The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) – Fincher turns gritty thriller in to stylized filler.
So this is the American remake of the Swedish film version of the novels that have populated beaches, airplanes, and just about everywhere else physical books are still being consumed in large quantities. Yeah, the Girl series is that damn popular, you might have thought Oprah herself had proclaimed it a must read. But, trust me when I say, it’s not the popularity of it that bugs the hell out of me. No, it’s the demand that I simply must find it amazing no matter what!
Hey, I was all ready to settle down in the theater in between Fat Man and his Skinny Wife and enjoy myself a great show. The opening titles start: black melted licorice coated vaguely sensual female figures punctuated with technological defilement. It’s something I might have expected made for an Angelspit video if industrial music was actually popular. And when placed right smack on top the icy chill colors of this country club-like island where the majority of the film takes place, it just doesn’t fit. Similarly, Trent Reznor’s score is a nightmare. While he did a nice job keeping The Social Network peppy with his continual support for goth-synth beats, here, he’s obviously as bored with the proceedings as I was, and has taken to passing out on his keyboard. You hear him wake up from time to time with a plink-plink of some keys. But then, it’s back to a full on droning that made me wish I was rather playing Quake.
See, the problem with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is we really are given the absolute limit of scenes that include characters pouring over newspaper clippings, old photographs, or engaging in recollecting old times over booze. While meant to obviously portray a deep investigation over a missing girl, in Fincher’s hands, it also just dumps a whole lot of nothing into your lap and expects you to find the art buried somewhere inside it. But just in case you get to run down by scene after scene of James Bond meeting with yet another weird member of this strange detached family, we thankfully do have a Girl with a Dragon Tattoo.
Roony Mara, playing Lisbeth, sees the sucking vortex which is this flat, inane, yawn-inducing charade, and punches things up to eleven almost every time she’s on screen. The only exception is when she, too, is pouring over photographs, or newspaper clippings. Generally though, she’s the only interesting thing we get, so we naturally gravitate to her, in spite our suspicions that she’s not going to have a pleasant story to tell either. Abused, unloved, and merely making it by on her own skills, Lisbeth somehow manages to make the thing watchable… especially interesting when its always her scenes that make you want to turn away most.
Don’t though. I figure, if you’re forced to go see this glacially paced terrible episode of Law and Order: SVU, you might as well give all your focus to the girl who wants to suck you in. At least when its all over, you’ll have a partly satisfactory excuse for feeling dirty about wasting a lot of your time later.
You may or may not be familiar with the original Girl movies from Sweden or Norway or wherever they don’t speak the Lord’s fine language, but they do exist. Made for TV, but containing unfiltered images of the sex, violence, and perversion from the thriller, the original trilogy was a great tribute to a now passed author. WHat’s that Hollywood? You know what’s good for us? This isn’t a review of the originals, but they do bear mentioning since the Fincher feature is intended (and being hailed) as a superior version.
Mikael Blomkvist is a simple investigative reporter – he wants the biggest names in corporate corruption to fall. When he gets raked through the courts for a huge financial loss, he slips out of the public view taking a job solving a long standing murder for a strange wealthy family living on an island in north wherever. He soon figures out there’s more to the single incident and employs the services Hot Topic poster girl Lisbeth Salander as his chief researcher. She’s unhinged, but has the uncanny ability to hack EVERYTHING using the Mac OS – a feat worthy of praise, for sure. Mystery unfolds, solves, and it only took 2 hours and 40 minutes.
In typical Fincher fashion, everything was grass-growing slow. It’s a thriller, but even the climax contained long, riveting scenes of Lisbeth flipping through old records, getting coffee, walking, walking, walking, riding elevators… there’s pacing and then there’s self-indulgence. Thankfully Queer had graciously tossed me a free large soda coupon, so I filled my time by drinking, eliminating, and refilling several times. Choosing the flavoring for my soda = most exciting part of my evening.
Daniel Craig really could have been anybody. It’s not really his fault, Mikael isn’t a very complex character. He’s thoughtful, passive, and likes his little trysts (don’t we all?), but never really has any intentions other than the ever-noble seeking the truth. Rooney Mara got the real gem – Lisbeth Salander with her stormy past, violent nature, and unfettered lust. Through the talented (and, funny, English-speaking) Noomi Rapace, the character has some maturity and more control in the crazed moments. Rooney Mara never broke from a sullen, pouty demeanor until the absurd final minutes of the film where she suddenly goes all Tin Man and finds a heart telling a brain-dead old man “I made a friend!” Rapace was a terrifyingly unhinged woman, Mara was a pouting teenager.
It’s more than just the dull pacing and flat characters that made this movie boring as dirt, it was the entire experience. The Trent Reznor score sounded like someone leaning on a keyboard, the locations had zero deviation from the original, the accents fluttered somewhere between Swedish and British, and product placement overran the screen at all times. Far from the gritty source material, the film spewed out the watered-down, pretentious Hollywood version of edgy.
The one positive – first film I’ve seen shot on RedOne that had a beautiful cinema look to it. Too bad everything else couldn’t match the picture quality.
Critics may fawn over Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and probably the subsequent two films, but I think I’ll be taking the Twilight route and skipping the rest of the series having had the taste of the first.