Embracing the Melodrama Part II #112: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (dir by David Fincher)

Curious_case_of_benjamin_button_ver32010 will always be considered, by many of us, to be the year that Oscar journalism first jumped the shark.  That was the year that a group of self-styled award divas (which Awards Daily’s Sasha Stone being the most obnoxious culprit) went batshit crazy over a film called The Social Network.  

From the minute that David Fincher-directed film premiered, the Sasha Stones in the world not only declared it to be the greatest film ever made but also insinuated that anyone who disagreed had to be stupid, crazy, and evil.  It actually got rather silly after a while.  That is until The Social Network lost best picture to The King’s Speech.  Suddenly, what was once merely enthusiastic advocacy transformed into fascistic fanaticism.  Suddenly, these people started to view the 2010 Oscar race (and each subsequent Oscar race) as a rather tedious battle between good and evil.  For these people, David Fincher represented the forces of good.  And Tom Hooper, the director of The King’s Speech, represented all that was evil.  They took this to such an absurd extreme that they not only subsequently heaped undeserved praise on Fincher’s bastardization of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo but also unnecessary scorn on Hooper’s Les Miserables.

Of course, what was forgotten in all of that drama was that — before Hooper and The King’s Speech came along, the 2010 Oscar race was predicted be some to be a rematch between Fincher and Danny Boyle (whose 2010 film, 127 Hours, was indeed nominated for best picture, alongside The Social Network, King’s Speech, and Black Swan).  When Fincher and Boyle previously competed during the 2008 Oscar race, Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire defeated Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

And indeed, the case of Benjamin Button was curious one!

Loosely based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button told the story of a man who aged in reverse.  When Benjamin is a baby, he has the wrinkled face of an elderly man.  When he’s a teenager, he’s walking with a cane.  When he’s middle-aged, he looks like Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall.  (In that regard, it helps that Benjamin is played by Brad Pitt.)  And when he’s an old man, he’s a baby.  Though the film, wisely, refrains from offering up a definite reason why Benjamin ages in reverse, it hints that it could have something to do with a clock that was built to run backwards as an anti-war statement.

Benjamin is born in New Orleans in 1918 and raised in a nursing home by Queenie (Oscar nominee and future Empire star Taraji P. Henson).  The love of Benjamin’s life is Daisy Fuller (Elle Fanning when young, Cate Blanchett as an adult), a dancer who also loves Benjamin but who, unlike him, is not aging in reverse.  For this reason, Benjamin and Daisy cannot be together.  That’s the way tragic love works.

The film itself features a framing device.  Daisy, now an elderly woman, is dying and gives her estranged daughter, Caroline (Julia Ormond), the diary of Benjamin Button.  As Caroline reads, Hurricane Katrina rages outside.  I’ve never really been comfortable with the way that the film uses Katrina as a plot point, for much the same reason that it bothered me when Hereafter used the real-life Thailand typhoon and London terrorist bombings to tell its story.  The real-life tragedy of Katrina feels out-of-place in a story about Brad Pitt aging backwards.

As for the rest of the film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is … well, it’s a curious film.  Visually, it’s definitely a David Fincher film but, at the same time, there’s something curiously impersonal about it.  You almost get the feeling that this was Fincher’s attempt to show that he was capable of making a standard big budget Hollywood film without getting too Fincheresque about it.  Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett have chemistry and they look good together but Fincher has never been a sentimental director and his heart never truly seems to be in their love story.  (Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl feel more like a natural couple than Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett do in this film.)  There’s only a few scenes, mostly dealing with the more morbid aspects of Benjamin’s odd condition, towards which Fincher really seems to feel any commitment.

As a result, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button becomes a curious misfire.  It’s a film that struggles with the big picture but is occasionally redeemed by some of its smaller moments.  (The scenes with the elderly Benjamin as a dementia-stricken baby are haunting and unforgettable.)  Ultimately, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is probably the weakest of the five 2008 films nominated for best picture but it’s still an interesting film to watch.

Hey, it’s the first trailer for David Fincher’s version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Okay, here’s the red band trailer for David Fincher’s unneccessary offensive insulting upcoming version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. 

