Wednesday, October 22, 2014


I did a recent movie shelf entry on Gone Girl for the pink smoke. Below is a much shorter/slightly different PINNLAND EMPIRE version.


Gone Girl really had no business being as good as it turned out to be. The story/source material behind it (which I finished reading a few weeks ago) is also pretty ridiculous but it’s still entertaining. Even if some of you dislike this movie, which is understandable, you’ll certainly laugh, gasp or express some type of genuine (non-dismissive) emotion while watching it. On some level that’s a success in my book. In the same way that Only God Forgives was a mixture of trashy late night action movies combined with “artsy” filmmaking, Gone Girl is like a mixture of those trashy late night erotic thrillers combined with certain elements of a surprisingly enjoyable Lifetime movie. You remember those really bad skin flicks that used to come on Showtime & Cinemax at night during the late 80’s through the mid 90’s that featured folks like Shannon Tweed, Angie Everhart, Jeff Fahey and/or C. Thomas Howell? That’s essentially what Gone Girl is except this time around the movie had a pretty good director behind it (David Fincher) instead of some nameless hack.
Fincher is a good director but he’s still part of that group of modern filmmakers (Darren Aronofsky, Christopher Nolan, etc) that people give way too much credit to. I’m certainly a fan of The Game (which Gone Girl is closest too in terms of “look” & execution) and I guess I like Se7en, but other than that, I’ve never been super impressed with his work like everyone else (don’t get me started on Fight Club and how overrated it is). I say all this to say my praise of Gone Girl isn't coming from some sudden fly-by-night Criterion/Lincoln Center David Fincher fan. I'm someone who actually stops and questions his work beyond just Benjamin Button (seriously tho - is it me or did David Fincher suddenly become this super serious "auteur" around the time of Benjamin Button, in the same way Guillermo Del Torro was suddenly deemed this important voice in modern film?)

The best way to enjoy Gone Girl is to look at it like a new-age, slightly more serious War Of The Roses. Although It is getting a good amount of praise from everyone, there’s still a nice handful of folks that are giving Gone Girl WAY too much credit and taking it a little too seriously like it’s some prolific relationship drama. Some are even calling it misoginistic. I partially blame publications like Indiewire & Film Comment who ran recent write-ups on Gone Girl as if it’s in a similar lane as other modern relationship films like Eyes Wide Shut, Blue Valentine or even Take This Waltz. Sure Gone Girl is about a deteriorating marriage, but still – this movie is pure entertainment. Even before you find out what the twist is or who you think the "good guy" is, you should already know early on in the movie that “Nick Dunne” (Ben Affleck) & “Amy Elliot-Dunne” (Rosamund Pike) are essentially caricatures. They both carry realistic traits & stereotypes that come along with their respective genders, but the problem is that they’re made up of almost EVERY stereotype that’s associated with both men & women. Nick is the "dumb" husband that hangs out on the couch playing video games, and has trouble expressing certain emotions. Amy is the judgy, nit-picky, sultry femme fatale yet slightly “broken” & insecure at the same time. Nick & Amy are also both unlikeable & somewhat frustrating human beings, which is what makes the Gone Girl viewing experience so much fun. They both suck. There’s really no “good guy” in this movie. It’s just fun to watch two shitty people essentially torture each other for two and a half hours.

Gone Girl is tough to talk about without giving away too many spoilers, but it’s ultimately a neo-noir/“cat & mouse” story about a man whose wife suddenly goes missing and he eventually becomes the prime suspect. In the middle of everything we learn that things aren’t as they seem and Nick might have been set up. 

Gone Girl did everything that Side Effects tried to do, only better. There’s even a few subconscious shades of To The Wonder in Fincher’s latest film in that Affleck’s performance in both movies are fairly similar and both stories focus on “moody” female characters in the midst of a failed marriage who feel out of place living in the middle of an unfamiliar Midwestern town. 

I will say that one thing the book has over the movie is that the book delves way more in to the upbringing of both Nick & Amy and we see why/how they turned out the way they did. Nick’s parents were dysfunctional in the traditional sense (a mean alcoholic father who had a hard time expressing emotion with a doting wife who secretly hated him) while Amy’s parents were/are quietly dysfunctional in that they messed her up without meaning too or even realizing it (besides being incredibly self-centered, her parents put more effort in to their career than they did in raising Amy). David Fincher tried to implicate these things but I felt it could have been pulled off a little better. 
But at the end of the day, the script, which was written by the book’s author Gillian Flynn, cut out what was necessary (smaller supporting characters, additional scenes & certain "flashbacks") in order to make the story flow a little better as a movie.

Again – you could spend your time calling Gone Girl a misogynistic story if you want. There are scenes that are definitely overly sexualized, like the climactic scene towards the end where we see a half naked woman pretty much rolling around in someone else’s blood (reminiscent of a particular scene in Claire Denis’ Trouble Every Day).

Trouble Every Day
And a lot of the women in the film are pretty one-note (the bored gossipy housewife, the dumb childlike mistress, etc), but I honestly didn’t see the male characters painted in any kind of a positive light either. The men in Gone Girl were liars, self centered, creepy or pretty slimy. I don’t see how anyone could be for either “Team Amy” or “Team Nick” (which is how some audiences have divided themselves). Plus Carrie Coon’s performance as Nick's sister and Kim Dickey's role as the lead detective on the case balance out all the simplistic female characters (they're probably the film's only two redeemable people).

*SPOILER ALERT* And yes, by the end of the movie we get the idea that Nick is “trapped” by Amy in to staying together, but let’s also not forget that he’s not some innocent victim here who didn’t do anything to hurt Amy (this is something I think some people have forgotten by the end of the film). Just sayin’… *SPOILER ALERT*

Deborah Kara Unger / Rosamund Pike

Ben Affleck & Rosamund Pike definitely play their parts. Pike, who channels Deborah Kara Unger in her prime, is pretty exceptional in her chameleon-like performance, and I don't know if Ben Affleck has ever been cast in a more fitting role. But it’s the supporting cast (Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon & Kim Dickey) that really made the movie work for me. Tyler Perry is surprisingly tolerable (actually he’s pretty good in this but given my history with Perry you guys know I can’t give him his full due), Dickey pays her respect to both Jodie Foster & Holly Hunter with her performance as the straight 
-laced lead detective investigating Amy’s disappearance, and Neil Patrick Harris is the perfect combination of creepy & funny (although I don’t think we’re supposed to find his performance as comedic as it turned out to be, but it’s Neil Patrick Harris - I don’t think he’ll ever shake the residue that How I Met Your Mother and Harold & Kumar left behind).

I usually don't write about a lot of the “big” movies on here because there’s already a hundred other sites & blogs out there that have given their opinion on this movie, but I was so surprised at how good it turned out that I felt the need to share my thoughts. I’m learning not to prejudge movies so much in 2014. Besides Gone GirlChef & Skeleton Twins also turned out to be much better than I thought they’d be. Gone Girl isn’t one of my personal favorites of the year, but it’s a strong candidate for being in the top tier of my honorable mention.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...