MovieBob - Intermission
Gone Girl and When Good Movies Happen to Bad People

Bob Chipman | 3 Oct 2014 12:00
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Gone Girl is really good... but a lot of people are going to love it for all the wrong reasons.

Note I: For a full review of Gone Girl, watch this week's Escape to the Movies.

Note II: This piece contains spoilers for Gone Girl.

With a few notable exceptions, David Fincher's filmography has marked him as a modern master of two very specific genre-subcategories: Great films made on not-necessarily-great foundations (i.e. a gimmick serial-killer chase, a macho paean to punching-as-catharsis, a remake of a Swedish murder-mystery potboiler, a home-invasion thriller, a biopic about the founding of Facebook, etc) and movies you like but end up becoming annoyed with because "everyone else" seems to like them for exactly the wrong reason.

The obvious most-glaring example (both within and, by now, apart from Fincher's ouvre) is Fight Club. The film itself isn't exactly subtle about the disdain with which Fincher views the main characters in a story about charismatic blowhard Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) wooing disaffected/emasculated losers into his cathartic bareknuckle-boxing club and gradually focusing their impotent rage and entitled sense of the world owing them the patriarchal comforts of their father's generation into an anarchist-terrorist campaign. The film does a fine job of showing exactly how, historically, populations of disaffected directionless men have generated violent groupthink-subcultures and quasi-fascist "philosophers" looking to mold them into something more dangerous.

And even though nobody ever turns to the camera to lecture the audience (at least not without irony) I always felt we were left with a pretty clear sense that "Project Mayhem" were a pack of idiots, that Tyler's "Blow up the civilization so men can be real men again!" sermonizing was little more than re-purposed/generalized Hiterlian "reclaim the Ubermensch birthright" swill (by the end Mayhem's "space monkey" acolytes are literally skinheads!) and that while disaffection with the modern world was understandable anyone who'd actually swallow this crap was either stupid, weak, a monster or all three.

And yet... no sooner had Fight Club found its way to home video than you started to hear stories about fans of the film starting for-real "fight clubs" of their own, and (more commonly) started to see Tyler Durden's rambling testosterone-as-holy-water creeds adopted as yearbook mottos, tattoo fodder and block-text on the then-primitive versions of social media, always among young (usually angry) men and always without a hint of self-awareness. Film geeks and cinephiles had initially celebrated Fight Club -- which had bombed spectacularly in theaters, becoming a pop-culture phenomenon on video and DVD. But soon a sad realization soon set in: A significant number (maybe even the majority) of those new numbers were coming from a vast army of real-life would-be "space monkeys" who had somehow managed to ravenously absorb Tyler Durden's message of men embracing their inner-neanderthal without also absorbing Fight Club's message that Tyler Durden is the projection of a pathetic loser that no one should actually follow or listen to.

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