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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Deviance Is the New Black in David Fincher's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"

You know you're in for quite a ride when you're so captivated by the opening credits of a film that you almost forget what movie you're watching in the first place.

Such is the case of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, director David Fincher's ambitious take on the 2009 Swedish cult film of the same name. Fincher tackles the pro-feminist, pro-deviant psycho drama for unsuspecting American audiences about Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a 23-year-old whip-smart computer hacker/gumshoe with a dirty streak called on by defamed journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) to solve a twisted forty-year old case of a missing woman.

Mara, who we most recently saw mortified by her so-called Victoria's Secret-enhanced cleavage in Fincher's The Social Network, bravely steps into the role of a young woman who is not at all modest about her body or her fiercely stoic sexual impulse, but seemingly takes pride in its alienation of other people. The shock of seeing Mara's usually cherubic look overtaken by her chain-smoking black on black grunge head to toe--dyed-white eyebrows, pierced nipples, eyebrows, and lips, and a massive tattoo stretched vertically across her body--quickly took to you to the place you needed to be in to not only be swept off your feet by Lisbeth's unusually dark charm, but also terrified by her at the same time.

Along with Lisbeth's social and physical aberrance, fans of the original movie will be comforted to know that the graphic level of sexual mischief, violence and indifference is also preserved in the new movie. The film's cold emotion, which is heightened by the sharply impervious performances from the cast (including Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgård as the victim's shady family members), is further elevated by the sweeping cinematography and frigid Sweden setting. The entire look of the film seems to glare at the audience as it cuts from frame to frame.

But it's the last handful of frames that draws a big question about the character of Lisbeth. Although Mara's Lisbeth is admittedly a wee bit less threatening in the new movie, she is still a social pariah, who stirs up an equal level of fear and intimidation in those around her. However, by the end of the movie she's somewhat humanized, which seems to go against everything she just showed us she was in the previous two and a half hours of the movie. It's unexpected, and just seems out of left field. The audience is left wondering whether this had anything to do with Rooney's more innocent appeal as opposed to Noomi Rapace's appallingly real inhabitation of Lisbeth in the original movie. In any case, it seems a bit contrived, which is not at all Fincher's usual style.

It will be interesting to hear the American audience's reaction to this abrasive crime flick, especially one in which a woman is at the helm. The film rides on the dispassion of not only Lisbeth, but all the characters around her, all of whom may either spark an aggressive detachment from viewers or a wayward empathy from them. Either way, overall the movie does take allegiances with both the book and original movie, but it comes into its own to unravel a truly alluring story.

Rating: B+


Daniel said...

The ended did kind of deliver a different message than the original, she isn't just softened up but almost muted, strange for Fincher.

Skrap Zemrag said...

I was skeptical about the remake because of how fine a film the original was and with it being made in America. I was wondering what parts of story, characters, theme would be changed to fit what the studio wanted to put out. Seems much stayed, but the key was her character and if there is something changed to the extent that you speak of....well DVD for me.

Dan O. said...

It’s certainly worth seeing if you missed the original. If you saw it, however, there’s no way of unseeing it, and nothing in the new one to top it. Craig and Mara are great here though and Fincher brings so much more to this film like I was expecting too. Good review Candice.

NeverTooEarlyMP said...

Great review Candice! I definitely fell on the side of detachment. As I read more, I'm starting to wonder whether one of the reasons that the physical look of Lisbeth didn't have the same reaction for me is that I've known a lot of people that share her tastes for clothes, piercings and tattoos, and so maybe I missed some of the cues that Fincher was trying to send to the audience? It's also interesting to read that the ending was changed, as I did find myself wondering how that fit into the rest of the story.

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