Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Oscars 2014: Gone Girl

Gone Girl (U.S., 2014) directed by David Fincher, 149 min.

One Oscar Nomination
Actress in a Leading Role (Rosamund Pike)

I have so many conflicting feelings about this film and the book it is based on. Firstly, a brief synopsis of the film ... 

On his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) returns home to find his house in a bloody disarray indicating a violent struggle and that his wife Amy (the perfectly cast British actor Rosamund Pike) is missing. Nick immediately becomes the number one suspect, as husbands often are, with the local authorities. 

Throughout the film, we follow Amy's last days through her diary - from the disintegration of their marriage to her disappearance. They both lose their jobs as writers in NYC, are forced to leave a luxurious apartment and decide to move to Missouri where Nick is from and live with his mother who is ill. Amy sacrifices her trust fund money when she gives it to her parents who have suffered a blow in the 2008 recession. Her parents had created a book series with a character called Amazing Amy (loosely 
based on Amy which looks like this). The success of the books propels the parents, and Amy, into a minor sort of celebrity and wealth and she feels obligated to assist them.

According to Amy's diary, back in Missouri, Nick has become distant, uninterested and, eventually, unfaithful, sleeping with one of the students he is teaching at the local college. Detectives on the case discover purported evidence of Nick's financial troubles and excessive spending, domestic disputes, Amy's alleged attempt to purchase a gun and a medical report that indicates that Amy is pregnant (most of which Nick is completely unaware of). 

Is he lying or is he being framed? Nick eventually determines that Amy was trying to frame him for her murder, faking her own pregnancy, and constructing diary entries which manufacture a fear of physical harm by Nick. 

Amy has indeed disappeared, having changed her appearance and name and hiding on a camp ground with some unsavoury characters, with the hope that Nick will be convicted for her murder and eventually executed. 

So let's slow our roll a bit ... how disturbed does one have to be to go to these lengths to punish one's husband for infidelity (or is it for the crime of forcing you to move to Missouri from New York city)? Only a true psychopath would do so and what evidence do we have in Amy's history that she is one? She is beautiful, smart, educated, well-loved by her parents and, at one time, Nick. I realize this is fiction but what is the trigger, what is the proof, that Amy's mind works this way? That she is damaged in this way? Why has she become such a disturbed individual? And why would she do this to her parents as well? Because she resents Amazing Amy? It sounds so infantile and contrived. 

Nick hires a high profile defence attorney (in a surprising turn by Tyler Perry - it's nice to see him not in a dress) and does his own investigative work. He approaches one of Amy's ex-boyfriends who claims Amy framed him for rape. Clue number one. He also approaches the very wealthy Desi Collings (Neil Patrick Harris), a former college boyfriend who is said to be obsessed with Amy but who refuses to cooperate with Nick. When Amy is robbed of her entire stash of money on the camp ground, she calls Desi in desperation and convinces him that she feared harm from Nick and staged her own death to escape him. Still smitten with Amy, Desi hides her in his home where she is virtually a prisoner. She dumped him once, she won't escape again, seems to be his plan. 

Nick, convinced that Amy is still alive, decides to trick her into coming back and prove his innocence, by appearing on a talk show to apologize for his many failures as a cheating husband. This ruse works and re-ignites Amy's feelings for Nick. She then plots to seduce Desi, kill him in a very bloody and gruesome manner and returns home bruised and covered in blood, naming Desi as her kidnapper, captor and rapist which clears Nick of the charge of murder.

Amy tells Nick the truth but he has no way to prove Amy's evil plotting. He plans to leave her but she reveals she is pregnant (using Nick's sperm which was stored at a fertility clinic in earlier, happier days). Nick reluctantly decides to stay with Amy. The "happy" couple announces the pregnancy on TV. This last scene seemed to have sparked a great deal of outrage - the idea of Nick being trapped with this psychopath for life because of the pregnancy. 

Respect to David Fincher (Director of the exceptional The Social Network, Zodiac, Fight Club, Se7en). Who can dislike the man who is responsible for putting Gwyneth Paltrow's head in a box? He i
s a talented, skilful filmmaker and in this film he has created a suspenseful, well constructed vehicle that actually flows much better than the book. 

Some have been disappointed with the ending. I found the whole premise disturbing but not for the reasons cited by some who believe that Gillian Flynn, the author and screenwriter of this film, was being unfeminist in her portrayal of Amy. 
I think that that criticism is short-sighted. Flynn says she is a feminist and I believe her. Flynn is perfectly within her rights to create a female villain in Amy. Many will disagree but I found the entire premise unbelievably silly. The venom that Amy feels, not only for the unfaithful Nick, but for her beleaguered parents is comical. It's not bad feminism, it's just bad character development and plotting. 

Still if you buy into the premise, and many have, the film is tightly paced and packs of helluva punch for those who want to punish their husbands for infidelity. 
Pike and Affleck

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