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“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” reviewed


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One word describes the tone, setting, and pacing of David Fincher’s adaptation of Stieg Larson’s wildly popular novel, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” That word is glacial. Its portrait of modern Sweden is bleak and bitterly cold, its story is sad and sordid, and its opening and closing scenes are extremely distended. Will fans of the book like the new movie anyway? As someone who’s never read Larson’s work or watched the Swedish films based on his Millennium Trilogy, I’m probably not the best person to ask. Based on my conversations with readers of Larson’s books, Fincher’s film seems like a fairly faithful adaptation. To this neophyte observer, “Dragon Tattoo” plays as an effective and stylish, if someone bloated mystery and that’s about it. It’s not a particularly dynamic film — by Fincher’s standards, the direction is positively restrained — and it’s not a particularly compelling character drama. It really only works as an absorbing detective story, one which I feel like the last person on earth to absorb. Attendance isn’t in doubt; the film will be a big hit. But will the people who come like it? Is it fun rehashing a mystery you already know the solution to?

That mystery begins when a magazine editor named Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is found guilty of libeling a prominent Swedish businessman. Desperate for an escape from his crumbling professional life, he receives one in the form of an invitation to a remote private island, where another powerful Swedish industrialist makes him an offer. Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) will hire Blomkvist under the guise of writing his memoirs; in reality, he wants him to solve a decades-old family mystery involving the death of his beloved niece Harriett. Eventually Blomkvist’s investigation requires a research assistant, which is where the titular heroine, an antisocial bisexual goth biker hacker ward of the state named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), comes in. To this point, Lisbeth’s been caught in her own side story involving abuse and exploitation, one which makes her particularly enthusiastic to help Blomkvist catch what he calls “a killer of women.”

The plot, adapted by screenwriter Steven Zaillian, takes a long time to put its two main characters in a room together and until it does, the whole film — save two infamous and brutal scenes of violence — moves sluggishly. For a while, I was at a loss to understand the material’s worldwide appeal. Then it becomes clear: a badass feminist heroine who strikes back with merciless gusto at her abusers, and an odd couple of investigators as deliciously mismatched — and as resourcefully inventive — as Holmes and Watson. Craig and Mara makes a feisty, funny team, and they both show a knack for making the minutia of historical research look absolutely riveting. Their interplay brings this whole chilly endeavor to life, and even brings the faintest hints of warmth to the film’s arctic color palette. The beautiful way the cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth’s icily gorgeous imagery slowly morphs from blues and grays to yellows and browns is a subtle and clever way of representing how ‘hot’ or ‘cold the serial killer’s trail is at any particular moment.

The raw materials of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” provide Fincher the opportunity to revisit many of the themes that have defined his stellar career to date: the inner workings of a serial killer’s mind from “Se7en;” the anti-capitalistic impulses of “Fight Club;” the sprawling, obsessive investigation of a seemingly unsolvable crime in “Zodiac;” the alluring godlike power of hackers from “The Social Network.” Too bad Fincher doesn’t use that opportunity to say anything new about any of those subjects, maybe because he was expected to treat the novel so reverently that he never really could. Whatever the reason, he handles the material competently, but not exceptionally. As creepy as it might be to say, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is David Fincher working in his comfort zone (for him, it could be called a discomfort zone). I enjoyed the film to an extent, but I didn’t know what was going to happen. Odds are, you already do.


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…


A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.