𖤐katharine’s review published on Letterboxd:
coming off the cinematic of high that was paul thomas anderson's licorice pizza, i was more than down for a 2+ hour long romp through california in a decade gone by. little did i know that instead of tuning straight into the brain waves of the wildly human and flawed licorice pizza company, i was given a $3.99 ticket into david fincher's dollhouse.
this movie is dressing up your brand new shiny dolls only to affix them jankily in your newly reworked murder mystery themed dollhouse. pulling huge cinematic names like mark ruffalo robert downey jr. makes this movie alluring and exciting to see some range out of these one trick pony actors. i was, on the flip side, excited to see an actor who has proven himself time and time again, jake gyllenhaal, do his thing once again and give another defining performance. i was more than a little confused as the film trudged through its runtime, so i'll give you my breakdown the only way a cowboy knows how.
in one of these circumstances i was wholly impressed. mark ruffalo gives an excellent portrayal of david toschi. ruffalo's acting style in this film is much like his character: he gives all he can but knows when not to push things into extremity. ruffalo delivers a realistic, gripping performance of a man working giving all he can and knowing his limits, never overacting a line. it was truly exciting to see him work the magic you know he holds in all of his more two-dimensional films.
jake gyllenhaal plays the innocently obsessed ex boy scout well, yet the characters presence in the film could have been substituted with a 15 year old boy and no one would have been the wiser. his honest Abe shtick gets so old, even the score begins to mock him during one of the many zodiac hunting montages of his. the tragic writing of his character isn't to the fault of gyllenhaal. it's just unfortunate that a man can be boiled down to nothing but his obsession (sorry graysmith), but tis the way of a 2+ hour movie where you have time to properly flesh out a character! gyllenhaal does all he can to bumble his way around cutely and slowly nose dive into insanity, but i'll be honest in that i wasn't sold.
this cannot be ignored. why did the only character (aside from the one girl in the beginning) who feels as if their wardrobe was given actual thought into fitting the time period have to have the most atrocious outfits in this whole fucking film. robert downy jr. has literally never looked worse. every single time paul avery was on screen, before and after his downfall, i wanted to scream. why those hats?? why the pants?? why anything?? i know this is supposed to be my fashion critique column, but i would like to interject and say that i may have set my standards too high when i went into this with the expectation of being impressed by these avengers' performances. rdj simply couldn't hack it, i suppose. maybe it's the voice, i can never get over his voice.
now that we've discussed the dolls, it's time to step back and look at the dollhouse as a whole. the nature of fincher's style, which always injects a varying dosage of artificiality into humanity, does absolutely not work in a completely character driven study of what obsession with a serial killer can do to a psyche. obsession and murder are potentially two of the most fragile human qualities, and i believe should be handled with a cupped hand instead of a clenched fist. whereas rich luxary lends itself perfectly to the plastic coating of the social network, the clingfilm wrapped, shoe shined world of zodiac feels disingenuous to los angeles during the 60s. the 60s have a knack of being an overly romanticized decade nowadays, and instead of taking that head on as licorice pizza did, zodiac is swallowed by it. offices of police officers who are working tirelessly on a serial killers case are neat, tidy, and extra shiny just for the camera. there is only so much overproduction the eyes can take, and i don't think that anyone let fincher know of this. one aspect of this movie that i loved visually however was the inside of the police cruisers. i could feel and smell the frigid air of a freshly cleaned automobile. with harsh rain pattering against foggy windows and urban blue/orange lights peaking in to listen to the cars interior dialogue, david fincher sets up a perfect atmosphere for what this movie could have been; dark, gritty, freezing.
throughout the films runtime i found one thought tugging at the back of my brain, and it found itself fully formed during one of these aforementioned cop car scenes. as i was noticing the beauty of the rain on the windows, i thought back to one of my favorite david fincher movies which covers a topic not too far off from this films: se7en. se7en may just be everything i wanted this film to be. disgusting, dingy, violent, extreme. it was truly a study of the films main duo, mills and sommerset, and it worked.
in many ways se7en and zodiac are much like the killers that they respectively center around. se7en's killer is icy, disturbing, and calculated with a clear plan in mind and ends with the satisfying feeling of brilliant execution (no pun intended). zodiac however has no clear motive, it doesn't even have a face. zodiac is a string of great lines, potential facial matches, and half baked ideas that may work well in your head but don't translate to real life. it ambles on, dragging itself out almost completely by those who shouldn't be involved in true crime in the first place, becoming obsessed with the drive it had in its first 30 minutes. after the initial excitement died, the plot and the case turned into what felt like picking up scraps.
tldr: jack twist watches this broadcast where logan roy calls a twink on the phone and gets super pissed off about it