Fincher-nomics: My top 5 films

David Fincher is one of the biggest helmers in Tinseltown (LA). In a career spanning four decades, he has been nominated for thirty Academy Awards, including twice for Best Director. Fincher is noted for his psychological thrillers, plot twists, and sumptuous visuals. I’ve seen most of his work, including three at the cinema. The trio are Benjamin Button (2008), The Social Network (2010), and Gone Girl (2014). Many of Fincher’s movies are adaptations: Alien 3 (1992), Benjamin Button (2008), Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) and Zodiac (2007), to name a few.

In spite of his success, not all of his features have been box office hits. For instance, critics praised The Game, yet the film had disappointing audience returns. Meanwhile, Zodiac is a well-regarded title. The movie has been praised for being authentic. However, it barely broke even on its eighty-five million budget. In all, Fincher has directed eleven feature films, from 1992 onwards. I’ve had the pleasure of watching eight of them. Here are my best picks for the Fincher fan.

  1. The Social Network (2010). This is Fincher’s highest-rated production, and with good reason. The film is based on the book Accidental Billionaires, but I bet the adaptation is much better than the original. The flick tells the story of the early days of Facebook. Network is also notable for its unflattering portrayal of the FB founder. We get to know more about Sean Parker, the Napster founder who took an interest in FB. We eyeball the fractured dynamic between Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin. We witness the infighting among the FB pioneers. We even feel the wrath of the Winklevoss twins, who believed that they were conned. There is even the storyline of Rebecca Albright (Rooney Mara). Her actions resulted in the making of FB.

The movie benefits from a talented cast, giving a dose of realism to the characters. Jesse Eisenberg was perfect for Zuckerberg. Andrew Garfield was relatable as Saverin. Rashida Jones gave a memorable turn as a clerk. Justin Timberlake generated Oscar buzz as Parker. The film was widely considered as the best of 2010 and was a fixture on the finest films of that decade. Fincher competed for Best Director at that year’s Oscars and the flick per se had eight Oscar nominations, winning three of them.

Rating: 4.65/5

  • Gone Girl (2014). I thoroughly enjoyed this thriller and last year I also read the book. Another bookworm told me that this was the one instant where the movie and the book both hit the mark. The author Gillian Flynn was herself the screenwriter. This production stars Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, and Neil Patrick Harris. Gone girl is a postmodern visual feast that keeps you guessing. The plot involves a missing wife, and all evidence points to her phlegmatic husband. The film represents Fincher’s highest-grossing work. Pike’s performance as Amy Dunne, the damsel in distress was widely acclaimed. She secured several illustrious nominations. Harris’s rendition as Des (Amy’s childhood sweetheart) was likewise impressive. For more on this one, check out ‘My April reads’, where I reviewed the novel.

Rating: 4.4/5

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011). This adaptation of the Larsson novel sees Fincher collaborate with Mara again. For your information, this version comes two years after the Swedish one. The Girl refers to Lisbeth, a tattooed punkster who functions like Elliot Alderson. She teams up with Mickael Blomkvist as Stellan Saargard hires them to investigate the disappearance of his niece. In the beginning, Blomkvist is wallowing in his own failures, until he gets the mystery job.

At 158 minutes, this is a fairly long watch. While the book was divided into three parts, this one is sectioned into five to accommodate the monster plot. Fincher is generally faithful to the original. The film was both a critical and a fiscal hit, earning 232 million on a $90 million budget. The flick boasts Fincher’s trademark dark themes and plot twists. While I did not see this on the big screen, I still appreciated the well-developed leads, the genuine ambience, and the killer plot. In this instance, the film version is better than the manuscript.

Rating: 4.3/5

  • Se7en (1995). This is the film that put Fincher on the map. Props also for working from an original screenplay. Brad Pitt plays Detective David Mills, who is investigating a series of gruesome murders. Kevin Spacey is also on board on a supporting role. He teams up with Detective Lieutenant William Somerset (Morgan Freeman). The two would learn that the matador is basing his slayings on the seven deadly sins. Pitt scrambles to protect his family as the killer evades them at every turn. The police, including Mills, are being played like pawns. The ending reveals the murderer’s identity in a shocking twist.

While Gone Girl had a slightly higher total, Se7en had a lesser budget. The film was able to recoup ten times its starting balance. Aside from its box office haul, the film was also a critic’s pick, who loved the film’s unique premise and balance. Pundits concur that at the very least, the flick offers something different. Freeman and Pitt’s portrayals were also praised. This represents Fincher’s first collaboration with Pitt, who would also work with him in Fight Club (1999) and Benjamin Button.  

Rating: 4/5

  • Fight Club (1999). This one is based on Chuck Palahniuk’s name-making novel. The movie sees Pitt and Edward Norton instituting the eponymous fight club. They jet set across America and rant against Ikea. The movie typifies disillusioned Gen Xers while also canvasing machismo in trouble. While the picture was visually stunning, Fight Club was also loaded with violence. I’ve never read the original, but I understand that it is emblematic of the postmodern condition. The movie did poorly on its first theatrical run, only grossing thirty-seven million in North America. There was also a big drop-off in ticket sales for the second week of showing. However, Fight Club has become a cult classic and has earned its place as a paragon of 90s disaffection

Rating: 4/5 

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