In short: Yes…even though it left me shocked and disturbed.
Gone Girl is one of those movies that I was on the fence about. I was not that familiar with Rosamund Pike, Ben Affleck’s acting style is “meh” at best, seeing Tyler Perry onscreen solicits a nigh-automatic (negative) reflex from my body, and I had not gotten a chance to read Gone Girl yet (even though I heard good things about it). Add all of this to the fact that I am most certainly anti-hype (it is the reason that I have just recently gotten into things like The Wire and Breaking Bad) and I had almost every reason in the book (heyooo) to be skeptical.
Well, let me just say that after watching this movie, my skepticism no longer has any basis.
But before I take a crack at explaining the wonderfully warped movie that was Gone Girl, here’s a brief summary:
After losing their jobs to the recession (among other things), former writer Nick (Ben Affleck) and “Amazing” Amy (Rosamund Pike) Dunne move to Carthage, Missouri in an attempt to start over. At this point in time, their marriage has lost any and all traces of its former shimmer and shine, but the two decide to stick it out anyways.
Or so we think.
On the eve of their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy goes MIA and all signs point to the bumbling and awkward Nick as the culprit. Nick maintains his innocence, but due to mounting pressure from the police (which takes the form of Detective Rhonda Boney, who is played by Kim Dickens) and the media circus surrounding him (which is spearheaded by the likes of Ellen Abbott, who is played by Missi Pyle), even those close to Nick—like his sister Margo (played by Carrie Coon)—begin to have their doubts.
As the walls close in on Nick on all sides, it becomes increasingly clear that Nick and Amy’s marriage is not as picturesque as most would like to think, which leaves us—the audience—with one pressing question:
Did Nick, in fact, kill Amy?
In the end, the answer that we expect is not necessarily the one that we get.
At any rate, this film was solid. That being said, here are my reservations—good, bad, and “eh” about the movie:
Characters (Growth, Development, and Screen Time)
– Amy Dunne
Many articles and reviews have erroneously billed Affleck’s Nick Dunne as the star of this film. As far as I am concerned, Pike’s Amy Dunne is the real star of the show and she damn well makes sure that we don’t forget that.
Amy is charming, brilliant, and gorgeous. And yet, we as the audience get an unshakeable feeling that there is something that is just…off about her.
Without spoiling too much, if you are expecting Amy to be some tragic saint (or something of the like), you are not ready for this movie. While the earlier traits that I listed are most certainly true, on the flip side, Amy is also narcissistic, calculating, and methodical, and that makes her nigh-unpredictable.
– Nick Dunne
Nick has all the makings of a straight-up schlepp but ends up narrowly escaping that category. Though he has accomplished a fair amount in his own right, we initially find him stumble-f*cking through life at the beginning of the movie. When Amy disappears, however, we see a more “complicated” (I am a fan that the film itself poked some fun at this word) Nick.
While he is somewhat of a jerk and can generally be dumb as sh*t, he is also cool and kind of awkward. He also has a wry sense of humor and he is determined to find Amy. And because of all of these things, it is hard to write him off as “some guy that probably kills his wife”.
Which makes the movie’s penultimate twist that much more satisfying.
Supporting Characters (Growth, Development, and Screen Time)
In the film, Margo (Carrie Coon) plays the role of Nick’s spirited and no-nonsense sister. She’s funny, she’s crude, and she’s 100% loyal to her brother.
You know, until the press weeds out some salacious details about his personal life that Margo could have gone forever without knowing. Granted, she continues to have his back despite his life unraveling around him (and has his back despite the shocking ending) and I appreciate her diligence in that regard. That being said, I also appreciate the fact that her loyalty is not blind and the fact that a good chunk of the movie’s most pressing questions are asked by her, making her anything but a passive character (and simultaneously serving as an excellent proxy for the audience).
– Tanner Bolt
Because of the fact that I generally keep up with movie news, I was aware that Tyler Perry was in this film.
That did not stop me from going “WHO INVITED TYLER PERRY” when his character, Tanner Bolt, showed up.
Putting the hate aside, I found his fame/media hungry character cool and compelling to watch on screen. He takes the familiar trope of the “Amoral Lawyer” and plays with it a bit. This ultimately works for the film’s benefit because—though he is pretty questionable—Tanner proves to be a force to be reckoned with as he fights to keep Nick out of jail. He is smart, he is media-savvy and a fair amount of the film’s most clever lines end up in his dialogue repertoire. In a film that was fairly dark and mysterious, he (and Margo) ended up being a bright spot, even if he does not stick around that long.
