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

Bob Chipman | 3 Oct 2014 12:00
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It's incredibly easy to imagine that crowd gathering on their subreddits to declare their "love" for Gone Girl as a movie that "gets it" and "tells the truth about feminists!" -- namely, that they actually are all just like Amy. Especially in the way her characterization contrasts with Nick's: a men's magazine columnist (really!) whose move to the 'burbs ("It's quiet and there's a great lawn! What's she complaining about!?") is initially to care for his ailing mother. (See?? He doesn't hate women!") At one point Amy scolds him for spending too much time playing video games ("We're gonna need a bigger hashtag!") About the only grievance Amy levels that he seems to be 100% guilty of is an affair with a younger woman, and, well... hey, that's just evolutionary psychology in action -- right brah?

"Gone Girl: The movie that exposes The Truth about MISANDRY!" "Amazing Amy" (the name of the character Amy's children's-book author parents based on her) as a new favorite social-media slur for women who speak out about rape and abuse (or just about anything, really): "Yeah, sure he did, 'Amazing Amy!' Tell me another one!" I can see it clear as day, and not solely because I watched the Fight Club nonsense happen. And I can already feel myself heaving a sigh around late-winter when the film comes up: "Oh! Gone Girl? Loved it! ...egh, but not because I'm one of those dudes who thinks it's 'really about' how badly their ex 'screwed them' on child-support."

And like Fight Club, it'll be a shame because the film deserves better than getting swung like a pop-culture cudgel by people who don't get it on an almost astonishing level of thickness. Amy is a monster, for certain, but Nick is no innocent waif -- even if, yes, being kind of a dumbass doesn't exactly "equate" to being a ruthless self-taught supervillainess. And it's profoundly unlikely that either Gillian Flynn (who wrote the book and screenplay on which the film is based) or David Fincher were truly interested in putting out "told ya so!" for an audience of embittered first husbands.

But moreover, the film isn't really about Amy's villainy or Nick's victimhood, any more than Fight Club was "about" Project Mayhem or Se7en was "about" the sins of John Doe's victims. If it's about anything it's about the supposed pillars holding up modern society -- principally marriage and family, but also community, the free press, the legal system, the arts, etc -- are based so much on performance and mask-wearing. Amy's sociopathic tendencies may be the extreme, but just how far removed are they from "Amazing Amy," her parent's fictional flaw-free version of their own daughter? Or Missi Pyle's Nancy Grace-inspired tabloid journalist twisting the Nick/Amy narrative to whatever makes her ratings sizzle? Or Tyler Perry as Nick's media-manipulating celebrity lawyer? Or the fact that Nick and Amy are both clearly miserable as married suburban homebodies yet went about it anyway because "that's what you do, right?"

It deserves to be discussed for those reasons. And also for the quality of its actors (even Perry is good!), for the skill of its direction, for its gorgeous cinematography, its excellent, unnerving music. For the way all these elements conspire to make seemingly mundane moments like "Man finds a bunch of toys in his shed" or "Woman makes large dollar-store purchase" feel like epic unveilings. For the way it strips the "fat" from the book to get the story down to its lurid, sleazy, increasingly-implausible pulpy bones... then builds those bones up into something even bigger and grander -- the same kind of feat Francis Ford Coppola once had to manage when adapting The Godfather.

What it deserves, above all else, is to not be yet another David Fincher movie whose reputation suffers from being intensely admired... for all the wrong reasons.

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