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Monday, October 6, 2014

"Gone Girl" Cheap, Contrived, Exploitative

"Gone Girl" is a contrived, exploitative, pretentious film that aims for the middlebrow audience and hits its mark. The filmmakers insert – no pun intended – a sex scene every ten minutes or so, and alternate those with buckets-of-blood scenes of violence, and utterly predictable flashlight searches for clues of a Nancy Drew level of sophistication. If you want to see someone stabbed to death while climaxing during sex and bleed out like an upside down pig, this is the film for you.

The dialogue is pseudo-clever. Example: a man compliments a woman seated at a table full of strangers by informing her that she has a "world-class vagina." She smiles girlishly.

The film is capped up with a plot twist so implausible it blasted me right out of the movie onto the moons of Jupiter by the author's straining, sweating, thuddingly manipulative hand. And then the movie piles on the single most unbelievable ending I have ever seen.

There are movie surprises that rearrange the furniture inside your head and make you shout, "Oh! Of course! How could I not have seen that? Now everything makes so much more sense!" The best such surprise is in the film "Sixth Sense." "Gone Girl" surprises you by showing how desperate a writer can get.

Warning: The rest of this review will reveal the ending of "Gone Girl." If you don't want to know the ending of "Gone Girl," stop reading now.

Nick (Ben Affleck) is married to Amy (Rosamund Pike). They live in Missouri, the show me state. Amy disappears and Nick is under suspicion. Did he kill her?

So, now, you are thinking that "Gone Girl" will explore the interesting question we all ask when beautiful young women disappear and their husbands are suspected of murder. Those questions are: How could a loving marriage go so wrong? How could a marriage look perfect on the outside and be rotten on the inside? How could a loving husband murder his own wife? Does our 24/7 media coverage encourage us to form lynch mobs? Forget it. "Gone Girl" explores none of this.

Nick had cheated on Amy with one of his students. Hurt, Amy faked her own disappearance. Amy is incredibly beautiful, the star of a series of children's books, a sexual Tantric master, a psychopath, and a criminal mastermind. Heck, the filmmakers may as well just added invisibility, flight, and the ability to conjugate Polish verbs at will to Amy's list of superpowers. She is that unbelievable.

Amy just wants to hurt Nick, because he hurt her. So she flawlessly fakes her own murder. Amy seeks shelter from Desi, an old boyfriend, Neal Patrick Harris, whom she had accused of stalking her. Desi makes Amy his virtual prisoner in his lake house. He, too, is a criminal mastermind, psychopath, and Tantric sex master, and his lake house is carefully designed to prevent Amy from escaping from their hot sex, good food, and discussions of opera and philosophy. You had no idea Missouri was this interesting, did you? You'll never call it "flyover country" again, will you?

Amy stabs Desi when he is climaxing during their hot sex. Buckets of blood gush out of him. The director wants you to see all this – this is what you bought your ticket for, is it not? Certainly not for intelligence or heart.

Amy returns to Nick. No one bothers to indict Amy for Desi's murder, because she is incredibly beautiful, famous, and a criminal mastermind. And because the plot of this movie holds together like a wet Kleenex. Nick knows that Amy is a murderer and that she attempted to frame him for her murder and only returned after that went wrong. Nick hates and fears Amy. And Nick stays with Amy, as her husband. The End.

I think the author of "Gone Girl" was trying to use flamboyantly exaggerated premises to comment on a few themes: none of us can fully understand what keeps marriages together, women are terribly hurt by infidelity, beautiful women can use manipulation and sex to get what they want in life.

All of these themes are genuinely interesting, and good art inspired by them is compelling. I kept thinking of "The Country Girl," a brilliant treatment of a complex marriage that outsiders don't understand. TV coverage of the Laci Peterson murder was ten times more watchable, interesting, and educational than the idiotic "Gone Girl" could ever hope to be. "Body Heat" was a hundred times better as a depiction of a hot blond wrapping a big, dumb, handsome guy around her finger. And "Body Heat"'s plot twist leaves "Gone Girl" in the dust.

Ben Affleck's broad shoulders and chest look really good here. His acting is vapid, absent, and clueless, appropriate to the part of a man manipulated by a woman. Rosamund Pike's performance as a human who could never actually exist is good. Basically, she's playing a Star Trek space alien, and she does it well. The excellent Tyler Perry is wasted.


  1. I agree with you, Danushka. I'm just reading the book (haven't seen the movie yet although it looks a bit wooden), and when I got to the part where Amy faked her death (which I thought was always possible based on movies like Double Indemnity,) but it was such a rebuke of everything beforehand, so inconsistent, that it didn't feel like you hadn't seen through the characters to who they really were but that the author was just manipulating the plot, and you, because she could, even if it didn't make sense, was logically defied by everything that came beforehand. Just feels contrived.