Monday, September 15, 2014

Top 10 performances in David Fincher's films

By Sati. Monday, September 15, 2014 , , , , , , , ,

Whenever there is a new Fincher's movie there is always Oscar talk. Sometimes people do get in but on occasion they're not the ones who most root for to be nominated - what the fuck did Brad Pitt actually do in The Curious Case of the Benjamin Button? Another thing? I was always baffled by Eisenberg being the one who was nominated for Social Network.

Out of the performances listed here only one made it this far in Awards season. But it's not really about that. The real praise comes from movie fans. Fincher's movies, always filled with so many amazing actors and performances, are extremely well cast and provide actors with such tremendous opportunities. So with all of that, being the standout in the cast is an accomplishment in itself.

10. Sigourney Weaver / Alien 3
While the film is a mess, Weaver's performance is, as usual with Alien movies, the best thing about it. The script is a disaster, the execution was butchered by the studio but no one managed to ruin Weaver's work who yet again gave us our beloved, fearless Ripley.

9. Justin Timberlake / The Social Network
Fincher has a real gift for casting his movies. People always raise their eyebrows when they hear of his choices before they see the movie, Gone Girl has several instances of that. And it was also the case with Timberlake. But he was truly fantastic in the role and I cannot imagine anyone else playing his narcissistic and delusional character.

8. Kevin Spacey / Se7en
While Spacey is excellent in the role, I always thought the praise he got at the expense of much better Freeman was a bit much. Still it's an unforgettable performance and you have to give him the credit for suggesting to the studio they keep him out of opening credits and marketing for the film to surprise the audience more when he shows up.

7.  Tilda Swinton  / The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
While I do love the movie and I find it to be very beautiful and life-affirming, the main two actors, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, never felt sincere in their roles for me. Thank God for Tilda Swinton who with her brief screen time brought so much genuine joy and energy to the screen. It's like in emotional wasteland she was the single beating heart left.

6. Helena Bonham Carter / Fight Club
Fincher said about her -"When Helena came on set, you could see she was either ready or she wasn’t. When she was ready, no matter what you said, she wouldn’t look at you; she was in Marla mode. She was like this little train burrowing along with puffs of cigarette smoke trailing behind her." And this is who Marla is. For someone so miserable and depressed there is some strange determination to her. Both Narrator and Tyler are such memorable characters but Helena as Marla never once gives them a chance to steal the spotlight.

5. Daniel Craig / The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
This is such an underrated performance. Craig never disappears even though he shares so many scenes with the hurricane that is Mara in that movie. He manages to convincingly portray ordinary, clumsy, sweet guy. And never once you think you are watching James Bond on the screen.

I forgot to use that screenshot in my funniest moments list, when Mikael makes that face as the villain rambles on. It always makes me laugh.

4. John Carroll Lynch / Zodiac
Lynch is in Zodiac for a very short while but he manages to steal the movie with ease from other actors. He only needs few minutes to convince the audience that he is the Zodiac killer. The truth may have never been proved and Fincher probably wanted you to have doubts, but Lynch manages to be so menacing, creepy, odd and threatening that you have no doubts. It's only even more impressive that the same actor played Madge's sweet husband in Fargo. Just think what he will do as murderous clown in upcoming season of American Horror Story.

3. Andrew Garfield / The Social Network
It's not easy to succeed in a role like that - being a supporting player when there are so many vivid supporting players and you get to play the good guy who keeps failing, not athletic twins or energetic entrepreneur. But Garfield, who by the way played a complete asshole in Never Let Me Go so successfully, is so sweet, naive and convincing in the movie. In spite of being outmaneuvered his character never feels like a punching bag. There's a great deal of humour here too - with the chicken story and Eduardo closing his eyes as Sean rambles on because it's actually pains him to hear his bullshit. But the best ones are those moments when Eduardo takes control and snaps at Mark and Sean calling them on their bullshit and Garfield completely steals the show in the process.

2. Morgan Freeman / Se7en
I wrote a great deal about Freeman's beautiful work here. This is my favorite performance of his and he was just a perfect choice for the part. He plays such a calm, mature and good man that it's in the moments he loses control that you really feel frightened watching this movie.

