Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Gone Girl, Blonde Girl: My take on the movie Gone Girl starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike

My husband and I went on what's being called 'the movie date to end all dates' last night. Yep. Finally saw Gone Girl starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. While I've heard the movie can make you second guess your relationship, in a couple of shocking scenes I grabbed for said husband's hand and it was there, rock solid and steady as ever, so I suppose our old married love passed some sort of test. As if the tests real life has tossed our way over the last twenty plus years weren't enough? As if we both haven't looked at our mutual shortcomings before seeing this film? Come on. 

Beware: My take on the movie assumes you've read the book or seen the movie or both.

The first thing to remember about Gone Girl is that it's a movie, one that fairly closely mirrors the book that author turned screenwriter Gillian Flynn based her screenplay on. The fact that Amy Elliot Dunne is a lying, manipulative, psychotic bitch who frames her lying, cheating husband for her murder, who falsely accuses Tommy (Skoot McNairy) of rape, and turns the old romance with the controlling Desi Collings (Neil Patrick Harris) on its ear, isn't a veiled diatribe against all women, isn't trying to say all real world female victims of rape are weak, angry women using sex - and false allegations of rape - as a weapon. Just this one woman. So, first and foremost, to those of you who would try to make the film stand for some grand sexual political statement reinforcing negative stereotypes, lighten up. Does this particular woman do everything she can to keep her man, even twisted, dark, deeply depraved things? Yes. But the fact that her bizarre behavior and evil scheming choices ends Desi's life, ruined Tommy's life, and threatens to destroy Nick's, shouldn't be taken to mean more than it means. It's a thrilling piece of fiction, which may occasionally, mirror life. My God, if every horrible, murdering male bastard we see slashing and killing in countless books and movies were supposed to be representative of the average man then surely we'd never go to the movies; the world would be such a dark and dangerous place, we'd all stay locked safely inside our homes, never to venture out where the wild things are again.  



But it was a movie and a bloody good one. Standing in the theater lobby, waiting for my husband to come out of the mens' room (turning that stereotype around) I overheard a young man tell his female companion "I wanted to strangle her". They walked out of earshot before I could hear her response but mine was "I wanted to strangle both of them!" Which pretty much sums up how I felt about the books' ending as well, so entirely frustrated and angry that Nick would make the choice he makes. The movie, contrary to what we where led to believe doesn't change that basic ending. Realistic? I don't think so. But no less realistic than sending Amy home from the hospital in a clean pair of surgical greens but still covered in a garish shade of blood I'd call 'maroon 5'. No less realistic than a group of male FBI agents and state police standing by lamely while Amy wraps them around her little finger with her monstrous lie about Desi. No less realistic than carrying on an affair in a small town and your crazy wife, instead of being the stereotypical 'last to know' being the only person in the whole wide world who does know about it. 

Director David Fincher and writer Gillian Flynn didn't invent a genre or pull off some revolutionary film archetype; they just had a great time with playing with our expectations, as the best film makers and writers have always done. Add to that the imitative imaginings that we all owe the material that's come before, inspiring and giving us ideas, and you get a whole lot of depraved movie fun. I learned from a Slate magazine article that looks at what Flynn and Fincher both borrowed from the great suspense king, Alfred Hitchcock, that Gillian Flynn's father was a film professor and that she counts Psycho as one of her biggest film influences: Cue the shower scene in Gone Girl! And you don't have to be a film geek to see that Rosamund Pike, distant and haughty (one review I read said she was too 'aristocratic') is a direct descendant of Alfred Hitchcock's icy blondes. She's even played one the play, Hitchcock Blonde where she was a body double for Janet Leigh's character.

There are a couple of nice nods to the master of suspense whether, as the article points out, it's intended as homage or just outright cinematic thievery. If you remember the scene where Tippi Hedrin transforms from brunette to her true color, an icy blonde in Marnie, Amy's opposite transformation in Gone Girl is wink-wink wonderful. As is Neil Patrick Harris as Desi, when he purchases a box of hair dye to transform Amy's now-mousey hair color back to his and Hitchcock's preferred bleached blonde. Remember how Jimmy Stewart's character makes Kim Novak dye her hair blonde to look more like his Madeleine? While the article points out the similarities between Gone Girl's opening shot, a closeup of Pike's blonde head accompanied by Ben Affleck's voice over imagining cracking open that head to unspool what's inside, and Hitchcock's closeup of Kim Novak's blonde chignon, those are details for the cinephiles to be sure. The thing is we don't need to know them, we need never to have watched a Hitchcock film or clue in to whether Gone Girl is a feminist dream or a nightmare to enjoy it for what it is: two and a half hours of delicious fun, that ends with the girl and boy living 'un'happily ever after.

Or do they? 

Another movie goer I heard leaving the theater asked her companions if there was another book, or if this was it. That, my friends, is an interesting question. Are any of you interested in seeing what becomes of this not-so-loving couple? Fincher and Flynn are already re-teaming on an adaptation of the British thriller Utopia for HBO; maybe if we ask pretty they'd be amenable to putting Nick and Amy and their offspring in the same house together. Can you imagine the drama of these two raising children? If that was the case, I think we'd end up like poor Margo, curled up in an almost fetal position, crying as she realizes what Amy says about Nick may be true; rather than a good little Midwest woman, Amy is a duplicitous, conniving poseur, and the worst part is he likes his wife that way.

                                                            GONE GIRL IMAGE GALLERY

A word about the cast; yes Affleck is amazing as the asshole husband. Even Amy makes a comment about the two of them being so annoying you want to punch them in the face. Ben, you certainly do. Pike, as noted, is pretty near perfect as the icy blond. For me the big surprises were Kim Dickens as Detective Boney and Carrie Coon as Margo, both are actors I've not given an iota of thought to before. I surely will now, as both females play real women (I guess that's why they're brunettes) with intelligence and grit. Despite Boney's being cut off at the knees at the end of the movie (calm down, just metaphorically) I was mesmerized by her ability to hold our attention with her character's strength, attention to detail and no bullshit attitude. Give me more women in movies like that please. 

Trent Reznor's much talked about score was barely noticeable - a good thing - helping to build suspense and tension. Costumes by Trish Summerville were perfect although I can see why Fincher's go-to designer had to tell Affleck to stop bulking up for Superman already as the casual dress shirts he wore over the endless t-shirts did occasionally make him look not hot, but, dare I say it, borderline fat. 

So what about you? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? What was your favorite cringe-worthy scene?



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