GONE GIRL C
USA (149 mi) 2014 ‘Scope d: David Fincher Official Site
—Cool Girl speech from the novel Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, 2012
That night at the Brooklyn party, I was playing the girl who was in style, the girl a man like Nick wants: the Cool Girl. Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.
Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl…Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version—maybe he’s vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every f***ing thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like “I like strong women.” If he says that to you, he will at some point f*** someone else. Because “I like strong women” is code for “I hate strong women.”
One of the more cynical movies seen in awhile, ugly and calculating, a horrible comment on the vapid emptiness of American society, painting a cruel portrait of a soulless age, yet it’s a dark satiric comedy that actually pokes fun of just how clueless the public remains of the hidden truths taking place in their midst, caught up in the windstorm of the latest political hysteria that leaves them blind by the filtered bullshit that passes for news these days, where they become numbed beyond hope, like walking zombies taking the place of what were once human beings. Fincher’s film is as infuriatingly hopeless as anything Béla Tarr ever concocted, but instead of dreary black and white social realism, it’s a trashy best selling book becoming an equally trashy best selling movie, where the Hollywood production machine is in high gear, pumping out artificiality with great relish. It’s another marriage on the rocks movie that veers out of control into Mary Harron’s American Psycho (2000), where Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, pilloried by the public after being suspected of killing his missing wife Amy (Rosamund Pike), is no Christian Bale, where the exaggerated absurdity of the lynch mob public out for blood never compares to the heightened excess on display from Wall Street’s impeccably stylish Me Generation, jump started by Reaganomics opening the doors for unscrupulous business entrepreneurs in the 1980’s to rake in the money like the actual thieves they were. The difference is the 1991 Bret Easton Ellis novel is actually a hilariously clever critique of the consumer culture of the 80’s, while this unraveling marital thriller exposing the beast that lies within is more like mixing the wildly popular Jacqueline Susann books with a dose of Stephen King, as Gillian Flynn’s airport novel spent more than 71 weeks on the New York Times hardcover best-seller list, and sold more than 6 million copies before it even came out in paperback. The book (and subsequent movie) is a pale comparison to the shattering portrait of the idealized 1950’s marriage depicted in the excruciatingly personal 1961 Richard Yates novel Revolutionary Road, seemingly the perfect couple to all outsiders, played by the idyllic TITANIC (1997) couple Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2008 Sam Mendes film version, living in their wonderful dream house in the suburbs, where clearly the foundation of their success was the male-centric world of America in the 1950’s, a deluded American Dream that quickly disintegrates into marital dysfunction, as it denies the aspirations of women.
In pointed contrast, the superficiality on display in Fincher’s film may turn off many viewers, as it thrives on the artificiality of the surface, literally mocking the shallowness of society while the unhappy lives of the featured couple takes a turn into the dark side, even delving into horror as Fincher’s vision seems designed to make the audience feel as uncomfortable as possible and then leave them in the lurch by providing few answers. The offensiveness of the smug, overly detached tone, however, may hit everyone differently, where it’s reminiscent of the exaggerated sarcasm of von Trier’s DOGVILLE (2003), which couldn’t be more irritating. Using a back and forth dual narrative scheme of he said, she said, where we’re privy to his interior narration and also what she writes in her diary, including flashback sequences that reveal her perspective on a crumbling romance, what’s immediately clear is that both narrators are consummate liars and cannot be trusted to convey the truth about their own stories. Their home is a house of mirrors where they continually pretend to be something they’re not, fuming with displeasure underneath while both playing the part in public of a perfect marriage. Whatever love or attraction may have been there at the outset has been twisted and contorted into a marriage that is a big lie, where the original romance was a con job, and once their guard has been let down what’s exposed are the frayed nerves, where these two have little use for one another except for keeping up appearances. While there’s plenty of glib back and forth conversation when they first meet, each trying to be more clever than the other, they are apparently easily charmed, where Nick proposes as if on cue, and the next thing you know they’re married, moving away from their beloved New York to Missouri to be near Nick’s seriously ill mother who dies of cancer, leaving them alone in a gigantic house that feels unlived in and empty most of the time. While Nick is more comfortable in the Midwest, having grown up there with friends and acquaintances, he runs a non-descript neighborhood bar with his twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon) that gives him an excuse to get away from Amy as much as possible, while she scribbles in her diary (with perfect penmanship) aimless thoughts that barely touch on the extent of her growing resentment.