If you want, feel free to visit YouTube and read all the comments from fanboys having Finchergasms over it.  My position will continue to be that David Fincher is a very talented director, Rooney Mara was rather bland in both Nightmare on Elm Street and The Social Network, Daniel Craig is boring and overrated but then again, so is the character he’s playing, and finally, Noomi Rapace will always be the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. 

That doesn’t mean that Fincher won’t make a good movie.  The trailer is effective and the material seems well suited for Fincher’s vision.  In fact, it could allow Fincher to get back to his Fight Club and Zodiac roots after going all boring and mainstream with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network.

Still, perhaps we should remake The Lord of The Rings trilogy next.  After all, those first three films are just sooooo New Zealand.  We need an American version.


Film Review: 127 Hours (directed by Danny Boyle)

Last Friday night, my friend Jeff and I went down to the Plano Angelika and saw Danny Boyle’s new film, 127 Hours

I have to admit that I was a little bit uneasy about seeing this film.  First off, it’s a movie based on the true story about a mountain climber who spent 5 days trapped in a narrow canyon.  I am intensely claustrophobic, to the extent that I’ve had panic attacks just from finding myself trapped in a crowded grocery store aisle.  (Seriously, why does everyone in the world have to go shopping for La Choy Sweet and Sour sauce at the same time I do?)   Secondly, the trapped climber eventually escaped by using a dull knife to saw off his right arm.  I mean, ewwwwww! 

But I knew I had to see the film for three reasons.  Number one, it stars James Franco who I’m kinda in love with.  Number two, Danny Boyle is one of my favorite directors.  And, finally, 127 Hours is probably going to be nominated for best picture.  So, I worked up my courage and I tried not to think about the various news reports about audience members passing out while watching the film, and I went to the movie.  And I’m glad I did because 127 Hours is one of the best films that I’ve seen in quite some time.

James Franco plays Aron Ralston, a cocky but likable guy who decides to spend the weekend hiking across some place called Blue John Canyon.  (Sorry, I’m not really an outdoorsey type of girl.)  He tells no one of his plans and the only people who know he’s even at the canyon are two girls that he meets while there.  The girls have gotten lost in the canyon and they accept Aron’s help in finding whatever grand archeological thing it is that they’re looking for.  (See previous apology.) 

I have to be honest here.  As I watched these two girls go off with a perfect stranger, a part of me wanted to be all like, “Oh, I would never do something as stupid as go off with some stranger I met out in the middle of nowhere.”  But, then again, this isn’t just some stranger.  This is James Franco.  So, I’ll refrain from passing judgment.  I just hope that the girls had their pepper spray with them.

(The two girls, by the way, are played by Kata Mara and Amber Tamblyn.  I loved Joan of Arcadia.  Can you believe they cancelled it for Ghost Whisperer?  Not cool, CBS.)

Anyway, after frolicking in an underground pool, Aron and the girls part company.  They invite him to come to a party the next night.  They tell him to just look for a big, inflatable Scooby Doo.  Aron agrees, walks off, and promptly finds himself trapped in a canyon when a boulder falls on top of him and pins his right arm against the canyon wall.  As quickly as that, Aron goes from being  a carefree adventurer to literally being a prisoner, isolated and alone.  As Franco screams for help, Boyle pulls the camera upward from Aron until eventually he’s a barely noticeable speck surrounded by a barren (and otherwise unpopulated) desert.  It’s a moment that you know is coming but it’s still shocking and devastating because it stands in such stark contrast to the film’s first 20 minutes when both Boyle and Franco filled each scene with a sense of constant motion.  Suddenly, everything has stopped and we’re as trapped as Aron.

The rest of the film is pretty much a one-man show.  We watch as Aron spends the next five days fighting to just survive.  He tries to chip away at the rock with a knife (yes, that knife).  He talks to his camera, keeping a diary and leaving messages for his family.  He fights off hungry ants and tries to conserve his water.  He even manages to invent a pretty neat little pulley system to try to move the rock.  Finally, he starts to hallucinate, seeing everything from his family disdainfully watching his predicament to a gigantic inflatable Scooby Doo stalking him in the canyon.  And finally, of course, he starts to cut off his arm.

