Deadline.com
reports that Robn Wright Penn is in talks to star in David Fincher's impending adaptation of the late Stieg Larsson's inexplicably popular novel, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. This is just the latest in a recent flurry of updates about the upcoming film - slated to be released in time for the 2011 Oscar Season - and as this project becomes more reputable with every sure-footed announcement, it becomes in turn that much more troubling. With all due respect to fans of Larsson's novel and / or the overlong and hollowly brutal triptych of Swedish-language films they inspired (a growing legion of which my mom is an outspoken member), I can't help but feel as if this project is becoming something of a black hole for some of Hollywood's most talented players, folks who might better dedicate a year of their careers to more promising material.

Wright would step into the role of Erika Berger, publisher of the financial rag that employees series co-hero Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig). Berger doesn't factor much into the trilogy's first installment (the role shouldn't amount to more than an early office celebration filled with knowing glances followed by a Gothically-lit post-coital scene with Mr. Craig), but the role would likely secure Wright a place in the film's inevitable pair of sequels. The actress - whose passably Scandinavian features make her a natural fit for Craig - should provide a fine counterpoint to whichever cagey and feral actress is chosen to play Lisbeth Salander, the series' major female presence. Wright is at the peak of her creative powers, coming off one of her finest performances as the titular character in Rebecca Miller's The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, and I can only hope that she'll be given a bit more to do here than her counterpart Lena Endre was afforded in the Swedish version.



The problem is that the story doesn't really allow for Wright to flesh out the role, at least not in this oppressively-structured first episode. Fincher has improbably but deservedly become one of Hollywood's most powerful filmmakers, and has done the serial killer mystery thing twice before (Seven and Zodiac), both times to tremendous and entirely unique effect. Given that he could have has pick of projects these days, I've gotta assume that he sees something here beyond a meaty paycheck, and that Steven Zaillian's script has allowed the story to flower into something more than the stolid, predictable, and unbalanced missing persons saga it was in Niels Arden Oplev's film. But it's troubling that the two unassailable triumphs of Oplev's film - the expressively captured remote island on which the film was set and Noomi Rapace's inimitable turn as Lisbeth Salander - exist beyond the tired mystery that handcuffs the plot.

Fincher has never made an uninteresting film, but methinks it's unavoidable that he'll be saddled with his most cumbersome story yet, and I can only hope that he'll find a way to make the trip worthwhile even for those familiar with the tale's soft angles and lazy turns. If Wright were to formally come aboard she would add to a growing list of major players who are throwing a chunk of their lives into this thing, and the more hugely talented contributors there are dedicating themselves to this adaptation, the more unfortunate it would be if the resulting film validated my fears. But if Fincher recognizes that his Girl with the Dragon Tattoo might have to get by on the strength of its dark charms, casting news like this suggests that this potentially stale meal will at the very least have some flavor.