1. Rooney Mara / The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Mara's work here is so fantastic that it's not only my best actress win for that year (beating even Charlize Theron in Young Adult, who played a character so close to my heart in one of my favorite movies ever) but it's one of my all time favorite performances. Mara achieves something that is perhaps the rarest thing for the actress to achieve - her performance is the perfect bland of badass and subtle with Lisbeth being a tough woman who can kill and a helpless little girl who just needs someone close, sometimes being both of those at the same time. Her wordless work in the film's ending remains one of the most brilliantly acted out scenes I've ever seen.


I predict that Pike will top this list once I see Gone Girl. Casting of Mara was inspired. Casting of Pike is a strike of a genius and the best casting decision Fincher has ever made.

44 comments:

  1. Great post! I actually watched Zodiac the other day, for the first time. John Carroll Lynch was amazing, and I can't wait to see him in this season of American Horror Story!

    I hate that Jesse Eisenberg didn't make this list. To me, he was 100x better than Timberlake, but to each his own. Also, the note on Swinton is great. I agree with every word you said about Benji Button! However, Taraji P. Henson was pretty great, as well!

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    1. Thanks! The entire cast of Zodiac was good, even Gyllenhaal even though he kinda had a thankless role.

      For me Eisenberg is exactly the same in every movie so I wouldn't nominate him in a million years,

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    2. I think you're right Sati, Eisenberg is a little like Michael Cera where he just plays the same snippy, smart-arse he always does - the only difference with TSN was that his Zuckerberg was that times x1000. Garfield really stole the show, but I thin credit should also go to Armie Hammer for his dual role.

      I think that's why so many people are skeptical of Eisenberg's casting in BvS - surely his Lex Luthor is just going to be some kind of snarky kid billionaire everyone hates? Happy to be proven wrong though if it means we get a good crossover DC movie :)

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    3. He is, he is so twitchy :/ Hammer was really good! Garfield had the most interesting role, though.

      I think that movie is doomed given that Snyder is directing it :/

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  2. Glad to see the love for Daniel Craig in TGwtDT and for Timberlake in TSC. Some others I'd consider: Gwyneth Paltrow in Se7en and Taraji P. Henson in Benjamin Button. I thought both actresses did a lot with not much screen time. Excellent list.

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    1. Paltrow was great, Henson I unfortunately don't remember that well

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  3. For me so far,

    1. Andrew Garfield-The Social Network
    2. Robert Downey Jr.-Zodiac
    3. Rooney Mara-The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    4. Kevin Spacey-Se7en
    5. Michael Douglas-The Game
    6. Mark Ruffalo-Zodiac
    7. Cate Blanchett-The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    8. Jared Harris-The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    9. Stellan Skarsgard-The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    10. Jesse Eisenberg-The Social Network

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    1. I'm surprised at the love for Blanchett, I thought her and Pitt were both kinda stiff

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  4. Great list! Daniel Craig seems to be underrated for me in a lot of movies. He's known from the Bond films but there are a lot of movies, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo included, where he still gives great performances.
    Andrew's blow-up to Jesse might be one of the top quoted scenes for our generation - it's all because of his acting throughout the movie.
    Tilda Swinton - I can't even.

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    1. Thank you! Craig was really wonderful in the role. I really hope they will eventually make the sequels.

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  5. Good work. I cannot wait for Gone Girl after having read the novel - the casting is perfect in my opinion. I really like everyone in Benjamin Button too, but Tilda Swinton steals the show from everyone - well, that's kind of her thing. Kudos for including The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the movie feels seriously underrated to me. Nobody *ever* talks about it anymore.

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    1. Thanks! The casting really is perfect I cannot imagine anyone else in these roles. I love Dragon Tattoo and I talk about it as often as I can :)

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  6. Solid list, Sati. I'd place Garfield as number 1, but overall, I agree with your top ten.

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    1. Thanks! I had no idea Garfield's performance is this loved!

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  7. John Carroll Lynch really nailed in Zodiac though. I am really cannot wait to see him in Freakshow.
    Whenever I have time I will watch Fight club, I guess it's a must see.

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    1. He is such a versatile actor. His part in Freakshow sounds seriously horrific!

