2011: David Fincher’s “Dragon Tattoo”
I was having an hour-long conversation with a critic who will choose to name himself if he wants to. I choose for his anonymity because my few disagreements with some of his arguments will make me look like the kind of douche who uses the internet to talk back. I have to write about the movie we talked about weeks after I saw it, I guess. Meant no harm.
Our conversation got to his dislike of rape revenges, leading to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. He dislikes the book – yay! – Oplev’s adaptation – hated that too! – and Fincher’s version. Wait, what? That movie is gunning for a place in my list top movies of 2011! People who apparently watch this polished turd – my words – wouldn’t be caught dead in an equally schlock-y Saw series.
I agree that Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) is a false and misguided conception of the left-wing’s more extreme version of himself, stemming from white male guilt that does more harm than good. Speaking of fetishizations it also relies on the concept that rich people makes Charles Manson’s childhood seem normal. I explained to him that as a fifth-generation nobody that the riches are more like the Kings in The Descendants with some of “Revenge’s” Amanda Clarke.
I’m a 90’s kid but that’s exactly the problem, lumping him with other movies I outgrew. Most of what governs my taste as a film viewer is my re-education when I was in college, shoving away the shock violent quirk of 90’s American indie movies. Fincher always has ‘something missing’ anyway. Se7en is elegant yet chooses one form of elitism over another. Fight Club is boy stuff. Zodiac and The Social Network seem cold. TSN specifically feels like a missed opportunity as Sorkin’s one liners feel stunted through an emotionally distant lens. Ben Button is fine.
I was sceptical of Dragon Tattoo because of the bad reviews Alien 3 and Panic Room and if you add TSN‘s yucky gender politics I’d even conclude that Fincher doesn’t know women. But Dragon Tattoo pumped my adrenaline from the opening credits and as the movie continues, I exclaimed yeah! he’s back to form and these people are hitting each other! But why do I like that he’s back to form now even though I stopped liking his form for half a decade now? And why am I responding to this movie that’s supposedly more vulgar than his earlier work?
It’s the mood, isn’t it? Jeff Cornenweth’s cinematography of the snow and the cozy interiors. Lisbeth’s techno-gothic iFetish. Techno-gothic also applies to the howls escaping Martin Vanger’s (Stellan Skarsgard) Frank Lloyd Wright-esque house built on top of a ‘laundry room’ on top of a priest’s house. I can almost hear Trent Reznor pressing down harder on his keyboard. A push and pull from the aesthetic making the subject simmer down.
The performances are also great, Fincher fleshing out scenes while screenwriter Steve Zaillian economizing the characters’ words. Mara is indisputably great under Fincher’s direction, screaming during the right times and deadpan in others. She can be as sexual aggressor as she is a victim, telling her elder cohort investigator/boyfriend Mikael Blomqvist (Daniel Craig) to keep his hand under her shirt, coldly demanding affection like Garbo in Ninotchka. The ending also feels relaxed, Martin’s words ‘immigrant whore’ a slightly suitable alternative to the elongated caricature of the book and Oplev’s movie.
This refining of schlock reminds me of Miss Bala, a festival favourite, Oscar-shortlisted version of a drug cartel movie. Same thing with how my family would turn their nose up on jeep gangster movies while Brilliante Mendoza’s Kinatay, gets recognized as the gritty film-making for which Filipino film gets recognized. But whole ‘nother parameters, making me wonder what kind of room cinema has for the needlessly sadistic.
The second part of this conversation is bat shit, which is why I ask you if I should post it.
Review: The Social Network
The portrayal of Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) in the Aaron Sorkin–David Fincher production of The Social Network, is either that of a loser or someone cooler than everyone around him gives him credit for. I still don’t know which side I’m on. Let the debate begin.
The film begins with an unromantic date between Mark and ‘Erica Albright’ (Rooney Mara), where Mark prattles on about the final clubs, which ‘lead to a better life.’ Their words are speedy my now. Erica starting a sentence with ‘From a woman’s perspective,’ a phrase that from my experience a woman might only say when she gets cornered in a conversation by a group with at least two men in it. The date ends badly since Erica has no sense of humour about going to BU, but in fairness, he didn’t talk about her alma mater with a light joke neither.
