Today, I finally saw Gone Girl. I made the mistake of watching said film with my mother, not knowing much about the film beyond that it was a thriller starring Ben Affleck (who we both like) and Rosamund Pike (who I couldn’t remember at the time, but was in Die Another Day and Wrath of the Titans, among a few other titles). It looked neat, I’d heard it was up for a few awards, and it was playing when we got there, all plus marks to the show at the time.
I can see why the film was nominated for several awards, it is well put together, very suspenseful, and did draw me in fairly well. The acting was rather organic, and the soundtrack was so good that while I know it was there, it blended in perfectly into white noise.
As for the story itself, this one is a thriller, so unfortunately, spoilers will be below. If you’re expecting catharsis from this film, I would like to point you towards happier films, such as Misery, and…well, I want to say SAW, but honestly, that’s hyperbole, and overblown at that. But in the world of Thrillers, there are two types of films: those which leave the world a better place, and those who end on a grim note. This is the latter, and no, I won’t say why.
The story opens up on Nick Dunne’s (Ben Affleck) fifth anniversary to his wife (Rosamund Pike) as he visits a place called “the Bar”, which is in fact, a bar. There, he talks to the bartender about the situation, giving us a very brief expose on what’s going on. From the get go, however, something feels off. Starting with that it is noted to be the morning, and Nick’s already slamming back a stiff drink. He grouses for awhile, until eventually he gets called back home because his cat is wandering the streets. This begins the giant dominoes game leading to everything in the trailers: his wife’s disappearance, that it seems she may have been murdered, that Nick might have done it, and, of course, the diary, etc.
In addition, we get to meet the additional staff. Among them is a Neil Patrick Harris who I assume fired his agent immediately after reading the script. For those of you who don’t know, NPH is gay, and not just a little bit gay either. Unfortunately, he is also heartthrob-cute, and has already made a little bit of a name for himself playing a straight man (such as in How I Met Your Mother and Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog) and so it might be little surprise that he is at it again here. However, here, unlike anywhere else that I’m aware of, happens to involve a rather messy and quite explicit sex scene between him and Pike. He’s a convincing actor to an extent, but I couldn’t help but cringe for him. It was, in my opinion, poor casting, and poor taste as well. I’m sure it was at least in part for budget, but there are other actors I think could have handled the role just as well, and likely wouldn’t have cost much more, if at all. The biggest difference between them is that Neil looks like a geek, while the others that I can think off simply don’t.
The major point that got me though is that when the chips were down and the film reached the point where we were asked to watch things unwind, it continually made me hope for the best, for karma, or something, and continually managed to fail me, right to the last frame. There were at least a dozen points that could have legitimately taken a turn for the much better (at least once even has the gall to say it to the screen!) and yet the film instead pushes the delay of gratification back father and farther, until finally, the credits roll. I could write for hours about that fact alone, and the meaning and usefulness of film in general, but I’ll save that for another blog post.
In short, honestly, while I will say that it was a technically well produced film, I did not find enjoyment in it. It instead left me feeling a little bit more empty inside, wondering a little bit at the screenwriter who could think up something like that. And to make it the worst, a lot of the ending was simply contrived, there are legitimate questions brought up, and then swept under the rug of public opinion. There are some giant holes that fall into the plot, some pointed out, some not, which I’d like to think would have been followed up on in the real world. Instead, you find that the world of Gone Girl has police (in particular FBI) who are simply incompetent or too lazy to be of use. There’s a murder which happens, evidence that is created, but when holes are presented it is simply ignored as if it isn’t worth the force’s time to try and plug them. What’s done is done.
There’s a whole subtext going on too that this plays into, in a way too. Throughout the film, there are notes about Amazing Amy, which is a fictional series of books based on Pike’s character, Amy Dunne. There’s a rant that Amazing Amy is always better than Amy, that fiction holds more power than truth. This gets repeated over, and over again. How Nick met Amy, Amy’s history in parallel to Amazing Amy, the lawyer’s hints and suggestions about framing the situation instead of bearing out the truth, all the way to the very end. It’s all about truth vs fiction. As humans, typically, we want truth to win out in the end. After all, if truth doesn’t, then how does Justice exist? But instead, we see Nick’s entire world slowly unravel as the fiction becomes the truth. It is truly sad, and truly terrifying.
According to an interview with Time Out writer Novid Parsi, the writer of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn, wanted to provide a counterpoint to the film notion that women are “naturally good” and instead portray that women can be “just as violent as men”. I understand that there were some drastic changes between the book and the film, however, in the film it came across more as pandering, by and large. Women being the villain isn’t a new thing to film or culture, and I find it naive to think that there is this notion that women must be inherently good. About the only point on this fact isn’t that women must (or must not) be good, but rather, a strong counterpoint to the much more common thought that women are broken up between frigid hags and loose sluts, with very little in between in terms of character sexuality. Gone Girl does a very good job of showing a sexually active woman who isn’t a slut, though they do (in my opinion) take it a little far into crassness with some of the scenes involving this.
Ultimately, I do not recommend this film in general. It is well made, thought provoking, but fails to produce catharsis. It instead aims to leave the viewer feeling horrible, hollow, and, to an extent, alone. From the very first words to the last, it does its job well. and perhaps some of you, my loyal readers, will enjoy it, but please, go into it in full knowledge that this is not a happy film, on any level. This is the type of film that murders happy and then sinks back into the mist to strike again. It fills you with a dread like The Ring, made all the more real by being all too possible in our often far too flawed world.
The Ranting Loon