6.12.2011

The Girl With The Occasional Hangnail.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2009)
Moral? Do not fuck with a chick with nose rings.

Alright. I'll start off with the confession that I haven't read the book. Because books are for losers and don't have enough car chases in them. But then I saw the trailer. You know. The trailer. The trailer which put me into spasms of motherfucking awesome, and just put my girlfriend into spasms of epilepsy (and then gave me the silent treatment for putting her through that). Anyway, I figured if I'm going to be wetting myself over the American trailer, I might as well do the good thing and see the Swedish movie first. And let me tell you--holyfuckingawesome. I know movie critics have this moral code called "if everybody loves it and it isn't over thirty years old, it must be shit". And yes, the movie and the books got a shit ton of hoopla. But there's a very rare occasion when the movie that everyone considers badass really is that badass. This is one of those movies. 

Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth.
The plot is simple enough. Reporter Mikael Blomkvist (played conveniently by Michael Nyqvist, who apparently only stars in movies with extraordinarily vague titles...ah, Svedens) is only months away from getting locked away at Stockholm and decides to use the spare time he has left to take on another case. He's hired by a sweet old (and slightly insane) grandfatherly type, Henrik Vanger, who is obsessed with the disappearance of his niece, Harriet, who went missing some 40 years ago. Mikael hops on board to take on the assignment, slowly picking through clues, sifting through evidence. He's your standard, older man sleuth, who works his way though boxes upon boxes of evidence bundled up in front of a fireplace. You can't help but find him completely endearing, and noble in a sort of old fashioned gentleman detective way. 

On the flip side, we have Lisbeth Salander, played by the extraordinarily talented and just plain sexy Noomi Rapace. Would that I could explain all the ways Lisbeth is a fucking badass. She's a talented computer hacker, who gets herself involved in the case by hacking into Mikael's computer. She's also everything I could ask for in a female heroine. She puts up a hell of a good fight against the boys, she doesn't censor herself for anyone, and she believes revenge is a dish best served hog-tied and sodomized. But best of all? She doesn't have all of that "I'm a woman, therefore I'm the emotional one" in this movie. Instead, she closes off completely, to everyone, no exceptions. And she gets herself into some fucked up tight spots, but she never plays the victim. She carries her demons on her back and wears them well. She doesn't need the male lead to help her with the load, thank you very much. But then again, I might just love her so much because she's half-dyke. 

Image from moviesmedia.ign.com.
About Lisabeth and Mikael. I'll say this. I had a problem with them. Which is weird, because I spent the entire first half of the movie waiting for them to finally bump into each other. And I was there with these characters through it all. From Mikael's careful mental avoidance of his prison sentence, to Lisabeth's (fucking intense) rape. I was there, I was with them. I was loving every second of it. And then they started to share the screen, and something shifted. Mikael, for one, turned into a love sick puppy dog. And I get it. I'd probably do the same, and it makes sense for his character. But still. That previous gentleman nobility about him kind of went out the window. So I lost a good chunk of respect for him. 

But there was something stilted about their relationship in general. The characters were acting just as I would expect them to--he was falling for her and she wasn't really giving him the time of day--but somehow their chemistry just wasn't doing it for me. It wasn't their acting, and it wasn't the writing, because both were spot on. It was just something uncomfortable in the relationship period. Maybe it was because I'd hoped they would have some sort of father-daughter bond instead of going the easy way out with a love interest. Maybe it was just that Mikael does awkward as hell sex scenes. Whatever it was, it rubbed me the wrong way, and apparently rubbed Lisbeth the wrong way, who couldn't seem to wait to step out of every scene she was in with him. And if this had been one, doomed, awkward relationship in the course of both their lives, I would've been fine with that. They both got what they wanted--he got to drive a car for the first time since his divorce, and she got her good-man lovin'. So they grew as characters and could move on, and Lisbeth could be the new James Bond and have a Bond Boy (or Girl) in every movie. Except somehow I get the feeling Mikael isn't leaving us for a good while. Let's just hope he works on his sex face. 
I think we all know who wears the pants in this pair.
Complaints about their relationship aside, it was a really fucking good film. It was paced well (even though the slowish beginning did pick up a little too fast for me towards the end), it had some painfully realistic and intense senses, and it was a movie that wasn't afraid to go there. Really, I thought since it was so popular among soccer moms it was going to be fluffier than this, but it had some scenes that spun out into dark, unnerving places. Which makes sense when you realize the original Swedish title is Men Who Hate Women. Especially since...this movie had nothing to do with a dragon tattoo. Except that she had it. Whoop-de-fucking-do. Might as well call it The Girl With The Occasional Hangnail.  