He also finds some time to think about the life he led up to the moment he found himself trapped underneath the rock.  This is where Boyle really shines because, in the hands of most directors, these scenes probably would have been very maudlin and heavy-handed.  However, Boyle presents these scenes in an almost impressionistic style.  We see hints of the life that Aron has led but Boyle never comes out and blatantly says that, up until this point, Aron never been willing to truly connect with others.  We sees scenes of Aron’s ex-girlfriend breaking up with him but we’re never specifically told what led to her leaving him.  And we don’t need to be.  Boyle presents us with the evidence and trusts us to draw the correct conclusion.

I am very proud to say that I watched the entire film without once having a panic attack though I did start to feel a little bit light-headed when Aron really started to get into sawing off his arm.  At this point, I did end up burying my head in Jeff’s shoulder and watching the scene out of the corner of my eye.  At the same time, it’s an oddly exhilarating sequence because we know that the only way Aron will survive is by cutting off his arm and, as a result of Franco’s performance, we really do want Aron to survive.

In retrospect, 127 Hours really is the ultimate guy film in that the film basically celebrates a guy who gets stranded in the desert for five days yet manages to survive without ever once having to ask for directions.  However, as a result of the whole experience, he comes to realize he should have been nicer to his ex-girlfriend which means that chicks like me can enjoy the movie as well.  My main concern is that the film is such a total guy flick that we might see a sudden epidemic of men amputating their limbs in order to show that they can handle it as well as James Franco did.  As we left the theater, I assured Jeff that he didn’t have to chop off his hand just to impress me.  Hopefully, he listened.

James Franco is generating a lot of Oscar buzz for his performance here and he should be.  Franco is one of those performers who is so pretty that it’s easy to forget that he’s actually a pretty good actor.  I thought he deserved a nomination for his performance in Milk.  He deserves the Oscar for his performance here.

Along with a best actor nod for Franco, it seems likely that 127 Hours will also pick up nominations for best picture and best director.  Interestingly enough, Boyle will probably find himself competing with the man he beat two years ago, David Fincher (previously nominated for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and a probable nominee this year for The Social Network.)  This is somehow appropriate as Danny Boyle has consistently proved himself to be the director that David Fincher is supposed to be and, by being a massively hyped film that lives up to all the praise, 127 Hours is the anti-Social Network.  While The Social Network uses a “true” story as an excuse to judge and ridicule, 127 Hours uses its true story to celebrate humanity, flaws and all.  Whereas Fincher seems to only celebrate film, Boyle celebrates life.

127 Hours.

See it.

Film Reviews: The Airport Terminal Pack

 Sometimes, you have to be careful which films you choose to watch over the course of the day. 

Such as, last Friday night, I heard the news that Jill Clayburgh had died and I ended up watching An Unmarried Woman.  This, along with the fact that I also watched the Black Swan trailer, led to me dancing around the house in my underwear, en pointe in bare feet, and doing a half-assed pirouette in the living room.  And I felt pretty proud of myself until I woke up Saturday morning and my ankle (which I don’t think has ever properly healed from the day, seven years ago, that I fell down a flight of stairs and broke it in two places) literally felt like it was on fire.  That was my body’s way of saying, “You ain’t living in a movie, bitch.  Deal with it.”

So, come Sunday, I decided to play it safe by watching something that I was sure wouldn’t lead to any imitative behavior on my part.  Since I had previously reviewed Earthquake on this site, I decided that I would devote some time to the movies that started the entire 1970s disaster movie genre — Airport.  Watching Airport led to me watching Airport’s three sequels.

I was able to do this largely because I own the Airport Terminal Pack, a two-disk DVD collection that contains all four of the Airport films and nothing else.  There’s no special features or commentary tracks.  That’s probably a good thing because these films are so extremely mainstream that I doubt the commentary tracks would be all that interesting except to people who love “Me and Jennings Lang had the same lawyer…” style stories.

The movies are a mixed bag of ’70s sexism, mainstream greed, and casts that were described as being “all-star” despite the fact that they featured very few stars.  They’re all worth watching as time capsules of a past time.  Some of them are just more worthy than others.

