By: Kevin Jordan
A plea for help.
After advanced movie screenings, we are always asked by the organizers of the screening what we thought of the movie. It’s an interesting thought exercise because you’re giving them your initial reaction to the movie based on as much thought as you can muster in the twenty-eight seconds it takes to walk out of the theater. Then, on the drive home, you’ll dwell on what you said, hoping you didn’t sound like a babbling fool. Or maybe that’s just me. When I was asked what I thought of Gone Girl, all I could do was stare blankly, but, luckily, my friend and formed her opinion and was sharing it. At that point, all I could do was hope they didn’t notice I was temporarily dumbstruck and, quite possibly, drooling on myself.
It’s pretty rare that I don’t have a good idea what I think about a movie by the time I get back to my car, but Gone Girl baffled me. My initial reaction was a mix between “that was a pretty good thriller” and “did we really just see Ben Affleck’s and Neal Patrick Harris’ junk?” and the thirty minute drive home did nothing to help resolve my mindset. The movie really was a pretty good, tense movie, but something was nagging the back of my brain through almost the entire film. What I came to realize after two days of racking my brain was this is exactly the type of movie that I started writing these reviews for and is a great example of a movie that needs to be discussed in detail. That also means I’m going to be spoiling a large portion of the film, so here’s my advice – I think this movie is worth a viewing and Rosamund Pike and Affleck are very good in this film. So, you have two options. Option 1 – stop reading, go see the movie, then come back and finish reading so you weigh in unbiased by me. Option 2 – keep reading, go see the movie with my thoughts in your head and then come back tell me your thoughts along with things I missed. Either way, I really want to get other opinions on this movie because I feel like maybe I missed something. Heck, I’d go see the movie again myself just to get my own second opinion.
(In case you nodded off at the end of the last paragraph, this is your last chance to look away from the upcoming SPOILERS.)
As you may already know, Gone Girl is an adaptation of a book by the same name. I have not read the book, but this is one of those rare occasions where the movie should be as good or almost as good as the book because both were written by the same person (Gillian Flynn). If you are like me, then the only thing you knew about the story was what the previews showed – Nick Dunne’s (Ben Affleck) wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike) has gone missing and, as the investigation goes on, the evidence hints that Nick killed Amy. The problem is that the film (and the book, according to my friend) never commits to this theory.
The film begins with a narration of Nick talking about unraveling Amy’s brains while he is stroking her hair, then quickly moves on to set up the premise. We are with Nick at his and his sister, Margo’s (Carrie Coon), bar when he gets a call from his neighbor that his cat is outside. We are with Nick the entire time and when he gets home, we both discover that his living room has been trashed and his wife is missing. Because we are with Nick this whole time, we know that he didn’t kill or kidnap and hide his wife, so we never believe, even for a moment, that he might be responsible. Like I said though, we’re not meant to and you can see why I continually advise you not to watch previews or at least not believe what they show you.
The first forty minutes or so are filled with the first few days of the investigation spliced with flashbacks based on Amy’s diary and seems as though the movie is going to conclude with Nick being arrested for killing Amy. Instead, at that forty minute mark (or so), they show us Amy. That’s right – the movie shows us Amy driving away the same day Nick finds her missing. The movie does a sort of reset to show us what she was up to during those first few days and that she staged the whole thing specifically to frame Nick for her murder. The first half of the film is spent trying to convince us that Amy was stuck in a dead-end relationship with a guy who became a deadbeat after losing his job and moving them to Missouri (from New York) to take care of his dying mother. We find out he’s been cheating on her, refused to have kids with her, and that he’s pushed her a couple of times. We feel sympathy for her and we’re expecting the rest of the movie to reveal the culmination of her plans and end with her vindication – something like her standing in the crowd outside a courthouse after his conviction (they make a big deal out of Missouri having the death penalty) and him spotting her just as he’s being put into a police car. Alas, we got something much weirder and much more confusing.
The reason for that nagging sensation in my brain is that Amy’s motives become convoluted to the point that, by the end, the only thing that makes sense is that she’s just crazy. The nagging began when she reveals that much of the stuff from her diary was fiction. She says the first part – the romantic part – was all true, but we’re not told where the fiction starts. The only thing we know for sure is that he really was cheating on her with that girl from the Robin Thicke, “Blurred Lines” video (Emily Ratajkowski) and we know this because we see them have sex in Margo’s house. In addition, Amy never blows the lid off the affair as part of her plan to frame him, even though she knew about the affair and revealing it would have fit very nicely into the frame job. So, if the affair wasn’t worth revealing and the other stuff was fiction, why the elaborate plan when Amy could just leave, especially because their money was all hers?
