Saturday, November 15, 2014

I married that cunt…


And I can say that because I love her.

At one point in ‘Gone Girl’, Amy Dunne, in one of her many narrated diary entries, makes the statement that many warned her, “Marriage is hard work”.  This is really the one thing that stood out the most to me while watching ‘Gone Girl’, and while it is far from  the only point made in this surprisingly deft marital observation, it is the one that lingers the most and possibly the reason that I find this film to be so universally effective.  There is no denying that much of ‘Gone Girl’ is absurd.  We can’t escape that reality.  The integral plot points are so crisply shaped in this world of preposterousness and yet it all feels so richly observant.  This film says so much about relationships, the way that they are shaped, how they breathe, shift, change and dissolve.  I hate that so many are missing the point of this film, instead giving too much attention to the obvious camp aspects, which are there to exaggerate the honesty here and not to distract from them.

Gillian Flynn could be a genius, or maybe that genius is David Fincher.

It’s probably a combination of the two.



I’ll admit this, when I read the screenplay for ‘Gone Girl’ a few months back, I didn’t see anything of real note, and I was rather surprised that David Fincher, a director I hold in very high esteem, would even be interested in exploring this rather ridiculous story.  Staring at words on a page I was left with this underwhelming notion that there was something else there I wasn’t seeing or that wasn’t fully explored and somewhere within Flynn’s storytelling laid a real astute observation that just wasn’t coming through loud and clear.  I entered the theater with very little expectation, other than a flicker of hope that I was going to be wowed.  As the dialog, which felt so forced in the screenplay, floated from one character to the next and the scope of Fincher’s vision unraveled all over these ‘moments’ in film, I found myself drawn deeper and deeper into this story I had initially taken for granted, and by the time it all came to a climax I was literally shaking with this overwhelming ‘complete’ understanding of what was being explored.

I saw my marriage.  I saw my life.  I saw my reality.  I needed a drink.

At the heart of ‘Gone Girl’ is a story about deceit.  Not a malicious deceit (at least not at the heart), but deceit nonetheless.  ‘Gone Girl’, on the surface, tells the story of a man who is being investigated for the possible murder of his missing wife, but under the surface the story is much different, or at least not so literal.  I think the main issue to be found in the detractor’s complaints of this film is that they are taking everything so literally, looking at it all for face value; and this is so much more than that.  Under that veneer of ‘thriller’ and ‘mystery’ lies a very intricate dissection of human relationships and the trouble we go to, to secure them, even when they aren’t worth securing.


For me, ‘Gone Girl’ was a blunt, brutal, extremist allegory of the modern-day marriage.  This isn’t to say that this is a realistic portrait of a modern-day marriage.  Metaphorically, this touches many corners that most films wouldn’t dare to with regards the real guts of a marriage.  It isn’t saying anything realistic, and yet in the process it is basically dissecting marriage for what it really is.

I distinctly remember, about six months into my marriage, sitting next to my wife while at dinner with some friends, hearing the words coming out of her mouth, watching her body language, soaking in her cold stares and writing on a napkin, “you lied to me” and slipping it onto her lap.  We do this.  We paint a portrait of who we think others want us to be so that we can be what they want in order to get what we want, and while this isn’t normally done in a malicious manner (I mean, we genuinely LOVE that persona and just want them to love us back), it is still deceit, and it is dangerous deceit.  In the story of Nick and Amy, they had this torrid love affair that lived in the eye of that deceit, but as the relationship bloomed and then withered, it was that deceit that was at the heart of everything, from the conception of their love to the absolute death of it.  No one was solely to blame, and while Nick was a pig and Amy was a psycho, both were absolutely in this marriage, every part of it, and both were victims and assailants, broken to bits by their own necessities and their own individual carelessness.


Deep in the unsaid of this story is an astute understanding of what makes this relationship so universally understood.  The blame, criticism, regret, unresolved aggression; the lack of communication, petty belittlements, venomous rage…it all feels so richly observant, so accurate, so remarkable honest. 

