There was a time, not all that long ago, when I felt that David Fincher was going to become one of my three favorite living directors. What was so cool about that, in my eyes anyway, was that the trio would all sport the first name of David. The Trinity of David, I found myself ready to label them, and for a while it was starting to stick. Then Fincher’s career became hit-or-miss, and I ended up dropping the entire thought process. Oh, I still believe David Fincher to be a very talented helmer, but I began to realize that placing him in the company of the other two D’s was a bit premature. Afterall, the much more experienced “David Duo” that I held in such high esteem, were vastly more experienced, and have much more consistent resumes. The twosome I speak of are David Cronenberg and David Lynch, and no regular reader of this blog could possibly accuse me of just being coy. But after a quartet of films in the 1990’s that stoked my spirits, I began the next decade believing that David Fincher wasn’t quite ready to be mentioned along with such astute company. However, I haven’t given up on him yet. Plus, his latest release appears very promising. Shall I provide a quick history lesson? You’ve twisted my arm.
The troubled, oft-maligned, and quite underrated “Alien 3” was Fincher’s 1992 feature-directing debut, after a renowned early career directing music videos for pop giants such as Paula Abdul, Michael Jackson and Madonna. It was a tumultuous production, that was still a box office hit, and has since developed a loyal, and growing, cult fan base.
Next up was 1995’s “Seven”, and what else is there to say, but that it’s a dark, violent, freaking masterpiece. It contains one of the bleakest, brilliant, and most uncompromising finales in the history of motion pictures—and its stature after almost two decades has only increased. It was a worldwide smash and it’s still superb.
1997’s “The Game” was a risky venture, that proved to me that Fincher was willing to gamble, and not go all Hollywood on us. It was a modest hit, with a terrific twist ending, a very mature script, and a wonderful central performance from Michael Douglas. Those Trinity of David seeds of mine were really finding purchase now.
1999’s “Fight Club”: iconic, audacious, hypnotic—I adored it. But the critical reception was mixed, and the box office was unimpressive. But it sports a massive and fervent following, and is one of the most controversial and debated films of the 1990’s. Watching it is infectious.
After that fabulous foursome, 2002’s “Panic Room” was a bit of a letdown. Financially lucrative, but a mostly conventional mainstream thriller. A half decade hiatus followed, but 2007’s “Zodiac” was a spectacular return to form—that did very little box office. No matter, it’s great, and the public rapidly discovered it on DVD. I really dislike 2008’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, but Oscar showered it with 13 nominations. It was a beautifully shot misfire as far as I was concerned. And about as cloying and sentimental as you could get. The masses ate it up. 2010’s “The Social Network” is awesome, however, and Fincher redeemed himself yet again. It seemed that he had finally learned to walk that fine line of art and commerce. But the hit-or-miss track record continued with 2011’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. Maybe I’d just reached saturation level with the Stieg Larsson smash book trilogy, and its series of Swedish-language adaptations? Most critics seemed sold, but it was only marginally successful, so “franchise fatigue” seemed a definite factor.
After ten years of hot-and-cold, will David Fincher again impress with 2014’s “Gone Girl”? The above trailer is a mix of promising and auspicious—I could see this one going either way. It has the built-in audience of a 2012 best-selling book of the same name(by Gillian Flynn, who also penned the screenplay), and an eclectic cast that includes Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike and Tyler Perry. Will “Gone Girl” fall into the conventional thriller trap of “Panic Room”? Or will it be shameless Oscar-bait like “Benjamin Button”? Or will it be a splendid book adaptation like “The Social Network”? The jury is out until October 3rd.