Unhappily, Fincher’s film continues the trend. When we first meet Lisbeth, she is a ward of the state whose finances are controlled by an attorney appointed as her guardian. The attorney uses his powerful position to exploit and sexually assault the young woman in his care. The lengthy scenes graphically depicting the most brutal acts carried out against Lisbeth, and the no less brutal revenge she exacts against her guardian, are deeply unsettling to watch.
When it comes time to deal with killers, rapists and other anti-social personalities (and Fincher has dealt with them more often than not during his career), a preoccupation only with the physical brutality of their actions has real consequences for the art and for viewers. Nowhere in Fincher’s films does one find any real sense of the social and psychic make-up of an individual capable of such acts. On the contrary, a great deal is obscured by the filmmaker’s approach.
The only reason I would have seen the film was Robin Wright. (Would have? Lee's review means I'll catch it on home video if then.)
I used to like David Fincher's films. Not all of them.
Aliens 3 struck me as brave and strongly visual. Aliens (the second film) is my favorite. James Cameron did an amazing job. But Aliens 3 stands up as a film. (I don't think Aliens 4 does. Sorry. I may need to see it again but I was really disappointed in that film when I saw it opening day.)
Seven always struck me as a really bad TV movie and, yes, torture porn. I thought that the acting was awful across the board (that's Morgan, that's Brad, that's Kevin, that's Gwyneth) and the script was cookie-cutter nonsense.
Then came The Game. I do like how Michael Douglas seized upon the idea of becoming the male Joan Crawford and, in the process, became an actual film star (as opposed to an actor who sometimes was in popular films). And he continues his male Crawford sketch with this film. He's actually good in it when you factor that in. But Sean Penn is at his ACTING (in all caps) worst. Sometimes, it's as though no one can modulate Penn, no director can reign him in. I also, probably like many, feel that role of "Connie," should have been played by Jodie Foster and not Sean Penn. And don't believe the lie Fincher's put out. He did not feel the part was too small for Foster. Also not true that Foster's work on Contact meant she had to regrettably walk. I was dating a Polygram exec at the time and heard all the details on that. Foster had already dealt with one prick -- Robert Redford -- who kept having her role re-written (underwritten) for the film they were supposed to make (Crisis In The Hot Zone). She was furious (and should have been) and walked on that film. Then Douglas had these moments he felt his character needed that weren't in the script. So as the script was constantly being rewritten, Foster walked. I don't blame her. Michael Douglas' performance makes the film. (Carroll Baker's the only one who rises to his level in the whole film.) Sean Penn is an embarrassment and comes off like he's on heroin and needs to fix in the next five minutes, needs to fix really bad.
I did (and do) like Fight Club. And feel it is Brad's only leading performance of note. (His only other performance worth watching is his minor role in Thelma & Louise.) It helps that Edward Norton does all the heavy lifting allowing Brad to just play a sex symbol. That's all he's doing. When he works best in the film, he's generally being homoerotic but I guess we're not supposed to notice that. (His first scene of interest is on the plane. Not during the nonsense conversation with Norton but when he gets up to go to the bathroom and makes a point of pondering whether to present Norton with his ass or his crotch as he passes him.)
Panic Room is even better. I think it has the strongest visual flair of any of his films. And when you grasp that you're in the house -- in in the panic room -- for so much of the film, it's amazing how much tension and suspense the film packs. Jodie Foster fills in for Nicole Kidman (who injured herself on Moulin Rouge). When Jodie calls her ex-husband for help and the new girlfriend answers, that's Nicole doing a voice over performance. I think Jodie's amazing in the film and, for a change in a Fincher film, there are two strong lead performances -- Forest Whitaker. Forest could be plugged into any of Fincher's film and be an effective element in a lead or supporting role. But Foster brings something else to Panic Room, something more than usual for Fincher films and that lets Whitaker make some surprising choices and turn in his best performance ever.
If Panic Room is his best film, and I think it is, all the elements are perfect, Zodiac is a worthy follow up. I grew up in the area (Bay Area) and was dating as the Zodiac Killer was going wack job nutty. Meaning, some old person (my grandmother, for one) would always be saying that I'd better be careful. I mean I was going out on a date and I have to hear that crap? Every departure from the home is supposed to be a life or death drama? Please. I felt the film captured that time perfectly and that the three leads were amazing. I can't stand Robert Downey Jr. but he's very good in this film. Jake Gyllenhaal is excellent and Mark Ruffalo is our country's finest actor. In fact, my big complaint would be: Uh, Robert and David couldn't discuss the case in a steam room? Two hotties and the director can't give us some lingering moments?
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button should have been called The Boring Brad and his Bad Accent. I hated that film. It was boring as hell. I actually bought a ticket because of the previous films. I hated it. When it came out on DVD, I had a friend (Toni) who swore it was wonderful and begged me to give it a second chance. I did. Only hated it more. One night, on the road, I saw it was on Netflix for streaming. I thought I'd give it a third chance. I gave it ten minutes and realized I was right the first time I saw it, this is an awful movie. The sort of crap you'd expect from Ron Howard. It's Fincher with all the edge smoothed out.
The Social Club. Continued my loathing of Fincher's latest output. Does the world need more than one Oliver Stone? No. And the world doesn't need any more of Aaron Sorkin's b.s. I hate that sexist pig. I wanted to scream shut up at the never ending talkers in this lousy film.
And that brings us to Fincher's latest which I will now be skipping.
Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"