In The Social Network, Rooney Mara plays Erica Albright, the young woman who opens the film by breaking up with our anti-hero Mark Zuckerberg, and comes back halfway through to cut him down to size for the things he wrote about her online. It’s a great, full performance in two short scenes, but Mara does a lot with her screentime. She adeptly handles Aaron Sorkin’s rapid-fire dialogue; she shows the transition from admiring and being interested in Mark to being fed up and wanting nothing to do with him, in a few minutes time; and she handily provides the movie’s moral center and the best entry point to the film for the audience, her dismissal of Mark in that second scene giving the audience permission to think he’s kind of a dick.
A lot of reviews have boiled down the character of Erica to ‘Zuckerberg’s Rosebud‘, and while that may be putting a bit too fine a point on the Citizen Kane/The Social Network comparisons that have been floating around, Mara never reduces her character to something so simple as ‘the one that got away’. She never defines her character in terms of the impact she has on Mark, but instead shows why Erica would make the choices she does for her own sake. She presents Erica as the kind of whip-smart, likable woman that would be interested in someone like Mark in the first place, but would have enough self-respect and intelligence to abandon him when he becomes condescending and even insulting. It’s sharp, clear, film-defining work, doing so much with a very small amount of screen time.
This is part of Stinkylulu’s Supporting Actress 2010 Blogathon, a Tribute to Actressing at the Edges.