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  8. Fantastic list! I completely agree with all of them, especially your number one. Mara was truly a force of nature. Here's my own top 10:

    1. Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    2. Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
    3. Tilda Swinton, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    4. John Carroll Lynch, Zodiac
    5. Morgan Freeman, Se7en
    6. Kevin Spacey, Se7en
    7. Cate Blanchett, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    8. Helena Bonham Carter, Fight Club
    9. Sigourney Weaver, Alien 3
    10. Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network

    While I don't think anyone is going to top Rooney for me, I think Rosamund will come really close!

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    1. So glad Mara is your number 1 too! Rosamund seems to be really magnificent in the movie, I suspect there will be many posts about her here :)

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  9. Really great post. I love everyone here and yaay for including Craig! He brought such humanity into (who was such a dick in the book) that it made Mara's acting and reacting even better.
    My favourite performance is definitely one of the trio from Fight Club though I keep fluctuating between them.

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    1. Thank you! I never read the book but Mikael, despite flaws, still seemed like a kind and good guy in the movie all thanks to Craig.

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  10. I knew Rooney could be first :P Great list! I think Eisenberg was far better than Timberlake, personally. But Fincher is awesome at getting good performances from his actors. That had to be hard to narrow down.

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    1. Thank you! Actually it wasn't that hard, but it could be hard if I saw Gone Girl already :)

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  11. Great list! I really need to catch up on Fincher's older film (why have I not seen Se7en or Zodiac yet?). I love how high Andrew Garfield is on the list. I still can't understand why he was snubbed for an Oscar that year. Such a crime

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    1. Thank you! Oh, you've gotta see those, especially Se7en! Garfield should definitely have been nominated.

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  12. I still haven't seen 'Dragon Tattoo' and 'Benjamin Button' yet but of the ones I have seen, I'd agree w/ your list. Glad to see Garfield up so high. As for Timberlake, I think I only liked him in The Social Network, and not much else.

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    1. I think you would really like Benjamin Button!

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    2. I don't really like Pitt but I do LOVE Blanchett & Julia Ormond so yeah I think I might enjoy that one.

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    3. Blanchett is, according to many but not me, wonderful there :)

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  13. Glad to see Daniel Craig in there! His role in Dragon Tattoo had zero Bond in it, yeah. I remember the first time he appears on screen, with glasses on, and how shocked I was about how normal he looked. Not normal-looking because that man is anything but normal (he may look even hotter with glasses actually, and the comfy sweaters), but like an average guy. It got me wishing he'd have more roles like that, but so far this is the only one I've seen. Fincher needs to get on with the next Girl film, already!

    Wow, totally forgot Swinton was in Benjamin Button. That movie is so long I feel like I missed half the stuff that happens in it.

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    1. I don't find Craig attractive outside of this movie. It's the 'good guy' quality here I found attractive.

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  14. There are so many good options here, and you've picked a lot of the great ones. The top three are all great choices, and it's cool to see recognition for Garfield over Eisenberg. Freeman definitely owns that part in Seven and is the moral center of it. I know that Panic Room isn't one of his best films, but I think Forrest Whitaker does a great job. Jodie Foster is also solid in the lead role. I also think Michael Douglas in The Game is excellent in a tricky part. I'm not sure if any deserve to make the list, but they're strong too. Nice job.

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    1. Whitaker was really good in Panic Room, he actually managed to do something with that role and show some genuine emotion, in spite of the script being so underdeveloped. Douglas was very good in The Game, very good casting there!

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  15. Despite the film's production problems I've always felt he got an incredible performance out of Sigourney Weaver. He was probably helped by her dedication and knowledge of the role but I'm glad you highlighted it here.

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    1. I don't hate Alien 3 as much as other, sure it ain't great, but hey it's still Alien and Ripley is still awesome. Glad you liked her performance!

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  16. Great list, However I don't understand why no body talked or mentioned Jodie Foster in Panic Room

    Below my own top 10:

    1. Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    2. Kevin Spacey, Se7en
    3. Tilda Swinton, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    4. John Carroll Lynch, Zodiac
    5. Morgan Freeman, Se7en
    6. Jodie Foster, Panic room
    7. Cate Blanchett, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    8. Helena Bonham Carter, Fight Club
    9. Brad Pitt, Fight Club
    10. Michael Douglas, The Game

    Looking forward to watch the upcoming movie Gone Girl, Ben Affleck will probably make my list updated.

