowly push in on
MARK. A fuse has just been lit.