The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Dir: David Fincher
David Fincher has inspired cult like devotion in every serious fan of film, except for me. Right, give me a cookie or whatever, cross stitch my name on a pillow, I have the internet based syndrome of being a special snowflake when it comes to my tastes. That is, of course, true to an extent. Fincher makes good movies, sometimes he makes borderline great ones but of late he’s become a name that film students can drop into a conversation to make people who only casually go to the movies gape at them in wonder. I imagine this must have been what it was like for Godard in the 60s.
Fincher knows how to make a good movie. He released one last year, one that I thought I would hate and ended up falling totally in love with: The Social Network. What an excellent film that was! He’s made other excellent films too: remember Zodiac? Hot damn that’s a long, slow burn of a film but man if it isn’t satisfying, like a seven course meal but printed and projected in front of you for nearly three hours. Fight Club? Well that’s a time capsule movie if there ever was one, from a point in all of our lives when we thought Chuck Palahniuk might have something important to say. He’s made some great movies. This isn’t one of them, and it isn’t because no one bought the director a color wheel for Christmas like I begged the internet to. Nope, it was the story itself that was troublesome. Everything else could have been solved through an act of bravery that wouldn’t become Fincher in the least: actually leaving something on the cutting room floor.
The blues and the yellows (and in this one a delightful gray color) that have become a Fincher trademark suit the overall tone of the film. That tone is one of intense boredom and disinterest by pretty much everyone involved (except, wonderfully, from Stellan Skarsgard). For a film that’s based on a global bestseller (which I haven’t read) it makes me really lose faith in the collective taste of…well…the world. This is entertaining? This isn’t entertainment, it’s lazy. The whole affair was horribly lazy and that made the film’s pacing (a languishing two and a half hours) seem even more drawn out and for ridiculous reasons. Why, well because narratively the characters must be built from the ground up…and then the absolute laziest thing in the world happens.
Mikael Blomkvist is involved in some kind of journalism scandal, very white collar, very intriguing and empowering. Very…respectable. Lisbeth Salander on the other hand, like all women who need to be broken because the story demands it, is raped. When she fights back from her rape it is brutal, to be sure. If one squints at that, it’s empowering in a burning bed sort of way. From a story telling standpoint, it’s a shortcut, and it’s downright depressing. This is the way we have to understand a strong woman, through tragedy, through a systematic breaking down of a character. Women have to be beaten to rise up, men merely have to be found out. Blomkvist gets redemption through work, Salander gets revenge through violence. The fundamental difference between the way these two characters get shown as broken to the audience is offensive. For my money a more in your face kind of female character is Melissa McCarthy’s unapologetic Megan in Bridesmaids who is comfortable in her sexuality enough to hit on someone. There is nothing threatening about Salander: if anything she is standard. We can accept a victim as our hero, but break her first.
Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth is underwhelming. Yeah, I said it. For some reason after spending maybe 15 minutes being featured in last year’s The Social Network she has been anointed the great hope for young actresses. It is beyond me to figure out why. Daniel Craig as Blomkvist has a few shining moments of being not tiresome, but none of those happen when he’s sharing the screen with Mara. Their lack of chemistry even as partners is astounding. It might be the only truly jaw dropping thing about this movie. Skarsgard takes visible pleasure in flexing some of his more Hopkins-as-Hannibal-Lector acting muscles and for the time he was on screen he was the only saving grace of the film.
In all honesty, treatment of the characters aside, this film’s cardinal sin was that it was boring and poorly paced. Some lesser sins? The intrusive score that should have been done by The Chemical Brothers rather than Atticus and Reznor doing their best Chemical Brothers impression and the ridiculous opening credits that only served to remind the audience that once David Fincher directed Fight Club and wasn’t that pretty cool?
See it if you want, I can’t stop you. I couldn’t even stop myself. But know this first: this is a standard crime movie being marketed as something remarkable. The only thing remarkable is how we’ve all been fooled into thinking this is okay.