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    1. Thank you! Jodie was great in Panic Room but I think the film's poor script brought everyone down a bit.

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  17. Perfect list. LOVE the JT praise - I also thought no other actor could pull off what he did in The Social Network. But I especially love that Lynch ranks so high here. He's one of my favorite character actors and that's by far his best performance. Great work!

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    1. Thank you! Fincher is so good casting movies - there are several incredibly inspired choices in Gone Girl, mainly Pike, Harris and Ratajkowski. Lynch is just fantastic in the movie, seriously for me better than Spacey in Se7en.

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  18. Nice choices, he really does elicit strong performances from his cast.

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  19. The issue with your list is that Jesse Eisenberg isn't on it.

    I get it. You think he plays the same character in every movie, but this isn't about his other movies. This isn't about his career. This is a list judging the performances in David Fincher films. Judging Jesse Eisenberg against himself goes against the entire point of this list. Why is it that you judge everyone else against each other and yet Eisenberg doesn't make the list because of other performances in his career? That's an issue that you need to resolve. The rule of this blog post is in the title itself. You then broke that particular rule.

    Here's an argument FOR his performance. Imagine any other person in the role. Imagine any other actor taking upon themselves the task of firing off Aaron Sorkin's dialogue in the way Eisenberg does. Nobody else could have made that performance work. Hell, take any actor on this list of yours and imagine them in the role of Mark Zuckerberg, in the way Sorkin wrote him. Would they have pulled it off as well as him, let alone better? No. They wouldn't have. Eisenberg was an obvious choice for this role but that's because he was the ONLY choice. The movie wouldn't have worked without his performance. All the other performances would have suffered because they didn't have Eisenberg to play off of. Then you take that rapid fire and yet subtly sympathetic performance, compare it not to his own career, but to the people on this list. And in my objectively well thought out opinion, he holds his own. He's top 5 at least in fact.

    But considering you broke the aforementioned rule of this post, I will go ahead and prove you wrong about him being the exact same in every movie. That's an uneducated opinion. Before his role in The Social Network, what exactly was similar to it? Zombieland? Adventureland? The Living Wake? What about those roles were the same as The Social Network, aside from Jesse Eisenberg playing him? Nothing. You want him to be funny? Watch Zombieland. You want him to be a little more laid back? Watch Adventureland. You want to see Eisenberg get pretty weird? Watch The Living Wake. Nothing about those roles are anything like his performance in The Social Network.

    Or maybe you just saw Now You See Me and thought "hey, he's arrogant and cocky, this is just like The Social Network", even though that's only true if you're looking at the surface of the characters. Go watch The Double, playing two characters that represent two sides of one person. Go watch Night Moves in which he gives a ridiculously tense and even creepy performance.

    This isn't exactly rocket science though. I know why you and plenty of other people think he plays the same role. It's because Jesse Eisenberg has an innate ability to make you think you're watching himself in every movie. He gives off the illusion that he's the exact same in every film he's apart of. Sort of like another great actor that goes by the name of Dustin Hoffman. The difference being that Jesse Eisenberg is more known for his somewhat unlike-able performances which makes people, ya know, not like him. Which only proves my entire point.

    So, not including Jesse Eisenberg's performance in The Social Network is an oversight. A huge one. Especially considering your main reason only breaks the rule you set for this list in the first place.

    Have a good day though.

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    1. I have absolutely no desire to have n discussion with person who fails to see this is not their site, not their blog series and not their rating, is too daft to realize different people like different performances and goes on fanboy rant so let me just suggest - make your own list and feature him.

      Go ahead, I really couldn't care less.

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  20. Another terrific list. Now that we've seen Gone Girl, I'd probably go with Pike at #1, though I'd be tempted to go with a Freeman/Pitt tie for #1. I like Mara's performance a lot, but I can't help comparing it to Rapace's performance, which I think is much better. Granted, Rapace had three movies to develop Lisbeth.

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    1. I think I'd confidently have Pike at number 1 now too, as for Rapace she did very well but I preferred Fincher/Mara approach to the character

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