GONE GIRL

gone1What begins as a thought-provoking examination of a made-in-heaven marriage undone by the Great Recession turns into a tedious, misogynist–& very long–riff on FATAL ATTRACTION. Bummer! Dickens is great in a big role & Sela Ward shines in a walk-on, but otherwise this latest Oscar Bait from Fincher reeks of desperation. Adapted by Gillian Flynn from her best-selling novel. (JLH: 3/5)

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Review of Gone Girl by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

Gone Girl is the seductive, disturbing tale of a man accused of murdering his wife – interesting and thrilling up until it isn’t. The last 20 minutes of the film strip away anything engaging from the previous two hours (yes, two hours). The David Fincher-directed film is a compelling rollercoaster ride for the first two-thirds, but ultimately ends up hollow, unsatisfying, and jam-packed with layers that unsuccessfully translate from text to screen.

Gillian Flynn’s adapted story from her own novel follows “Nick Dunne” (Ben Affleck), a failed magazine journalist who moves from New York City to recession-hit Missouri with his stunningly beautiful, yet unhappy wife Amy Elliot. The first half of the film unfolds on two tracks, the first in present day; when Nick comes home to find Amy missing, the authorities try to solve her disappearance by questioning him, dissecting the house for clues, and holding a nation-wide press conference urging people to call “1-855-4-AMY-TIPS.” The other track is narrated by Amy herself, journaling the story of how “Nick and Amy” came to be and flashing back to happier times. From their first meeting to their engagement, Amy narrates how their once-fairytale love story went from infatuation to satisfaction to “This man of mine might kill me.” (Side note: Amy should have spent some of her unemployment time taking drama classes).

From there, the mystery unfolds until it is prematurely solved and the bizarre epilogue-type story takes over. There are so many scenes and elements from the book that are included in the movie that cover too much ground for a feature-length film. First, there’s the overly complicated love story of Nick and Amy, where the audience is trying to figure out who is the more sympathetic (or pathetic) character. Then, there’s the investigation with the police, with “Detective Rhonda Boney” (Kim Dickens) and “Officer Jim Gilpin” (Patrick Fugit) following the clues of Amy’s disappearance with the assistance of Nick’s lawyer “Tanner Bolt” (Tyler Perry). There’s Amy’s parents, famous novelists for their Amazing Amy series about a fictional girl named Amy that accomplished everything their daughter couldn’t. There’s the relationship between Nick and his loyal, bartender twin sister “Margo” (Carrie Coon). And then there’s the most out-of-the-blue storyline of Amy’s stalker “Desi Collings” (Neil Patrick Harris). Although every storyline tied together nicely for a good portion of the film, the lack of resolution makes it all seem pointless. It’s almost as if the rollercoaster we were on for an hour and a half chugged to the top, dropped a little bit making us think it was going to be thrilling, and then anticlimactically coasted in a straight line, coming to a dead stop and making all the hype lead to absolutely nothing.

There were so many elements laid out that could have made this film the best of the year, from Rosamund Pike as disturbed, doe-eyed Amy to Ben Affleck and his unreadable characterization of Nick, making you wonder, “Did he do it? No, he couldn’t have. Maybe he could have. I don’t know.” At the risk of using another metaphor, there was a volleyball bump, set, and unfortunately no spike. The casting, the direction, and the character development were there. The cinematography, the score, and the editing made the past and present worlds seem eerie and mysterious. What failed was the trajectory of the story itself. What is supposedly a novel about the trials of marriage is more of an onscreen story about the unemployed sociopaths in suburban Missouri.

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Review © Brigid K. Presecky (10/03/14)

Top Photo: Ben Affleck as “Nick Dunne” at his missing wife’s vigil

Bottom Photo: Kim Dickens as “Detective Rhonda Boney” and Patrick Fugit as “Officer Jim Gilpin” searching for clues in Amy’s disappearance

Q: Does Gone Girl pass the Bechdel Test?

Not really. There are scenes between Amy and other females, but they are completely centered on her tumultuous marriage to Nick. To me, the film is in no way a female-empowerment movie; it’s almost the opposite. From Amy’s character as a whole, to the foolish, pregnant neighbor and the Nancy Grace-type spokeswoman on TV, Gone Girl is the complete opposite of how women should be portrayed (and it’s surprisingly written by a woman herself). Margo and Detective Rhonda Boney were the only two female characters that had sensibility and substance and were not pigeonholed like the rest of the women caricatures.

Tags: Ben Affleck, David Fincher, Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl, Kim Dickens, Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Fugit, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry

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