I still can’t sleep…after I just saw David Fincher’s new movie “Gone Girl” and there’s too much on my mind to conjure up a coherent thought. I’m thinking, “damn what the hell did I just witness?” Now, I have to admit I didn’t read the book and had no intention of doing so, even when I saw the movie because I knew what the book was mainly about without knowing any of the book’s plot twists along the way. And I’m still thinking this movie perfectly exudes what is both right and wrong with strict novel adaptations. After talking with friends who did read the book, they claimed that author and screen writer Gillian Flynn adapted her own novel as close to source material as possible, by taking out the plot detours. I first thought that this was the safe route for first time screenwriter to go, but after I thought about it some more, I now wish she attempted to mix things up a bit, and even change that controversial ending that had readers abuzz before there was any talk of a movie. After seeing Gone Girl, I was actually more convinced that I wish she had the conviction to do what many fans wanted her to do and alter the ending of her screenplay. Gone Girl clearly loses steam as the movie concludes, I felt there were at least two false endings where I thought movie was going to fade to black, yet somehow it kept going…and going. Still the movie sets up a fascinating dichotomy of why noted best selling authors aren’t allowed by the studios to adapt their own novels. Entertainment Weekly posted a fascinating article recently on why many authors are shunned in Hollywood despite desiring to adapt their own work. Ego and plotting get in the way on most occasions, and I can see where at least plotting and pacing seemed to be issues for Flynn here. Flynn herself has an interesting career trajectory, she was laid off from her job as a critic from ironically Entertainment Weekly, and suddenly her desire to become a novelist kicked in and viola(!) success and fame has suddenly arrived at her doorstep! I appreciate a rags to riches story like Flynn’s and hope that we all can learn and appreciate it.
What I am most thankful for is the “oh so peculiar life lessons” this film managed to teach me whenever I just happen to be conjuring up my own mystery or happen to be stuck in a maddening situation beyond my control, I now know what to do…as opposed to our main protagonist Nick Dunne, as played as perfect cad by that perfect cad Ben Affleck.
Spoiler Alert (oh please, how can you not with this film?) From the storyline to the overall message there was certainly a lot to learn, among them:
Trust no one especially your own spouse. This movie sets up a tried and true crime story ripped straight from the headlines in this case something very similar to the Scott and Laci Peterson trial in which a philandering husband is the prime suspect in the disappearance of his wife, who as the film evolves, may or may not be hiding more than you know. There are so many unique twists and turns in the plot that you and the viewer find out clues as they are happening, like a true mystery yarn in the sense of Alfred Hitchcock. Which leads us to…
Plot is key and yes pay attention to everything. I knew I had to keep up when we were being told a non-linear story that shoots back to its origins and flashes forward at the end. When you think this story is resolved it’s just getting started. The pace sets this film apart some parts making more sense that others, every so often we are updated on how many days weeks have passed by since Amy has been our “Gone Girl.” But literally the time and space continuum means nothing here when it comes to our climax.
Characterization is something that also sets the film apart from other mysteries. As our leading lady, Amy Dunne (as played by Rosemund Pike) is one cold and calculating sociopath you cannot trust anyone in this movie especially her. The way she plots everything out including her own “demise” and “rebirth” both planned and well unplanned is well remarkable. But the movie made me panic when after everything was all said and done I wasn’t sure she was done with her mayhem. She’s a woman scored but she’s “suddenly” decided that she’s going to handle the playing of the game. But wait! Amy gets sloppy and has to improvise and the audience gets both shocked and scared and then ultimately pleased with her ingenuity. Take note of the laughter from the audience where sometimes there are jokes where it’s warranted and they were clearly laughing at the absurdness of our “heroine’s” madness and desperate she got to get out of the ordeal that she created.
Actions speak louder than words. The pacing of Gone Girl also makes me question the motives and actions of our two leads, I was thinking should they be doing something about the situation since all this time has passed? Nick evolved from our morally ambiguous cad who should be and will always be under suspicion to our hero who solves the crime faster than anyone else, it becomes apparent that he and our lead detective (as played by Kim Dickens) are the smartest two people in the room. In fact they become the only two people with a brain for most of the film. Speaking of which when, Amy is found and tells her horrible story of how she survived by being kidnapped by Neil Patrick Harris’ character Desi Collings, there were cameras everywhere, so clearly her story wouldn’t be corroborated on what we actually saw versus what really happened on footage left by the cameras, right? Also, there are so many holes in Amy’s story that she gets sloppy, there were a couple of misdirections in the film where I thought someone was going to easily recognize her while she was incognito on the “lam,” yet no one she comes into contact with recognizes her? Those desperate measures that Amy takes lead to another twist where turns the tables in the situation. I have to admit have the fun is watching Amy become more resourceful the more desperate she gets. Amy Dunne: Apparently she really is a masochist with a cunning manipulative brain that is constantly churning plotting her next move.
This film is not without its faults. What film doesn’t possess at least some inherent flaw? I liked the performances, the complex directing and nuanced if somewhat far fetched script. Movies are supposed to make you think, and Gone Girl accomplishes that. Although the holes in the plot can be considered maddening to most movie buffs who deserve a complex suspense tale with some realism involved we are at least given a hybrid of a dark comedy mixed with a who-done-it mystery. Viewers are allowed to fill in their own blanks to see how the film arrived at its conclusion. I believe viewers want to add up the math in their head and follow the clues that we are being lead on. Brava performances as our title character by somewhat new arrival Rosemund Pike and Ben Affleck (who for the first time did not annoy me to no ends), not to mention a shout out to Carrie Coon who plays Affleck’s supportive yet unabashedly honest twin sister Margo who speaks as the voice of reason in film clearly in place of the audience. I applaud all the efforts of a crew of people that took a seemingly unadaptable novel and turned it into a tour-de-force of a movie. Granted the level of believability is negligible here but with the great performances, plotting and performance I think that this can be overlooked somewhat. I say go see Gone Girl, if you haven’t already and much of you clearly already have. Is this film a landmark classic? Hardly…but it’s a noteworthy first achievement for a first time author and reinvigorates my opinion of what a mystery suspense film has the potential to be, and for that all film buffs should all be thankful.