Friday, November 7, 2014

You Only Hurt The Ones You Pretend To Love

Center-stage happiness: Rosamund Pike as Amy and Ben Affleck as Nick (center) in David Fincher's "Gone Girl", written by Gillian Flynn and based on her best-selling novel.

Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Friday, November 7, 2014

David Fincher helms "Gone Girl", a sensationalist film that satirizes the 24-hour American cable TV news media cycle culture, its coverage of crime and the populace's engagement to good effect -- but throws away the rest of the film's reason to be.  Written by Gillian Flynn based on her best-selling same-titled novel, a bland-looking unemployed writer Nick (Ben Affleck) is accused in the disappearance of "Amazing" Amy (Rosamund Pike), his successful author-wife.  Their marriage, shown in flashback via Amy's diary entries and her narration of them, has been turbulent. 

"Gone Girl" was released a month ago in the U.S. and Canada.  For all its slick, polished earth-warmth and gray-green cool, it fizzles after an hour, plunging headlong into free-fall as characters are exposed as one-note manipulators and more.  Set in Missouri, the film's best character is lead crime detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens, excellent here), who thinks she's ahead of the game as she pieces together clues from Amy's abrupt disappearance from her home. 

"Gone Girl" captures stagecraft and its ingredients well, as it does the sheer fallout of  accusation -- a crime scene unto itself -- in an amusing way.  Amongst the detritus of caricature Nancy Grace and Diane Sawyer are evoked in several scenes.  "Gone Girl" proudly and nakedly advertises that, as Shakespeare once wrote, all the world's a stage, but here Mr. Fincher shows that his players readily fall off its edge. 

Even those who fall do so in a campy way.  Each is layered in camp.  Sometimes also in desperation.  None of the characters is supposed to make you feel better.  They needn't.  Each mirrors the apathetic, reality-TV driven, reactionary, opportunist and uncritical thinking society they (and moviegoers) live in.  After a while style took over for me.  I absorbed myself in it, luxuriating in the one thing Mr. Fincher's film had to offer.  The characters in "Gone Girl" tarnished the view.

Nick is a static figure that events revolve around.  The bewildered looks he gives suggests his head is spinning.  He is the film's least interesting presence.  Well, he is a writer.  It seems that after act one Mr. Fincher recognizes the disinterest and spends much of the film's second hour with Amy.  By the way, for married writers Amy (on hiatus) and Nick (out of work) sure can afford a lot of very expensive things.  "How can we afford this?", one of them says to the other in a crisis moment.  There's apparently no trust fund or "Daddy come save me" money in sight but that doesn't stop the gold-tinted opulence and open acreage from flowing in shot after shot.

One of the film's only other assets is the pensive, moody score by "Social Network" musicians Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.  The score perfectly fits the atmosphere and oddly angular, misshapen faces Mr. Fincher uses so adroitly in his canvases, but all else doesn't gel.  Many of the "Gone Girl" characters are ready to shed a mask or three but in a robotic way, without mystery, at a moment's notice.  Even on a micro level, ex-New Yorker Nick -- Mr. Affleck is a Boston Red Sox fan -- dons a New York Mets baseball cap when trying on anonymity.  Later, in true fair-weather fan tradition, Nick-as-newly-minted-Missourian wears a St. Louis Cardinals t-shirt.  Nick's facelessness and casual, unremarkable interchangeability is cemented.  Voila.

Many women appear in Mr. Fincher's latest drana, and Ms. Flynn's writing doesn't make the events or perspectives in "Gone Girl" any less male-centric or skewered.  The fairer sex has very little wiggle room except sexually and outrageously.  "Gone Girl" views women as its biggest inconvenience and shrillest vagabond.  There's a hoodwinking, villainy and not-so mild suggestion that almost every woman onscreen in "Gone Girl" is, or could be, a conniving, devious, raging psychotic bunny-boiler.  Or at least there are varying degrees and inferences to that suggestion.  Take a close look when you watch the film.  It's either mean-spirited, demented, or worse.  Or all three.

In many of Mr. Fincher's films ("Seven", "The Game", "Fight Club", "The Social Network", "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo") women are targeted, scorned and condemned but are rarely avenged or self-avenging.  The director goes from Rooney Mara in the latter two parenthesized films to Ms. Pike here, whose Amy runs the full spectrum.

What Mr. Fincher does best in his films is develop atmosphere, mystery, dread and characters compelling in their very nuance.  In "Gone Girl" however, much is exposed.  Little is left to the imagination.  Nuance is virtually non-existent.  Ms. Flynn's grand, lurid and vivid strokes finally submerge Mr. Fincher's cool, directive and icy detachment.  The director loses control of the tone and tenor of his film after the hour-mark, as if he's gone to lunch and handed the reins to a schlock-meister or B-movie fanboy. 

One mistake of Mr. Fincher's film is that as bland as Nick is and as functionary as many of the remaining "Gone Girl" characters are, Amy herself isn't particularly interesting either, which only further exaggerates the wildness that ensues.  There's such a heavy, dramatic imbalance between the first hour and the following 90 minutes that it tanks and weights down the film like an albatross.  Contrivances abound.

Granted, Mr. Fincher follows Ms. Flynn's literary protocol but her theatricalities play well past plausibly and far overplayed on the big screen.  Amy and Nick exist in their own hopeless mire, in a love that is selfish, hollow, and pure facade.  By the time "Gone Girl", which delivers some laughs amidst its long, preposterous spectacle, runs off the rails, it is way too late to recover.  The movie is as too far gone as its girl is.

Also with: Carrie Coon, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Patrick Fugit, Lisa Banes, David Clennon, Emily Ratajkowski, Scoot McNairy, Sela Ward, Missy Pyle.

"Gone Girl" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language.  Its running time is two hours and 29 minutes.

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