What Flynn and Fincher have done here is create a story that is just as deceptive as the relationships it is dissecting.  It lies to us.  It becomes what we think we want it to be.  It is thrilling, daring, exploitive; delivering what appears to be nothing but a revenge story, a murder mystery turned psychotic exposé on a seriously demented couple and yet it is so much more than that, because once we allow it all to rest on our souls we see that this is the story of our lives, our loves and our futures.

Marriage is hard work.  What an understatement, and yet regardless of that fact, it is a loaded statement all the same because it is pretty much the most factual statement one can make and yet it is varying degrees of hard work for everyone.  No marriage is the same, and yet all marriages are hard, even the easy ones.  Nick and Amy may not resemble anyone you know and yet all of us are Nick and Amy, it’s really as simple as that, which isn’t really all that simple at all, which is exactly why this film is so astonishingly good.



I give this an A+, and I mean that.  This is such a smart, smart movie, so smart that very few are even seeing the intelligence here, it's that good at what it's doing.  I wholly believe Oscar is going to devour this with nominations for Picture, Director, Screenplay, Lead Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Score and possibly in Sound as well.  

Now, I've actively avoided all reviews of this film since it was released and even after I saw it because I was determined to compose and write my thoughts down before I allowed any other opinions to cloud my views on the film.  So...I will now seek out your reviews and read them my friends!

20 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree more, man. After five years with my wife (only one married), I felt the same way about marriage and relationships over the course of this movie. I felt it even more so as I read the novel last spring. This is a perfect movie for me (A+), but I actually wanted more of what the book had, which was more motive, more development in character, more about the film's central idea aka "modern-day marriage." Fincher is a boss of a filmmaker. For me, he is one of the few true auteurs in American cinema. The way his movies look and feel is just immaculate, procedural, darkly stunning. Flynn and Pike take statues for sure. Gonna be some tough competition in the technical categories. Great write-up, buddy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really need to read the novel. It's funny because, like I said, when I read the script I was not moved by this. I didn't see all the depth. I was like many of the film's critics who say that this is trashy and purely surface, but Fincher just has this way of exploring themes with such depth and perception. He gets it. He milks it.

      Delete
  2. While I am not married to anyone for now, I surely got to some of the things you said about relationships. But you developed that idea more beautifully. I would also add that besides this point it also talks about media and how we respond to such events like a disappearance, especially of a person like Amy, a white and blond attractive rich girl.
    Great, great review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. I agree that the dissection of media itself and the way that we attack those presumed guilty is strong, or the way that we focus attention on the 'rich, white girl' and even the way that we are quick to generalize when we are jilted is brought out here as well. I honestly wish that I had remembered to bring those points out as well, since they were on my mind and then slipped while I was composing this review (I hate when that happens).

      One scene that really struck me was the scene where Nick was being prepped for his interview and he makes a comment about his sister saying "just like all women" or something to that effect (I don't feel like Googling it right now) but it was a powerful scene because it showed how, when someone has been screwed over by someone, in that moment of anger and fury, they tend to generalize. Looking at his own sister, who has been supporting and helping him the whole time, he still is criticizing her.

      It's not right, but it happens often, and in that moment Fincher and Flynn addressed it in a very nonchalant yet powerful way.

      Delete
  3. One quick question - I saw on your AwardsWatch Personal Ballot threat that you currently have Rosamond Pike in the supporting category. Care to comment on that?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I was planning on making a separate post about that, mainly because I didn't want it to be the focal point of my review of the film.

      Here is my two cents, and take of it what you will. While this story is the story of Nick and Amy Dunne, the focal point of this story is Nick. He is the accused, he is the one who is investigating, attempting to clear his name, and even in the end when Amy is brought back full force, it is his reaction and eventuality that we are most focused on. YES, she is a huge part of the film, but she is not in the first half but for flashbacks and narration, and while her character completes the story this marriage, it is really only through Nick's progressive emotional arc that her character has any distinct progression as well. This isn't to say that Amy is a one-note character, but only to say that we really only catch the notes through the way that Nick gradually understands her.

      I consider this Nick's story, with Affleck being the only 'true' lead. Pike is that gray area. She is clearly the lead female in a sea of great female performances, but I believe that her placement is debatable. Many do not, and I totally respect that opinion, I just don't share it.