Below are my thoughts on each individual film in the collection…

Airport (directed by George Seaton)

First released in 1970, Airport was nominated for 10 Academy Awards (including best picture), broke box office records, and started the whole 70s disaster movie trend.  It also has to be one of the most boring, borderline unwatchable movies ever made.  The fact that I managed to sit through the whole thing should be taken as proof that I’m either truly dedicated to watching movies or I’m just insane.  Take your pick.

Anyway, the film is painstakingly detailed account of the every day operations of an airport.  Yeah, sounds like a lot of fun, doesn’t it?  Burt Lancaster runs the airport.  His brother-in-law Dean Martin flies airplanes.  Both of them have mistresses but we’re told that’s okay because Lancaster’s wife expects him to talk to her and Martin’s wife is cool with him fucking around as long as he comes home at night.  I would be tempted to say that this is a result of the film having been made in 1969 and released in 1970 but actually, it’s just an introduction to the sexual politics of the typical disaster film.  Men save the day while women get in the way.  And if you think things have changed, I’d suggest you watch a little film calledf 2012

The only interesting thing about the film is that Lancaster’s mistress is played by Jean Seberg who, ten years earlier, had helped change film history by co-starring in Jean-Luc Godard’s classic film Breathless.  Nine years later, after years of being hounded by the American press and the FBI for her radical politics, Seberg committed suicide.

Airport 1975 (directed by Jack Smight)

As opposed to its predecessor, Airport 1975 is actually a lot of fun in its campy, silly way.  This is the one where a small private plane (flown by Dana Andrews, the star of the wonderful film noir Laura) collides with a commercial airliner.  The entire flight crew is taken out and head stewardess Karen Black has to pilot the plane despite the fact that she’s obviously cross-eyed.  Luckily, since Black is a stewardess, she has a pilot boyfriend who is played by Charlton Heston.  Heston talks her through the entire flight despite the fact that she was earlier seen trying to pressure him into not treating her like an idiot.  Anyway, Heston does his usual clench-jaw thing and if you need a drinking game to go with your bad movie, just take a shot every time Heston calls Black “honey.”  You’ll be drunk before the plane lands.

There’s some other stuff going on in this movie (for instance, Gloria Swanson appears as “herself” and doesn’t mention Sunset Boulevard or Joseph Kennedy once!) but really, all you need to know is that this is the film where Karen Black acts up a storm and random characters keep saying, “The stewardess is flying the plane!?”

Odd trivia fact: Airport 1975 was released in 1974.

Airport ’77 (directed by Jerry Jameson)

In Airport ’77, a group of art thieves attempt to hijack an airplane which, of course, leads to the airplane crashing into the ocean and somehow sinking down to the ocean’s floor without splitting apart.  The crash survivors have to try to figure out how to get to the surface of the water before they run out of oxygen. 

In this case, our resident sexist pilot is Jack Lemmon who has a really ugly mustache.  He wants to marry head stewardess Brenda Vaccarro.  Vaccarro doesn’t understand why they have to get married to which Lemmon responds, “Because I want a wife and kids!”  The film also gives us Lee Grant as a woman who is married to Christopher Lee but who is having an affair with another man.  She also drinks a lot and dares to get angry when she realizes that the airplane is underwater.  While this sort of behavior is acceptable from Dean Martin, Charlton Heston, and Jack Lemmon, the film punishes Lee Grant by drowning her in the final minutes.

Technically, Airport ’77 is probably the best of the Airport films.  The cast does a pretty good job with all the melodrama, the film doesn’t drag, and a few of the scenes manage to generate something resembling human emotion.  (For instance, when the blind piano player died, I had a tear in one of my freaky, mismatched eyes.)  Unfortunately, the movie’s almost too good.  It’s not a lot of fun.  Everyone plays their roles straight so the silly plot never quite descends into camp and the key to a good disaster film is always camp.  This film also has the largest body count of the series, with most of the cast dead by the end of the movie.  (And, incidentally, this film did nothing to help me with my fear of water…)

The Concorde: Airport ’79 (directed by David Lowell Rich)

The last Airport movie is also the strangest.  Some people have claimed that this film was meant to be a satire of the previous Airport films.  I can understand the argument because you look at film like Concorde and you say, “This must be a joke!”  However, the problem with this theory is that there are moments of obvious “intentional” humor in this film (i.e., J.J. from Good Times smokes weed in the plane’s bathroom, another passenger has to go to the bathroom whenever she gets nervous) and none of them show any evidence of the type of wit and outlook necessary to come up with anything this silly on purpose.  Add to that, the film’s story is credited to Jennings Lang, a studio executive.  Studio execs do not take chances.  (Plus, the actual script was written by Eric Roth, who went on to write the amazingly humorless The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).