By this time, Nick has hired a big shot defense attorney named Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry). Don’t laugh, that’s the character’s name and he might be the most pointless character in the movie. After Nick tells him the story and his theory, Tanner’s response is “wow, she really screwed you over.” Nick asks what their plan is and Tanner’s $100,000 advice (that’s his retainer fee) is “our only chance is to find Amy.” Thanks Madea – I’m not sure Nick thought of that already. Tanner tasks two “ex-secret service guys” to find Amy and that’s the last we ever hear of their search. To summarize, Tanner basically laughs at Nick’s misfortune, gives legal advice that a gerbil could give, and fails to find even one clue as to where Amy might be hiding. If you can tell why he needed to be in this movie at all, you’re smarter than I am. The only thing Tanner does produce is the address of two of Amy’s boyfriends from more than a decade earlier and gives them to Nick (why Tanner doesn’t investigate these guys himself is another mystery). This is also where the movie basically does a 180 on the audience.
The first boyfriend tells Nick a story about how Amy framed him for raping her. He explains to Nick that Amy did this to him because he couldn’t change enough to please her. This adds weight to the crazy theory, but also manages to turn the audience against her – kind of. Are we supposed to be rooting for the vindictive, crazy Amy or the cheating, deadbeat Nick? I don’t know either, but it gets more confusing.
The second boyfriend, Desi (Neal Patrick Harris) enters the fray when Amy calls him to pick her up after she is robbed. At first, I thought he might be part of the plot, but he turns into the scapegoat when he tells Amy that he isn’t going to let her leave him again. This might have made sense had they spent any time whatsoever developing his character, but instead, all I could think about was how convenient it was that he happened to have a lake house within driving distance of Amy and Nick’s house even though they hadn’t seen each other in over ten years. While Desi isn’t completely pointless like Tanner, he still felt like a throw-in given how little screen time he has.
The movie wraps up with Amy killing Desi and framing him for her kidnapping and this is where the movie truly breaks down. A more developed Desi – maybe he’s been stalking her this whole time – ends up killing Amy and Nick discovers it and kills Desi. Or, Desi kills Nick, Nick still takes the fall for the kidnapping/murder of Amy, and karma kicks Amy in the vagina as she lives the rest of her life a captive of Desi. Either one of those maintains the original concept and resolves it quite tidily. Instead, Amy drives back to Nick’s house and the entire media captures them reuniting on their front lawn while Amy is covered in blood. After far too much epilogue, the movie ends with Nick trapped by Amy when she claims that she is pregnant by him. All I could do was sit there stunned that this movie could end as nonsensically and sloppily as it did.
For one thing, after Amy returns covered in blood, she spends the rest of the day not washing it off or having someone wash it off of her and nobody says anything about it. She even goes to a hospital to get checked out and they change her clothes, yet they leave the blood and even send her home still covered in blood. Huh? The movie also does a terrible job with the Desi angle and follow-up investigation, choosing to barely pay lip service to it so they can just wrap up the film. What’s maddening is that the first part of the film goes to great lengths to show us the investigation in detail, yet abandons it at the end, when it is just as needed. Plus, not only does the FBI suddenly and inexplicably show up (where were they this whole time?) at the hospital, but Detective Boney (Kim Dickens), the original detective on the kidnapping case, is literally moved to the back of the room and is ignored when she asks questions about the inconsistencies in the whole story. Her partner, Jim, will even verbalize this when, during Amy’s story about being tied up by Desi, Nick asks how Amy got the box cutter if she was tied up the whole time and Jim says, just shut and be happy she’s back. No, no, no. To top it all off, why would Amy go back to Nick after all of that if she wasn’t just crazy?
I realize I was rather long winded there, but those are the things I ended up thinking about when I tried to decide how good this movie actually was. So, now that you’ve read my thoughts and seen the movie yourself (right?), what do you think? What was Amy’s motivation? Was she really just crazy? Was this all about revenge? Was she trying to mold the perfect man? Was that just about the worst ending possible considering how many better, more logical, and satisfying ways in which the movie could have ended? Did we really just see Batman’s penis?
Rating: Hell if I know what this movie is worth – I just spent 2000 words explaining the large flaws in the screenplay after telling you I’d watch the movie again.