– The Police (Detective Rhonda Boney and Officer James Giplin)
I was initially on the fence about whether to put this into the “Good” category or the “Eh” category because of the fairly incompetent role that they play in the film. However, considering that that was probably the point (especially if you compare it to the bloodthirstiness of the press), I decided to leave it here.
Perceived incompetence aside, what I really like about Detective Boney (Kim Dickens) is the fact that she does not allow the press (to be explained) to taint the way she conducts her investigation. Even if you disagree with some of her methods, Boney’s rejection of the media’s narrative (and by extension, the court of public opinion) is fairly noble, considering the fact that it would not be hard for her (and the rest of the police force) to twist the narrative to her utmost benefit.
This brings me to her partner, Officer James Giplin (Patrick Fugit). While he ends up playing into the media’s narrative, I didn’t really blame him. Though his character is a bit thin in the film, he does serve the excellent purpose of voicing a lot of the audience’s qualms with and concerns about Nick. Nick does seem shady. Nick is—depending on who you’re asking—an asshole. Nick looks guilty as f*ck.
Granted, he probably isn’t supposed to assume such things, but that does not make his aforementioned assumptions any less humorous.
– The Press (Ellen Abbott)
Dear God. I must confess that I doubled over with laughter as soon as Ellen Abbott (Missi Kyle) came on-screen.
It is very clear that this heifer is a Nancy Grace-lookin’ wannabe and I enjoyed every minute of this very on-point satire that took form in Abbott. She is brazen, she is loud, she is out-of-bounds and 99.9% of what she says is inflammatory and almost always grossly misinformed. The fact that the public perpetually eats her bullsh*t up is ironic and simultaneously troubling.
– Desi Collins
Desi (Neil Patrick Harris) does not stick around long, but BOY does he make an impression.
Right off the bat, it is clear that—like Amy—something is very off about him. Does that make him “misunderstood?” Maybe. Is he in fact creepy and exceedingly obsessive? Yes.
To explain, Desi makes several brief appearances as Amy’s bizarre ex and it leaves the audience with the impression that this weirdo is not over her. Add this to the ongoing murder investigation involving Nick and you have a potentially interesting story-line (one that the movie ends up exploring thoroughly).
– Amy and Nick
That’s the best way I can describe this relationship without spoiling the whole of this movie. Well, there’s that and then there’s “f*cked”.
Amy and Nick’s relationship is definitely “complicated” and the movie uses this to play with some common conventions as it relates to marriage. Neither of them are angels and they are not particularly likable either…which makes this dynamic (and this film by extension) pretty interesting to watch.
– Nick and Margo
As I mentioned earlier, these two are pretty close…so close that the media eventually accuses them of incest or rather “twincest” (what is this, Game of Thrones?).
Despite such setbacks and forces working against them, the two maintain a close and (platonic) loving relationship that ends up providing a strikingly apt contrast to a marriage that appears to be void of such.
– Nick and Tanner
To be honest, regardless of my preconceived notions of Tanner, I was just happy that Nick’s dumb ass finally hired a lawyer.
Nick navigates the earliest stages of the investigation without a lawyer and it is initially very frustrating.
That being said, I was happy to have this relationship—though it was brief—in the film, as it ends up exposing just what the media is capable of.
– Nick and Detective Rhonda
And speaking of Nick walking around without a lawyer, Detective Rhonda takes full advantage of this at the beginning of the film, especially as she starts out as a benevolent investigator who morphs into someone who is looking to trap Nick in a presumed lie. The resulting game of cat and mouse is kind of funny and pretty engaging.
– Love and Marriage
One of the biggest themes floating around in this film is the ideas of love and marriage. At the conclusion of the film, we are left with a pretty cynical view of both (and, you know, and array of justifiable trust issues).
Yet, that cynicism does not devalue the questions that the film raises about these subjects. Do you really know your spouse/lover/bae/etc? Do you know what they are capable of? What is marriage really and is it sustainable?
– Media, Journalistic Integrity, and The Court of Public Opinion
If you think the movie does a number on idea of marriage, wait until you get a load of how it portrays the media.
