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The Good, The Bad and the Badass: David Fincher


Last week, we took a look at the career of fanboy idol Simon Pegg, This week’s subject is one of the most uncompromising, but brilliant, directors of our era, whose latest film is primed to be a mega hit...

David Fincher

david Fincher directing social network

David Fincher seems on the cusp of having one of the biggest financial successes of his career with his adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s GONE GIRL, which opens Friday. The reviews have been fawning, and while his previous popular lit adaptation THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO under-performed critically and commercially, this one seems like a strong return to form and a movie that lives up to its hype. The potential commercial success isn’t too surprising. While he makes uncommonly dark films, for the most part Fincher’s work has always found an audience, if not in theaters than at least shortly after.

brad pitt seven

Film revisionists probably consider SE7EN to be Fincher’s first film, but us film geeks know it was actually ALIEN 3, a film which pissed off the studio and the fans, but has since grown in esteem. Before that, he was something of a pioneer in the music video industry. He did some of the most popular videos of the early nineties, including Billy Idol’s “Cradle of Love”, George Michael’s “Freedom! ‘90” and a whole whack of iconic ones by Madonna, including “Express Yourself” and “Vogue”.

david fincher mark ruffalo zodiac

While ALIEN 3 was first, it can’t be denied that SE7EN is when Fincher came into his own as a feature director, establishing himself as a kind of auteur of the macabre. While not a horror director, many of his films have indeed been terrifying from their very real perspectives on human cruelty. SE7EN is an obvious example, as is ZODIAC and his latest, GONE GIRL, but even something like THE SOCIAL NETWORK applies somewhat from the cold, calculating way it depicted Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (who’s been spending the last couple of years fighting that image and establishing himself as a philanthropist). His most atypical film is probably THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON.

Truly, no one makes movies quite the way Fincher does, although many have tried. He’s a perfectionist and uncompromising in his attitude toward his art. That said, if one director deserves to be held up in esteem the way we look at guys like Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, or Martin Scorsese, Fincher’s one of the top contenders.

His Best Film

edward norton fight club

For me, the line between SE7EN and FIGHT CLUB is as thin as a razor, but I have to give the edge to FIGHT CLUB. Seeing FIGHT CLUB in theaters is one of those iconic movie moments for me. It hit theaters shortly after my eighteenth birthday, which was convenient as it was rated 18+ in Quebec, one of only a handful of movies to ever get that rating (here, even R-rated films like THE EQUALIZER get a 13+). At my impressionable age, FIGHT CLUB blew my mind and over the years that followed I pretty much wore out my DVD copy having watched it so much on my slick – for 1999/2000 that is – DVD-ROM. Watching it now, FIGHT CLUB doesn’t have quite the same effect as we simply live in a different world than we did then, and the things that alienated the characters then have been replaced by other, even more alienating things (I wonder what Tyler Durden would think of Facebook and Twitter?). But, as a time capsule it’s – without a doubt – one of the defining films of its era, and one that still gives me a chill fifteen years (!) later.

His Most Overrated Film

jodie foster kristen stewart panic room

PANIC ROOM was David Fincher’s follow-up to FIGHT CLUB, and my reaction to it is only another example of how profound an effect it had on me, as I thought PANIC ROOM was horribly conventional at the time. I can’t deny it’s a slick, efficient thriller, but at the time I guess that’s not what I wanted (I would have been more impressed with ZODIAC as an immediate follow-up). Now, I understand that Fincher needed a commercial success to keep doing what he wanted, and fair enough – I understand these things a little more now than I did then. Jodie Foster is undeniably great in it, but of Fincher’s work, outside of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO it’s the one I find the least interesting.

His Most Underrated Film

david fincher alien 3

Initially, I was going to choose THE GAME, having been a bit put=off by a recent interview where Fincher dismissed it as a movie he shouldn’t have made. I think he’s underrating it quite a bit, as it’s a pretty damn impressive thriller with one of the truly great endings of the era, and a great performance by Michael Douglas. However, resident clip maestro Nick Bosworth convinced me that – duh – Fincher’s most underrated is obviously ALIEN 3, and he’s absolutely right. It’s a ballsy flick, with Fincher killing (offscreen!) two beloved characters (Newt and Hicks) from the ultra-successful ALIENS, and then chopping off Ripley’s hair, and depositing her on a dark prison world populated only by middle-aged bald British dudes (and Charles S. Dutton – who’s awesome). I’m amazed the movie ever made it past the script stage, and it’s a pretty great little movie in its own right, especially if you watch the reconstructed, longer version on the Blu-ray’s. While a full on director’s cut seems unlikely due to Fincher himself having disowned it, what remains is still a pretty great addition to the franchise (I’d argue it’s better than PROMETHEUS).

His Most Memorable Scene

I was tempted to thrown in one of the iconic Tyler Durden speeches from FIGHT CLUB, but I can’t lie, whenever I think of Fincher I think of Gwyneth Paltrow’s head-in-a-box in SE7EN. What an insane movie and what an incredible scene. The staging, lighting, and acting here (from Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt and Kevin Spacey) is impeccable. Despite having watched this film many times over the years this sequence still gets me.

His Top-Five Films

2. SE7EN

Up Next

Being a perfectionist, I don’t think we should expect Fincher to sign on to anything too soon. There have been rumblings about him doing THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, but that seems unlikely at this point. I fully expect GONE GIRL to rocket him up to the top of the A-list (as if he’s not already there) and I’m sure whatever he signs on for will be prestigious and well worth the wait.




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