Wednesday, October 8, 2014

CURRENT REELS: DAVID FINCHER'S "GONE GIRL"


SPOILERS AHEAD. I have not read or heard of the book before watching Gone Girl (2014) and can talk about it only in terms of the film itself. I look at it as a blessing in disguise, for the impact of the immaculate twists and turns was completely fresh and provided a heightened level of suspense where some viewers, familiar with the source material, later told me the movie fell flat. I attended the earliest possible screening on a Wednesday morning, hoping for an empty theatre. Now, I want to return on the weekend at peak time and revel in the experience of watching others as they follow the roller coaster that is Gone Girl. The film is aces regardless, but the darkness and vastness of a good theatre seems essential for this genuine, all-inclusive thrill ride.

In ads, Gone Girl can be mistaken for yet another by the numbers, spouse kills spouse, B-grade thriller. But, this is Fincher, the closest we've come to a modern day Hitchcock. There will be more to it than that. The calculated reserve of previews is deceiving, but fitting for a film about appearances, perception, and media manipulation.


There are two notable Hitchcockian touches here:

1) The plot structure draws heavily on Psycho (1960). The cyclical narrative that breaks half way through by shifting protagonists is pleasantly unexpected. Yes, it has been done before, but not enough to become a steadily identifiable cliché. The viewer is forced to re-identify, but unlike with Psycho, where one protagonist was likable and innocent and the other a killer, Gone Girl provides two very flawed, unlikable people. There are flashes of  audience sympathy here and there, but mostly these people made their bed and are inclined to stay in it out of increasing want, not sheer necessity.

2) Beware the icy Hitchcock blonde. Such a woman is an abyss of smoke and mirrors, and Rosamund Pike nails her perfectly. In fact, I wish the Batfleck didn't distract from her as much as he did. It was her story, but the imbalance, perhaps because of his incessant, almost glaring recognizability, hovered throughout.

There's also been plenty of controversy. Every major outlet with a film section has an opinion on whether or not Gone Girl is a kind of feminist anthem or same-old misogynist fare. A man can lose his marbles, cheat, plot, abuse and just be perceived as a proper arsehole, whereas a woman is instantly and unapologetically branded a psycho for the same behaviour. Many argue the stance was much clearer in the novel (selfish, powerful, intelligent woman), but has been dangerously washed out on screen (crazy, conniving bitch). I think, it doesn't have to be either/or. It can easily be both. 

All in all, I'm happy to see a truly adult film about adults in an adult relationship and the complexity of navigating it in how they perceive themselves, each other, and how we perceive them. The masks they (and we) wear are at once plentiful and varied. 

The demographic for this is said to be 25 and over. I can equate the experience of watching Gone Girl to visiting one of those kid-free restaurants for a nice meal. No disinterested teens attached to their smartphones, no noisy children.  It was lovely.

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