In short, this film does not mean to deny the power of media. In fact, it does the opposite. It confirms it. Through the media circus that unfolds around Nick and the various talking-heads (Abbott) that make it their mission in life to take him down, we end up witnessing a biting commentary about how, when left unchecked, the media can twist a story and destroy or uphold a life (dead or alive), just for the hell of it, especially if you do not play by their rules. Nick experiences this first-hand–being branded a “sociopath”—when he does not act like the “typical” grieving husband. It is crazy.
Cinematography and Plot
While this film is technically a thriller, it definitely possesses some elements of film noir. The film got really dark in some places and when paired with contrasting light, created an overall feeling of uneasiness that threatened to do the film in (in a good way, of course).
One particularly memorable example of this is the scene where we finally get to see where the homeless stay (in an abandoned mall) after Nick conveniently points out that they may be to blame for Amy’s disappearance. The scene itself is dark, shady as f*ck, and frightening and ends up doing wonders for the overall feel of the film.
As for plot, without getting too detailed, I will say that many of you will appreciate the way in which the film goes about telling its story. It takes the non-linear approach and it features multiple points of view. I enjoyed it, especially because it takes each and every opportunity to juxtapose happy-go memories of Nick and Amy’s relationship to the jarring nature of Amy’s on-going murder investigation.
Soundtrack and Score
Many fans of David Fincher’s work knew they would be in for a treat when it was initially announced that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross would be collaborating with him yet again to produce the score for the film (they previously teamed up on The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).
Needless to say, Reznor and Ross do not disappoint. The two supplement the film’s eerie, unnerving, film noir-like quality with their haunting music. While most of the tracks sound like they should be soothing, they inherently aren’t. Reznor and Ross initially hit us with some restful piano notes and then underline said notes with out-of-place, electronic noises (noises that are reminiscent of AOL/Bellsouth dial-up. Jesus Christ, my age is showing) that create a very sinister atmosphere (USA Today).
So…I’ve got nothing.
As rare as this occurrence is, I have nothing exceedingly bad to say about this film. People who have read the book have deemed it to be a faithful adaptation and as someone who as not, all I really have to say is that I found it enjoyable (we’ll see how I feel once I actually read the book).
In a film that does a fairly good and consistent job at portraying the various amount of characters in its’ rotation, I found Desi to be lacking a bit. As I mentioned before, his appearance is brief and if it was not for his memorable, final scene, he wouldn’t have had much to do in the film that didn’t involve lurking and being all-around creepy. Granted, I am glad that Neil Patrick Harris got to take a break from comedy and all, but I can’t be alone in my thinking when I say that I wish he would have gotten more to work with.
Gone Girl and Rape Culture
And now for the heavy stuff.
I am not going to pretend to be an expert on rape culture (as I am not), but something about the ease of how rape accusations are thrown around (and sustained) in this film is very unsettling.
I am mainly speaking of a rape accusation that Amy slaps an ex-boyfriend (not Desi) with. Eventually, said accusation ends up effortlessly going in her favor and I cannot help think that it would not have been that easy in reality (never-mind that the tossing around of such an accusation is harmful at best, seeing as crazed MRAs eat that sh*t up).
Not only would the media have dragged her and her reputation for filth (citing anything from what she was wearing, how she acted, and her drinking habits/drug habits, to her sexual preferences and her upbringing) but some quack of a researcher would have come out of the woodwork with some bogus ass statistic about how common false accusations of rape are (spoiler alert: they’re not). And this has become completely normal.
This quote from Interrogating Media sums it up:
Our society makes real-life survivors of rape into villains every single day. We assume ulterior motives. We invade and question their sexual history as if it’s relevant. We make rape survivors into whores and sluts, into evil, evil women who are only out to hurt and punish men. And that’s if we don’t ignore them altogether, or if they can summon the courage to report the rape at all.
Before I close, here’s some food for thought:
– TL;DR: The movie was pretty good.
– My favorite quotes:
“Everyone knows that ‘complicated’ is a code word for bitch.” – Margo
“…All we did was resent each other and try to control each other. We caused each other pain.” – Nick
“That’s marriage” – Amy
“You two are the most fucked up people I’ve ever met and I deal with fucked up people for a living.” – Tanner
In essence, Gone Girl is 149 minutes of some disturbing ass sh*t, but also serves to quite the wild ride. Nothing is as it seems in this film; so I urge anyone who sets out to see this film to throw all their preconceived notions out the door.
Sources: Interrogating Media, USA Today, NPR
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