No, this film is meant to be taken seriously and oh my God, where do I start?

Our pilots are George Kennedy and Alain Delon.  The head stewardess (and naturally, Delon’s girlfiend) is played by Sylvia “Emanuelle” Kristel who, at one point, says, “You pilots are such men!”  “Hey, they don’t call it a cockpit for nothing, honey,” Kennedy replies. 

Meanwhile, Robert Wagner is trying to destroy the Concorde because one of the passengers is his girlfriend who has proof that Wagner has been selling weapons to America’s enemies.  So, he attempts to blow the plane up with a guided missile and when that fails, he sends a couple of fighter planes after them.  Kennedy responds by opening up the cockpit window — while breaking the sound barrier mind you — and firing a flare gun at their pursuers.  

After this, there’s stop over in Paris where Delon arranges for Kennedy to sleep with a prostitute who assures Kennedy that he made love “just like a happy fish.”

The next day, everyone returns to the exact same Concorde — despite the fact that just a day earlier they’d nearly been blown up by a squadron of fighter planes — and take off on the second leg of the flight.  Let me repeat that just to make sure that we all understand what this film is asking us to believe.  After nearly getting blown up by a mysterious squad of fighter planes, everybody shows up the next morning to get on the exact same plane.

Oh, and it never occurs to Wagner’s ex-girlfriend that Wagner might have something to do with all of this.

Now sad to say, Concorde is the one of those films that’s a lot more fun to talk about than to actually watch.  It should be a lot more fun in its badness than it actually is.  Still, the movie has just enough camp appeal to make it fun in a “what the fuck…” sorta way.

And that’s how the Airport series comes to an end.

A Few Thoughts On The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Remake

Have I mentioned how much I loved The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo?  Have I suggested that the late Stieg Larsson, in the Millenium Trilogy, did for Europe what James Ellroy did for America with the American Tabloid trilogy?  Have I gone into the fact I think Noomi Rapace’s performance as Lisbeth in both the original film and its sequels will probably be remembered as one of the greatest film performances of all time?  Have I explained that I think, even beyond Rapace’s performance, Lisbeth herself is one of the best characters in the history of film?  For that matter, have I talked about the hours that I’ve spent standing with my back to a mirror and looking over my shoulder and debating on which shoulder-blade a dragon would look most appropriate?  Personally, I think my left shoulder-blade is a bit nicer than my right but last night, my friend Jeff was telling me that…

Sorry, I’m losing focus here.  Okay, getting the ADD under control.  Anyway, the point of the matter is that I love The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. 

That’s why I feel a lot of caution about the upcoming, David Fincher-helmed remake.  First off, quite frankly, I really don’t see what can be improved on the original films.  It’s not as if the original film version of the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo failed to do justice to the book (if anything, the book fails to do justice to the film that eventually made from it).  I suppose a remake would give people who can’t handle subtitles the chance to see the story but honestly, who cares about those losers?  Speaking of the story, the rumors I hear seem to indicate that this remake is going to be an “Americanized” version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which I’m not really sure can be done as the entire book is basically meant to act as a metaphor for Swedish society.  Of course, it is possible that the remake is going to be set in Sweden as well but if that’s the case, what’s the point of the remake?

I know the usual argument to these concerns is that, as a director, Fincher will not allow the film to be Hollywoodized.  At one point that may have been true but, judging from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fincher’s got more Hollywood in him than most people want to admit.  The fact that he’s also teamed up with Aaron Sorkin (an establishment figure if there ever was one) to direct a movie about Facebook doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence but I’ll hold off on judging until the Social Network actually shows up in theaters.