Mark then goes to his dorm room, goes on livejournal and implies something about Erica’s last name being Anglicized from ‘Albrecht,’ an implication that short-sighted people resort to in hurting times. That won’t be the last time he makes a ‘Hitler youth‘ implication. God knows I would have done worse. Eisenberg narrates Zuckerberg’s lj with dignity, which is difficult since we’re talking about lj here. He also creates Facemash.com. As well as being proud of having better productivity while drunk and forgetting that drinking Beck’s while making a sexist website, like most things you do drunk, have heavy consequences. He gets called out by the ad board, gives them a telling off that doesn’t make the board sympathize with him in any way and gets an academic probation.
What ensues is the body of the film – two separate lawsuits against Mark from the Winklevi (Arnie Hammer and Josh Pence) and from his co-founder and former CFO, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). The three wear suits, are mannered, respectful. Mark, sporting hoodies or uncomfortable dress shirts, pays no deference to the legal process and tries to interrupt the testimonies with snide comments. However, the binaries between the plaintiffs and Mark are hazier than that.
The first scene with Erica shows Mark’s clear stance on the final clubs, but he gets less vocal about them as the time line of the film progresses. He does voice his resentment to the Winklevi by rebutting that he was only allowed in the Porcellian house’s bike room, but that speaks more of the twins’ lack of hospitality that it does his wish for inclusion.
Mark drags both the Winklevi Eduardo down, both having to expose their insecurities of exclusion and daddy issues and thinking he’s going through the same. He tells Eduardo that ‘he wasn’t gonna get in anyway,’ and from personal experience, nerds can be hurtful towards normal people. His remarks get a stranger reaction, as Eduardo starts looking for Mark’s approval, routinely updating him about his final club, the Phoenix. When their partnership really sours, Eduardo freezes the $19000 account to get Mark’s attention. Again, Mark has said zip to confirm that his reasons for betraying the three boys is partly because of his exclusion and their inclusion. What happened? Does having a billion dollars make Mark indifferent to these clubs? Did he grow up? Or are the three still right about him, feeling the same resentment that they’ve carried for years?
The film also makes Mark resort to proud begging, never having neither to plead nor apologize to anyone he’s ever hurt. In trying to appease Eduardo after the account freezing business, Mark tells him that he would love for Eduardo to come down to Palo Alto and resume his work as the website’s CFO. This proud begging specifically applies to his treatment of Erica after his harsh words to her in a bar. He never has the chance to apologize about her or to any of his new enemies, really. Neither does he, thankfully, have an Erica shrine to moon over – he has her Facebook page for that. Instead he asks to get food with her, a private conversation, a friend request. Usually for the latter, when bad break-ups are involved, a friend request follows a message for the other person. Yes, he incessantly clicks refresh instead checking it later like the rest of us cool kids might do. I might sound like I’m over-reading but justifying what others see as an obsession, but it’s as if she has to add him first before she gets to hear what he has to say. Or his friend request is a way to meet her face to face, hopefully. It’s both childish and fair at the same time.
The Social Network isn’t the movie of a generation. Thankfully the movie wasn’t like two Judge Mathis episodes. And sure, the characters here are the most layered ones I’ve seen this year. Its rendition of some ideas, like how to introduce an idea to the public, are greatly done. Yet the film limits itself. It also allows no room for believable emotional eruptions nor awakenings and comes off as cold and distant, and this is from a guy who likes ‘subtle.’ The pacing is off, like a symphony that darts you with violins, only letting us rest when the rain comes. Sorkin needs to slow down once in a while. The women, although some have argued as a stand-in for the audience, have the best lines but also the least dimensions. It doesn’t have the same visual punch as a classic film it’s been compared to, Citizen Kane. Despite of those things, we have Mark, a boy who covets, a performance and character that many more will write about.
- Mark Zuckerberg gets portrayed as a joyless dweeb in The Social Network. (slate.com)
- A story that’s hard not to like (washingtonpost.com)