Posted by: gdevi | February 1, 2015

Movie Review: Gone Girl (2014)

Gone Girl. Dir. David Fincher. Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Neil Patrick Harris

Gone Girl is both book and movie, and I regret to say that I have not read the book. The author, Gillian Flynn, herself has written the screenplay for the movie, from which, I surmise, the book is a murder-mystery-thriller. Murder-mysteries, when the perpetrator and the victim happen to be husband and wife, has the potential to belong to the gothic genre, especially, if the wife is the victim, and the husband, the perpetrator, as is the case with Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike), and Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) in this movie. It is also, in keeping with the gothic genre, full of unbelievable and improbable plot devices. For instance, how does Amy get pregnant? Where does she get Nick’s semen sample? What is the shelf life of the human semen sample? Why did Nick keep his semen around in a bottle to be conveniently used by his wife trying to frame him for her murder? Do husbands and wives leave creepy notes read out in creepy voice-overs for anniversaries? Why doesn’t Margo ever go into her woodshed? How did Amy drive all the distance from Desi’s lake house to North Carthage, Missouri with blood all over the face and body? Did she not stop at a single traffic light? Didn’t anyone see her? Why does the FBI not ask a SINGLE logical question to Amy? What the heck?

The film opens with Nick Dunne framed against his house, one of those New American style suburban residences with the garden in the front, and prominent garages. Oh, wait, no, I think it opens with Nick combing Amy’s hair as she lies on his chest and saying things like “What is going on in your head? What are you thinking? Who are you?” [Spooky chords: she is a psychotic woman.] The story is set in a small town in Missouri, a very boring place, as Amy from New York city soon finds out. In classical Gothic fiction, it is the woman who gets lost in the building; in Gone Girl, as we shall see, the girl transforms the place into a crime scene and gets out of the house. The house becomes a prison for the husband. (I should caution you that I have spoilers in this review. So if you intend to see the movie, stop here, and come back after you have seen the movie.)

Like all Gothic stories, this story is also about marriage, particularly, the sexual politics and the sexual economy of marriage. I must mention that most of the story about the marriage is told in this creepy voice-over by Amy writing or reading from her diary. Amy Dunne is a seemingly bright young woman who has really not done anything in her life, other than be the real life model for her mother’s exceedingly successful children’s book series, Amazing Amy. Her parents fit into the mold we have seen several times over and over in a particular genre of the domestic chick flick; the oversmart, dominant wife in the limelight, and the quiet, submissive husband who follows her around like a domestic pet. He likes the money and the fame that comes with being a successful author’s husband. It is suggested in the early exposition of the movie, that Amy has negative reactions to her mother using her childhood, turning her mediocre achievements into stories and money, but this angle is not developed and connected with the main conflict in the story, which is the question, is Amy Dunne psycho?

In any case, Amy has no real career or anything to speak of, but a lot of money and a trust fund. She meets Nick Dunne at a party, in New York city, where they both live. They speak in that flirtatious banter meant to signal sexual interest. The courtship is largely sex, but with no eroticism in it. There is Nick performing oral sex on Amy–this is a requirement these days in chick flicks, I believe–I saw this in Blue Valentine as well recently–it shows the sensitive male partner and ultimately shows women on top–and sex between the stacks of a library, and finally, Nick proposes to Amy at her mother’s book-launch party in front of a group of strangers, where he praises the many ways in which Amy has made him a “better” man, her many plus points, which includes a “world class vagina.” What are we to make of this? I don’t know either.