However, I am encouraged by the news (announced yesterday) that Fincher has cast Daniel Craig as the male lead, Mikael Blomkvist (or whatever his name is going to be in the Hollywood version).  Craig’s name had been mentioned for the role ever since the remake was first announced but there were also reports that the role would go to Brad Pitt (who, of course, has already made 3 films with Fincher).  Nothing against Brad Pitt (who I think is a truly underrated actor) but it’s hard to think of a worst choice for the role of Mikael.  Mikael’s defining characteristic is just how ineffectual he is.  He’s the ultimate well-meaning intellectual, the type of guy who wants to fight injustice but is to insulated from the harsh realities of life to effectively do so.  (That’s why he needs Lisbeth, she represents everything he wishes he could do but can’t.)  In short, Mikael is a hero by default and casting an actor like Brad Pitt would throw the entire movie off-balance.

Mikael is not a role for a star.  Mikael is a role for a character actor and, James Bond aside, that’s exactly what Daniel Craig is.  (That’s one reason why Craig’s Bond is dull, regardless of how good a performance Craig gives in the role.)  Not only is Craig the right age, he projects just the right amount of idealistic weariness for the role.  Admittedly, it helps that Craig bears a passable physical resemblance to the original Mikael, Michael Nyqvist which, if nothing else, will make it easier for fans of the original film — like me — to accept him.

(For the record, my personal choice for Mikael would have been Tim Roth.)

Of course, the question now is who will win the role of Lisbeth and why would they want it?  For me, Noomi Rapace is Lisbeth.  She is the girl with dragon tattoo.  It’s hard to think of single mainstream actress in her 20s or early 30s who could hope to match Rapace’s performance.  (Perhaps a young Angelina Jolie could have though physically, Jolie is all wrong for the part.)  However, even beyond what Rapace did with the character, Lisbeth is one of the most vivid and memorable characters in recent literary history.  Even without having to worry about the shadow of Rapace’s previous performance, the role is not an easy one.

Originally, rumor had it that Kristen Stewart was a lock for the role.  At the risk of being burned at the stake as a heretic, I’m going to say that I think Stewart could have been an adequate (though not a great) Lisbeth except for the fact that she’s about ten years too young.  (While Lisbeth is described as looking like a teenager, she also projects a worldliness of someone much older.  Physical appearance can be faked but life experience can not.)  Carey Mulligan, star of An Education (the best film of 2009, by the way), was another actress who was frequently mentioned.

Well, according to Entertainment Weekly, neither Stewart nor Mulligan will play Lisbeth Salander.  Neither will Natalie Portman who, according to EW, was offered the role but turned it down.  The offer to Portman makes sense as she’s physcially right for the role and she’s an undeniably talented actress.  However, much as Pitt could never have been convincing as Mikael, Portman would have been miscast as Lisbeth.  Portman may be a talented actress but she’s also a rather passive one.  Even in her previous “action” roles (Leon, V For Vendetta), Portman essentially played a lost, damaged character (much like Lisbeth) who needed an older male figure to serve as her mentor (which, needless to say, is nothing like Lisbeth).

Again, according to EW, the role of Lisbeth has been narrowed down to four actresses: Rooney Mara, Lea Seydoux, Sarah Snook, and Sophie Lowe.  It’s probably a good sign that none of these actresses are household names exactly.  Competing with the shadow of Noomi Rapace’s Lisbeth is going to be difficult enough without also having to deal with the shadow of their own previous performances.  (For instance, even if Stewart gave a brilliant performance as Lisbeth, it would still be impossible for me to get through the remake without making at least one Twilight joke.)

For me, the real question is not who is going to be cast as Libseth but if Fincher and his producers are going to give us the real Lisbeth — this would be the unapologetically lesbian Lisbeth who can only befriend Mikael once she’s sure that she doesn’t any sort of sexual attraction towards him — or if we’re going to get a more mainstream, Hollywood version of Lisbeth.  Are we going to get the real Lisbeth who needs no one or are we going to get another version of what Hollywood claims to be a strong woman, one who can fight up until the final 30 minutes of the film at which point she’s suddenly rendered helpless by the demands of Mainstream Filmmaking 101.

More than anything, that will be the test that Fincher’s Girl With The Dragon Tattoo will have to pass if it wants to be anything more than an unneeded imitation of the original.

(Incidentally, the perfect Lisebth Salander would be Jena Malone.  End of story.)