      I compared this performance to that of Edward Norton in Primal Fear. She's the basis for the whole film and yet the whole film is really told through the eyes of someone else (in Norton's case, it would be Gere) and so despite the flashy persona and eventual arc/reveal, she feels more like a supporting character to her husband, Nick.

      Delete
  4. Strong word at the beginning:) Marriage is hard work! I am on my 2nd and it is much more fulfilling even though I could kill him on occasion. I will be seeing this film (ughh-I miss so many) and I know it will be up for awards but it will not garner much I feel-I am having a gut feeling on this. I believe if one would look at each marriage we would all think each relationship is just nuts

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, it's a strong word, and for those who haven't seen the film yet, I'm sorry if it seems offensive, but when you see the film you'll know why I used it.

      I hope you do see the film, and when you do I'd love to know your thoughts on it. It probably won't win any awards, to be honest, but I have a strong feeling it'll at least be nominated for a handful or more.

      Delete
  5. I want to marry Amy. She's so awesome. I would do anything for her. I just love the film so much. I think it's Fincher's best so far as well as his funniest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is my second favorite Fincher, right behind The Social Network.

      And I did marry Amy, or at least a variation of her. I wake up every morning thinking my life is perfect, and go to bed every night wondering what the hell I did to deserve this. But if I had to do it all over again, I'd do it the very same way.

      Delete
  6. Awesome review :) Hard to imagine this one NOT topping my end of year Top 10!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, this is firmly at #2 for me, and I can't see it not making my final top five. The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced it's a masterpiece.

      Delete
    2. Currently, Under the Skin.

      Delete
  7. Oh boy. I can't wait for you to read my thoughts on this because they are kinda opposite of yours. Given my experiences, the relationship these two had is so drastically different to how my relationships are. perhaps because I'm a very honest person and I almost never lie to anyone, really. But for me the movie was all about Amy and how she fought back against the society, against her husband, against the idea that a man can cheat on you and he won't pay. She is the most important female characters in years because the ending refused to go the usual way and defeat her.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. See, and I just finished reading yours and loved it because you saw this in such a different way than me, and yet I can see where you're coming from. That is the beauty of film, because a good film will reach you in a very personal way.

      And I loved the ending, because for me it felt appropriate. These two are made for each other. They love one another. They fucking hate one another, but they LOVE one another. It couldn't have ended any other way, and you know that Nick is happy he has Amy back.

      Delete
  8. 'Nick and Amy may not resemble anyone you know and yet all of us are Nick and Amy' = f--king brilliant, man. I'm not Nick, not by any stretch, but I get Nick. Like, a 100%. I think my wife, and perhaps any woman would think that's a shitty thing to say, but as exaggerated as it all may have been, it was grounded in a reality that feels honest (if that makes sense).

    I loved this one soooo much (it was such a wild ride), but I have no idea how I would rank it in Fincher's filmography. I probably hold Fight Club as my number 1....and that's all I've got.

    Great post, man.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. YES, you get it, or at least what I was trying to say. This film felt so oddly honesty despite the fact that it was so...insane. We are not these people because they don't exist and yet...we are these people because we get them...we totally get them.

      This is probably right under The Social Network and right above Fight Club for me, but ever so slightly. Top Tier Fincher is so incredible that they all might as well tie for first place.

      Delete
  9. Excellent review! As much as I liked the film (A-), I wish Fincher would do something else with his over-stylized skills. He's done so much MORE with genre fare, and this just felt a little like he was coasting. Everything on a technical level was precise, and the lead performances were terrific. Still, the film didn't find the right balance tonally for me, and the depth felt a bit shallow at times within the genre. I did like it a lot, though, and I hope it gets some nominations on Oscar morning.

    I have The Game on hand, but it haven't seen it yet. Right now, I'd put Gone Girl behind Se7en, Fight Club and The Social Network. I might even put Zodiac ahead of GG, but I need to watch the former again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ew, The Game is atrocious.

      I felt like Fincher really nailed the tone here. I'm kind of surprised that that was an issue with you. I felt like he captured the tonal inconsistency of marriage, that up down, high low, and managed to infuse the needed humor to make it all feel so awkwardly honest.

      Delete