' ' Cinema Romantico: The Good & The Bad Of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Good & The Bad Of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

The Good and The Bad of David Fincher's hyper-glossy The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo that has for a heartbeat the leading performance of Rooney Mara can be broken down into a split sequence that occurs close to the end of the film. Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and his research assistant/hacker/ass kicker/piercing enthusiast/raging introvert Lisbeth Salander (Mara) have just been given access to all the files of Sweden's Vanger Corp, the company they are investigating in the hopes of solving a 40 year old disappearance and/or murder.

And at this point it is as if Fincher and his editors Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall momentarily decide to craft two entirely separate movies. In the first movie, Mikael, working out of his cottage, stumbles upon a crucial piece of evidence, possibly implicating a member of the Vanger family living nearby. Thus, he makes his way to a sleek, avant garde home on a windswept hill housing this family member. He sneaks inside. He tip-toes down hallways, peers around corners, inspects rooms, tries to open locked doors. He even......wait for it......unsheathes a knife. Eventually the family member returns home. Mikael makes an escape by the hair of his chinny-chin-chin. (Or does he?)

In the second movie, Lisbeth feverishly scrounges around the book-lined walls of the archives of Vanger Corp. She is exhausted. She boards an elevator. She disembarks. She buys a cup of coffee and a chocolate bar from a vending machine. She walks back to the archives. She bites into her chocolate. She sips at her coffee. She goes back to work.

Fincher and his editors cut, cleverly, from the first movie to the second movie, back and forth, over and over. As the first movie unfolds we continually expect "something" to happen, and eventually it does. As the second movie unfolds we continually expect "something" to happen, and it does not.

Therein lies the conundrum. The murder mystery is theoretically the engine that drives "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" but that element is handled for the duration of the two-and-half hours just like the first movie. It hits all the overdone beats, goes precisely where you expect it to go and goes there without illuminating our understanding of anything. It's the crap of a million and one airport rack novels.

The engine that TRULY drives "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" is Lisbeth, which is to say it is also Rooney Mara. The film's mighty allure is in the social ineptness of Lisbeth as she continually dismisses the archives employee without so much as looking at her. It's in the way she is fueled by sugar and caffeine and in the way she pulls her hood over her head as she buys that sugar and caffeine as if she does not want the guard on duty to see her face, as if she is internally lamenting the fact she can't seem to be alone no matter where the hell she goes.

There is nothing there in the second movie but, of course, simultaneously, EVERYTHING is there. The character and the performance uniting in a sequence that seems to exist for no purpose other than to try and throw us off the scent. The first movie is so obvious. The second movie isn't obvious at all. Rather it is deeper and more subtle and more mysterious. Oh, what I'd give to have at the no doubt reels and reels and reels of footage that Fincher and Baxter and Wall had at their disposal. We'd make "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" a latter "Annie Hall" - which is to say we'd ditch the murder mystery and make Daniel Craig a high-rent supporting character.

Why couldn't "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" be all about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo?


Alex Withrow said...

Remarkable essay, one I fully agree with. I dig Fincher, but I would've loved if the film focused on its title character a bit more. Mara was a beast in this flick but I always wanted something more. Not from her, but from her director.

Nick Prigge said...

Thanks, man! Appreciate it. The source material, to me, is the primary problem, but it would have been interesting if Fincher (and he seems like the type to do it) would have just broken away from it and done his own thing. I swear, it's like he found a muse in Mara. He needs to follow her.