Saturday, October 11, 2014

Gone Girl Review

Gone Girl Review
I just now got back from my viewing of "Gone Girl" and I have quite a bit to say about it. I am a guy that loves to read, but I have not read the novel this film is based on that was written by Gillian Flynn. I have no idea how well this translate from page to screen. All I can tell you is that I had an absorbing time at the theater and I can't see how anyone couldn't. Actually, scratch that, yes I could, but allow me to explain in the following paragraphs.
I also have to say that I can't wrap my head around this review unless I completely discuss the motion picture in detail. That detail includes spoilers. If you are squirmy about spoilers, allow me some quick thoughts beforehand and then you can join us after you see the film. I will say that "Gone Girl" is an engaging and gripping thriller, and I am not sure if we'll see a better thriller before the year is out. Ben Affleck proves that while is directing career is skyrocketing, so is his acting talent. I have no idea what set off this new, creative fire in him, but I hope it lasts. Rosamund Pike who has been completely underrated for years, gives a piercing performance as well. Director David Fincher said a long time ago that he is interested in films that leave scars. Following hits such as "Fight Club" and "The Girl With  The Dragon Tattoo," Fincher has once again left fresh scars with his storytelling, and add another chilling soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, only amplifies the amazing thrill of the movie.
So that is my short version, and now its time to dig deep. I want to give this film a just hand, and I it would be incredibly inadequate to not discuss this film without spoilers. If you have to bail, I understand, just return after you have seen the movie.
Okay, if you are still around, I will assume that you don't care about spoilers or that you have seen the movie. At the very least, you have read the book. Let's get started, shall we?
"Gone Girl" is "Fatal Attraction" with the woman winning in the end. It is the complete nightmare scenario that I'm sure every man has had in his life. This is a movie about an evil woman who manipulates the world into believing she is a victim. In the world we live in today, this could very well happen and its scary. Every other movie about a broken marriage depicts the man as the bad guy and the woman as the victim, and while "Gone Girl" plays by some of those rules, it also shatters them in a way that is saddening. I am not saying its wrong to depict these events in a certain way and this is not going to become a sexist rant. I am well aware that men are assholes. I have dated the same girl for the last five years, and she has told me about the various assholes she has come across in her life. I work at a daycare where I am the only male employee. While I have worked there for the last year and a half, I have gotten to know my fellow employees. Out of the twenty or so women that I work with, I have at least one asshole story. So I get it, men are assholes. The flipside is woman can be just as deceiving, just as manipulative and just as vile as the biggest male asshole, and if they are smart enough, they can use those male stereotypes to their advantage so that they look like the victim. That is "Gone Girl" in a nutshell.
As "Gone Girl" opens, there is style to the opening credits. The way the name weaves in and out suggests something is off about them. Fitting since as the film opens, there is something off with the characters. We watch Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) early in the morning, looking as if something is bothering. He lives in a nice neighborhood and has an awesome house. So why does he own a bar with his sister Margo (Carrie Coon)? How does that income pay for a house like that?
Nick comes into work and has a discussion with his sister. It is the eve of Nick's five-year anniversary with his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) and we catch a hint that while Nick and Amy's marriage began well, it shifted into something mediocre. In the middle of this conversation, Nick gets a call from a neighbor that his cat is out of the house. When he gets to the house, he checks on his wife (seriously, how can they afford this house?) and notices she isn't there. There is also a shattered glass table in the middle of their living room and minor blood stains in the kitchen.
Amy has left the house, and it seems she didn't leave in her free will. Perhaps she was murdered.
Nick calls the police and Detective Rhona Boney (Kim Dickens) is on the scene. I liked that Boney is not the stereotypical police detective in these kinds of movies. He believes that people are only guilty until proven innocent and even though she can tell something is fishy about this scenario, she gives Nick the benefit of the doubt. Funny, because nobody else does. Even in the way Nick carries himself, he doesn't seem broken up over his missing wife. He smiles next to her missing poster while news photographers flash away, he seems well put-together at search meetings, and he constantly coming off like he's hiding something. I slumped in my chair, disappointed that I paid almost ten bucks to see another film where the man is the evil mastermind behind it all. There is even a certain style in the movie where the story shifts from Nick's story to Amy's diary and she recounts how she met Nick, how they fell in love, and how he eventually pushed into the stairwell. That big house? Was given to them by Amy's parents after Nick and Amy lost their jobs due to the recession.
While I sat disappointed, I found myself perching up when I discovered that Amy wasn't kidnapped at all...
Oh yes. Amy set the whole thing up. She has known for awhile that Nick wanted to divorce her, which is true. She knew that he had been cheating with a younger woman, which is true. After five years of freeloading, she had enough, and she wasn't going to let him divorce her and leave her out to dry. So she writes a convincing diary, makes herself look like she was kidnapped (possibly killed) and makes the evidence all point to Nick. That way, he'll go to jail, and since they live in Missouri, he'll get the death penalty. The media making Amy out as the victim and Nick cheating was all icing on the cake. She goes into hiding, ready to start a new life.
That would seem like a shockingly tasteful ending, but it isn't. I love how after all the smart and systematic surprises, there is still more story left for us. There are even more surprises hanging around the corner. As Nick gets a lawyer (a hotshot defense lawyer played by Tyler Perry), Amy has some problems with her getaway and has no choice to gain help from an old flame Desi (Neil Patrick Harris). Harris is very good in the small role presented for him, as is Perry as a believable, snooty lawyer.
Under the watchful eye of this determined lawyer, Nick goes on live television. He confesses to his infidelity and springs hope that Amy will come home. Amy sees this with Desi in their secluded house. She knows what he's trying to do, and she still feels the need to make him sorry. So she makes it look like Desi kidnapped and raped her and she kills Desi.
See what I mean? There was shock after shock in every scene of "Gone Girl" and that soundtrack by Reznor and Ross only made everything more frightening. I can also say that Ben Affleck has come a long way in his acting career. This is his most impressive performance to date, and I am finally wildly curious about him playing Batman. And Rosamund Pike? Oh my God is she something. She is an actress I have always loved, and it seems that this role may give her an Oscar nod next year. She is a gorgeous woman who has perfected the art of being a bitch onscreen. So you can imagine that she relishes everything she does in this movie, giving Amy a creative edge. I also have to single out the underrated Scoot McNairy, who has a small yet substantial part in the movie.
The only thing that disappointed me about "Gone Girl" is how it ends abruptly. There is a moment when Amy drives home from Desi's house, covered in his blood. From this point to confessing a fake story about Desi until the end is just needless filler. It seems Flynn nor Fincher had a creative way to end the movie. It seems to just lag from this point for another twenty minutes, and I wish they had written a better ending.
I also want to warn that if you like happy endings, you should steer clear of "Gone Girl." After Amy comes home from Desi's murder, she forces Nick to stay with her or he'll ruin him completely and publically. So even though Amy just tried to put Nick in jail, even though she just tried to have him die in jail, even though he knows she murdered Desi, he stays with her anyway. "Gone Girl" features an unbelievably sad ending, and I am curious to see how the general movie-goer thinks of it. I also have to warn that "Gone Girl" fills itself with unlikable people (if you couldn't tell already) and that any evidence of a moral center is nowhere to be found. If you are the type that needs that light at the end of the dark tunnel of storytelling, move on because that is not "Gone Girl."
With all this said, "Gone Girl" wickedly successful. A great little thriller that will have itself caught in your cowl for awhile. It is elevated by a terrific group of actors and an equally terrific crew putting it all together. "Gone Girl" is a haunting and at times disturbing little thriller and it will be hard to shake for awhile.

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