Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Gone Girl (2014) ****

“Deliciously twisted” is a term that seems to come up repeatedly in descriptions of David Fincher's “Gone Girl,” based on the novel by Gillian Flynn. I won't argue with the “twisted” descriptor, but “delicious” is up for debate. In gustatory terms, I would describe the story as more like one of those bizarre ice cream flavors, or one of those sour beers brewed with bacteria instead of yeast. The flavor is “interesting,” and you respect them for making something so outre, but you don't necessarily want seconds.

The story structure is fabulous. The doomed marriage of Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike) is presented as two competing narratives moving along different time lines. We follow Nick as he comes home to find his wife missing, with signs of a struggle in the house. As the clues pile up, the police, the cable news harpies, and even the viewers come to suspect that Nick has murdered Amy. Meanwhile, we see, through entries in Amy's diary, how the two met five years earlier, fell in love, lost their jobs, moved to Missouri, then watched their marriage spiral into bitterness and fear.

I hate to sound like one of those lame, internet links, but “You won't believe what happens next!” Things get weird. Then they get twisted, and even more twisted.

Much as with the film “The Crying Game,” it becomes very awkward to discuss this movie without ruining the surprises. (Don't worry, the only on-screen penises in this one belong to male characters.) What I will say is that not since “Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?” has there been such a brilliantly horrifying critique of marriage. The film, like the novel, is an ugly story, beautifully told. The ending, by the way, is essentially the same as in the novel, despite some interviews in which Gillian Flynn suggested otherwise. Unfortunately, it's an ending that most viewers will find unsettling and unsatisfying. Our sense of justice is not rewarded in this tale. In one sense, it's a commentary on how we all pretend to be better than we are to impress others. Eventually, if we are lucky (or unlucky, in some cases), one of those people marries us. What happens when the charade fails, and they see who we really are? “Gone Girl” suggests that one option is to simply agree to go back to pretending, and to pretend even harder.

I'm honestly a bit torn as to how to rate this one. It's as well-crafted a film as David Fincher has made, perfectly cast and perfectly paced, but damn, it's bleak. There's certainly nothing to criticize about the acting. Affleck and Pike are perfect for their roles and in their roles. Same for Neil Patrick Harris as Amy's obsessed ex-boyfriend and Tyler Perry (Yes, THAT Tyler Perry) as a Johnnie Cochran-esque lawyer. For me, the warped ending was a bit of a stretch plot-wise, but the film keeps things humming along so that you hardly notice until it's over. It's an excellent film, and I recommend it, but it sure doesn't have anything close to a happy ending. You'll have to decide for yourself if “deliciously twisted” is something you're up for.

4 stars out of 5

No comments: