David Fincher and famed crime writer James Ellroy are far from strangers. As we documented in our feature A-Z: A Guide To The Lost & Unmade Films Of David Fincher, the filmmaker was once attached to the adaptation of “Black Dahlia” before it fell into the hands of Brian De Palma, and the author also contributed a commentary track to Fincher’s “Zodiac.” Moreover, the pair are currently developing a couple of TV shows for HBO. So just bear that in mind as we move on to this next part.
Chatting with NPR recently about his favorite noir films, Ellroy named Fincher’s “Zodiac,” about the hunt for the famed serial killer, among them. Indeed, on that aforementioned commentary track, the writer called it “one of the half-dozen greatest American crime films.” But Ellroy’s love of the movie — which he curiously describes as powered by “a subliminally homosexual roundelay of obsessives” — is not without some caveats.
“One of the things that’s interesting, most interesting, about ‘Zodiac’ is that Gyllenhaal, Downey and Ruffalo are miserable in the movie,” Ellory says. “It’s a great cinematic work, with, at center stage, three inadequate and unconvincing performances…. I don’t believe a word that they say, and it’s still a great movie. The themes: the banality of obsession; the attenuated nature of police work; the nagging, persistent, occasionally consuming need to know who, what, when, where and why that plagued so many men.”
Needless to say, it’s an interesting assessment of Fincher’s underrated, and in my opinion, arguably best movie (also featured in our 25 Must-See Movies About The Media). But what do you think? Is Ellroy off base about the performances? Can a movie still be great if the acting isn’t up to par? Lots to talk about below.