So anyway, they get married, and everything is wonderful at first, until Nick loses his job. Nick and Amy are forced to move from NYC to North Carthage, Missouri, the aforementioned boring place. Nick owns a bar called The Bar, and he also teaches Creative Writing at a local college, where he has an affair with a student, Andie. This character is unbelievable in the list of unbelievable characters in this movie: in the midst of an alleged kidnapping/murder investigation (even though it is all fake), this girl steals into Margo’s house, where Nick is staying while forensics are at his house, and tells him things like, “I need you right now, please” with pouty lips like a tweety bird!! And they have sex on Margo’s couch. It is a bad screenplay; you can tell this movie has no idea about anything, really. Nick’s lack of employment, along with the affair, and his lack of interest in her makes Amy hatch the plan to frame him for her murder. Meanwhile, Nick asks her for a divorce, as he finds Amy increasingly unbearable to be with. We piece together all these details of Amy’s and Nick’s past through her diary–presented to us in Rosamund Pike’s creepy voice-over telling us each and every detail of her “plan” — and Nick’s interviews with the police, and her parents who come down to Missouri from New York city to start the media campaign to find the missing Amy. They establish a hotline and a website, and hold vigils and interviews and media-interventions in order to keep the media interest alive and well on the missing Amy story. The detectives suspect that all is not as it should be, because while Nick goes through all the things a grieving husband is supposed to do, he does them in a perfunctory manner. The question on everyone’s tongue is, does this mean he killed her? We learn from Nick’s interactions with his sister Margo, played by Carrie Coon that there is trouble in paradise. I found it highly improbable that a sister would say to a brother on his anniversary, “go home and slap her in the face with your hard cock and say there is your wood, bitch.” Good lord, where in the world do sisters talk like this to brothers about the brother’s wife?

Therein lies the problem with this movie: we quickly understand that this is really not about domestic violence, or husbands killing wives, or wives framing husbands, or the husband’s infidelity or anything like that. This movie is about “stories like that.” It tries to show what a banal production these stories become in the media, and ostensibly it presents us, the audience of these shows, as really dumb. Well, as with so many things in Hollywood these days, I have to inform you that not as many people as you think watch all of this trash that you put out there. A big character in this movie is, for instance, television: we hear a television legal commentator modeled after Nancy Grace of Court TV going on and on about the disappearance, kidnapping, and murder of Amy Dunne. This is kind of clever, because we might think that this is a spoof about the exploitative media, but it really isn’t. Fincher basically makes these deprecating allusions, but they don’t go anywhere. They are what the movie is about.

So one must finally admit that for all of its self-referential deprecation, this is a movie that plays up the New York city-rural-Missouri culture clash, where the small towns of the midwest are shown as dumb places. Amy from NYC is infinitely more sophisticated than Nick Dunne, from small town Missouri. We learn that Amy has the habit of “editing” her boyfriends, making them into better versions than they are, much like her mother made the daughter Amy into “amazing Amy” for the book series. She tells her boyfriends what to wear, what to watch, what to do, how to talk etc etc. When she cannot control them and shape them, she destroys them.

Rosamund Pike reminded me of Gandolf in the Lord of the Rings dressed up in a silk teddy. Her banters and voice-overs are creepy.  And I totally did not get the inserting of the wine bottle into her vagina. What was that for? What is the meaning of all of this? I also did not understand the earlier dabbing of wine into her vagina. There were so many vaginal moments in the movie that I felt completely confused. I felt like the detective trying to get a word in — ” but, but, but  . . .” Bah! says the script writer! Who cares about logic? Stop thinking. It is two and half hours already. Time to stop the nonsense. Bring in the wine bottle and put that in her vagina!”

Finally, we are to believe that Nick Dunne agrees to stay with this psychotic woman because she suddenly tells him that she is pregnant and that it is his child from the semen that she took from where he had stored it. See, this is what happens if you leave your semen samples lying around; women will get them and impregnate themselves all in the comfort of their creepy homes. “You are a worthless man, she tells him, but you said on national TV that you are trying so hard to be the man that I want. So I have changed my plans to frame you for my murder. Instead, we are going to be a happy family. If you leave me, I will say bad things about you to our son. I even killed for you; see, that is how much I love you.” Nick Dunne cannot bear the thought of Amy saying bad things about him to their to-be-born son. The fact that she killed an ex-boyfriend to create this elaborate cover-up story is a minor detail. I have to stay with her, he tells Margo. But stay with this woman for the next eighteen years? Margo cries out in pain. I am not making this up, I mean the one about eighteen years. With this load of crock, the movie officially enters the American Gothic canon.




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