While watching the film, I couldn't help but wonder the eternal question: "How the fuck is Hollywood going to pull this one off?" My prediction is that, if its anything like the trailers (which, experience has told me, it probably isn't, but I'll keep hoping!), it'll probably be epic. I don't doubt they'll cut out a good portion of the easy, slow pace in the beginning (because who needs subtle tension building, really?), but they may make up for it with a more cohesive relationship between Mikael and Lisbeth (let's face it, if there's one thing Americans are good at, it's contrived romantic sub-plots). Daniel Craig I happen to be a big fan of, so I have some hope there. Rooney Mara may look cool punked-out and she has impressed me before, but I know it's impossible to beat Noomi Rapace's complete and utter badassitry, so I won't even hold that expectation against her. I love Led Zeppelin like my unborn fetus. So the fact that I give Trent Reznor's version of The Immigrant Song the thumbs up is a major compliment. All in all? I'm still looking forward to feeling bad, come Christmastime. 

14 comments:

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed it too, though didn't realise how much abuse was in it! I hadn't read the books either; actually I saw the first two films first, then read the books, then saw the last film.

    Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth is kinda reminiscent of Vincent Cassel in Mesrine: no matter how much you don't like what the character is doing on screen, it's impossible to tear your eyes off them!

    I'm really in two minds about the Hollywood version. I also like Daniel Craig (James Bond from my home town!!), but will he be Swedish, British, American? I don't know how they'll work it. You're absolutely right that Rooney Mara can't come close to Noomi's performance.

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  2. Neither did I! I so thought that since it was, as I said, a "soccer mom film" that it wouldn't be quite so graphic. I was expecting something a little lighter, a good detective story, but no where near as physically abusive as it was. But damn, I'm not complaining.

    Now I have to see Mesrine, I love Cassel enough as the bastard in Black Swan. But Lisbeth is a BAMF, that's all there is to it. She owned the screen, completely.

    I agree with you there. That's awesome that he's from your home town! Definitely a compliment there. HAHA! But poor Craig. He can't do a fucking accent to save his life. He tried, hard, in Tomb Raider, and for what it was he did a good job, but it still slipped in here and there. I can't really see him doing a Swedish accent--but that's the thing about Hollywood. Everyone European, no matter if they're Germans or Italians or Swedes, has a British accent. I'd be pleasantly surprised if they deviated from this formula.

    Rooney Mara really can't come close to the badassitry that is Lisbeth, but I'm sure she'll try and do a stand up job of it, and for that I'll commend her. But there really is no replacing Noomi, end of story.

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  3. This is a hell of an awesome, brutally honest review. I tried reading the first book in this series or whatever it is, but I was asleep before I finished the first page. So my interest in these movies has been about zero. However, you make Lisbeth sound wicked badass and I admit now I want to see it just for her.

    But God, do they really have sex? I can't stand it when creepy old men get to visit the Cave of Wonders of some hot twenty-something woman. It's typical low brow male fantasy and it gets played out in oh-so many movies. Where are all the older women who get to bang sexy younger guys or gals? Why can't there ever be just platonic relationships in films?

    Okay, I'm climbing off my big damn soapbox. I will check this out because I do trust you not steer a bitch wrong, my friend.

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  4. The funny thing is, I was actually thinking of recommending this one to you, because I think you'll really get a kick out of Lisbeth. She's a lean, mean, badass machine. And she makes the flaws in the rest of the movie worth it.

    But I'm with you on that. I was like "Er....really?" Because it was Swedish, and the whole movie set itself up as a "unique action movie" with its slow, suspenseful pace and dual storyline. And then they had to pull the contrived romance card. To be fair, they do make their relationship...stilted and slightly awkward. So it isn't QUITE love at first sight carebears and candy hearts. But it still made me uncomfortable. I was definitely hoping for one, decent platonic male/female relationship. Especially because they both would've grown so much as characters with a pseudo-father/daughter relationship, it would've been especially good for her, the orphan child. Yes. I get just as angry as you when I'm on my soapbox. But I know I'm complaining a lot, and I have to say, it really it a badass movie. And Lisbeth is still going to come up as a BAMF of the week one of these days, she's that good. So I highly recommend!

