Jesse Eisenberg, who played the lead in The Social Network, is a smart actor. He’s also a good actor. He embodied the fierce intelligence and determination his role seemed to ask for admirably. Is he a great actor? He may be one day, but he’s not there yet.
Why do I say that? Consider the final scene (SPOILER ALERT). The Zuckerberg character is apparently preoccupied, deeply troubled even, about the question of whether or not he is, in fact, an asshole. He asserts to the concerned junior lawyer who hangs around to cluck over him that he is not an asshole, and her rejoinder (more on that below) is an apparent answer to that question. Trouble is, by this point, I had long since ceased to care about the condition of Mark Zuckerberg’s soul. The story had been absorbing, engrossing even, but I found myself totally apathetic to the question of whether deep down, Mark Zuckerberg was a good guy or not.
Perhaps the fault for this does not lie with Eisenberg alone, but I think if he as an actor had found a way to care about the people he was eventually to betray, his remorse upon betraying them would have been more real, and, as a result, more palpable. As it was, he seemed troubled, but anguished? Not remotely. Jesse Eisenberg will have to try to hit that mark another time.
If I had to guess, I would speculate that Eisenberg made a judgment, consciously or not, about Zuckerberg that he was “uncaring”, so it was hard for him to see that these relationships really meant something to him.
As for the movie itself? It was watchable enough. It did stay with me for a day or two. But I don’t think it really showed us anything new. We know about the dangers of ambition and of failing to keep it real when you succeed. And we know people do ass things in their early twenties. (oh how we know…)
And about that ending: Zuckerberg says something to the lawyer like “I’m not an asshole!” and she says something like: “I know you’re not. You’re just working really hard to be one.”
This reminded me more than a little of the last lines of Howard Korder’s 1988 play Boys’ Life:
Carla: You’re not the worst man in the world.
Jack: I’m not, huh?
Carla: No you’re not. I’m afraid you’re just not. (Pause) But you’d like to be…