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  5. Since you were thinking about recommending this to me, I will most definitely watch this. Thanks!

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  6. You're so welcome! You watch this one, I'll watch The Long Kiss Goodnight, and we'll reconvene at 0800 by the Nazi guarded watchtower.

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  7. Hmmm, interesting review. Just about a month ago, a local art theater had screenings of all three films that make the 'Millennium' trilogy. The posters intrigued me as hell, but... I walk into a bookstore, and I overhear people: "Yeah, yeah! You've GOT to read this. It's fantastic, an international bestseller!" And as soon as I hear 'bestseller', I usually run away.

    In short, I thought this was a bunch of seriously over-hyped shit - both the novels and the film adaptations. Now that I read the review, it seems it isn't. I'll definitely put this on my list. Don't know when I'll get to it, but I will for sure.

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  8. I had a similar problem. I had so many people telling me to read the book that...I just got uninspired and let it be. With that said, the fact that I too thought it would be some seriously over-hyped shit might've been one of the reasons why I enjoyed it so much--because I was pleasantly surprised that it was actually better than I expected. It's on instant view on Netflix, so that makes popping it in for a casual watch much easier.

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  9. Read the book!

    ;)

    But seriously, I did love the books - especially the first two - and the movies, er, this movie is pretty badass. They did Salander proud, even though the Blomkvist/Salander relationship was the one thing that bugged me most about the translation - of all things, it was way cooler in the book. But enough about that.

    I'll give this one a rewatch before the Christmas release, but it really seems as though Fincher's gonna be pretty wise and not change much up. I don't have much faith in Craig, but frankly, Blomkvist is a pretty boring, staid character. She gets the charisma, he gets to be the lead protagonist. I have serious doubts about Mara as well, but (again) frankly, since Lisbeth says little and gets by mostly on bitchy looks, it's possible that she pulls it off as well. The best thing about the Rapace casting and treatment in this flick was how spot-on she was with the look of the character. The only person I had come up with to play her was Fairuza Balk, and she'd be way too old to take on that role.

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  10. I loved pretty much everything about TGWTDT - It was so intriguing, different and beautifully-executed, it left me speechless. And Lisbeth is the real deal! I expect an excellent remake of Fincher, too.

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  11. The books are fantastic and believe it or not, even darker than anything that goes on in the movie. Larsoon describes everything so gruesomely that sometimes you can't help but shiver. With that said, these movies rock too and Rapace owns Lisbeth!

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  12. I don't know why there's an American remake. They should have just released this film here. American's can read subtitles.

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  13. Wow, I've been neglecting my comment-responding duties. *cracks fingers*

    @ Dylan--I really do have to check out the books. Everyone and my mom has been telling me to read them (literally). And I will...eventually. Especially because I'd love to see how they handled the Lisbeth/Blomkvist relationship, since that was clearly the one thing that bugged me the most about the movie. It's entirely possible that it was just a matter of pacing for me, and if I'd actually had a novel-length time to get used to their character relationship, I wouldn't have been so irked by it.

    Either way, I'm looking forward to checking out the second Swedish installment and seeing if I get used to their relationship a little more in that one. I've been told the movies are spot on, and you seem to agree with that, so I don't feel like SUCH a bad person will watching them.

    @ Nebular--I agree! It was definitely not what I expected, considering it was more or less the soccer mom hit of the year. And then...she goes and rapes a dude? Lisbeth is for real the real deal. Which is what I know they're going to have a problem translating...somehow, European punks are just a lot more hardass than American punks. Ah, Hollywood.

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  14. @ Jose--Darker than the movies? That is actually the first line that's got me seriously intrigued. I did really appreciate the morbid take-no-prisoners quality of the movie, but the darker the better in my book. And Rapace definitely fucking owns, no doubt about it.

    @ msmariah--I'm going to have to agree with you there. The thing is, I'm pretty sure everyone in America has access to the Swedish film anyway, so it's not like we're "in the dark". However, Hollywood always wants to bank on something they know will make a lot of money and roll with it, even if it means copying the Swedish film frame by frame.

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