Amy’s parents “plagiarized” her life, actually improving upon it in a popular series of children’s books called Amazing Amy, leaving her unsure of her real identity, but always struggling to be better than the rest, where she has become an ice princess that continually speaks in a calm, reassuring, overly breathy voice that feels very much like an over-controlled robotic Stepford wife from THE STEPFORD WIVES (1975), where she has to emote perfection with every spoken word. Certainly that would drive any man crazy after awhile, especially when used in a patronizing manner of never-ending superiority, where Nick is contemplating walking out on the marriage. A clue for the audience is the sound of Blue Öyster Cult on the radio singing “(Don't Fear) The Reaper” (Don't Fear) Halloween You Tube (5:11), which figures so prominently in John Carpenter’s slasher horror film HALLOWEEN (1978). On their 5th wedding anniversary, the date of his planned breakup announcement, he returns home from work in the early afternoon and finds his house broken into, a coffee table smashed, a few blood stains on the wall, and his wife missing. Within days, he’s the chief suspect, where the investigative team of Detective Boney (Kim Dickens) and Officer Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) keep unearthing new evidence, much of which Nick has no knowledge about. His sense of indifference to his wife’s life and subsequent absence is more reflective of his lazy and distant self, but once the cameras are parked outside his door, it opens the floodgates to media speculation, where he is raked over the coals in the tabloids and on a FOX TV style station run by a vicious rumor mill host (Missi Pyle) hellbent on using him to avenge all wronged women, where her continual diatribes run endlessly on the neverending TV news cycle, playing even in the local police precinct. This lynch mob mentality has convicted the guy in public, plastering his face all over the airwaves, destroying his character, calling him a wife killer, reminiscent of the blanket national coverage surrounding Drew Peterson, who was alleged to have killed his third and fourth wives, where the body of the latter has never been found. A 30-year police veteran, Peterson was familiar with forensic evidence, wasn’t bashful with reporters, and seemed to thrive on all the attention he was receiving in the national spotlight.
To a large extent, this is a film about character assassination juxtaposed against a murderous assassination, where the impact of the first is a whole lot more damning than the second (where you actually have a day in court), which is a dangerous comment on a society that overlooks reality in order to exist in a self-induced fantasy, continually blaming the other guys for all of society’s woes, while refusing to look in the mirror and take any responsibility. It has pretensions to Gus van Sant’s To Die For (1995), veering into the crazy psychopathic territory of Tuesday Weld in Pretty Poison (1968), as it plays with this seemingly fixated need for attention, where you’re willing to do anything to get it, which will leave at least some viewers literally refusing to be scammed and manipulated once again by Hollywood’s pretend version of reality. It ends up being an exaggerated murder farce where the act of murder doesn’t remotely match the damage done by outright lies and misinformation produced by the made-up hypotheses of so-called experts in creating a whirlwind of mass hysteria generated by the media, usually in attack mode smearing someone’s character, for which they take no responsibility, hiding behind 1st amendment rights that it’s only freedom of speech, where people have the right to say anything they please. Nick is caught up in an illusionary maze of deceit, a puzzle-like trap where he’s left trying to figure out why all this is happening to him and how he can escape. Turning to an ace defense attorney Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) with an expertise in representing maligned offenders who are perceived as being the most vile and contemptible creatures on the planet, he slowly tries to gather some semblance of his life back as the noose is tightened around his neck by this continuing police investigation fed by malicious rumors. Bolt delivers perhaps the sanest line in the film: “You two are the most fucked up people I've ever met and I deal with fucked up people for a living.” Reminiscent of Rolf de Heer’s ALEXANDRA’S PROJECT (2003), another film that turns the tables on an the idea of male idealization, this $61 million dollar Hollywood fiasco feels more like a B-movie where The Stepford Wives meets The Twilight Zone through a wretchedly overwrought Scarlett O’Hara style melodrama that veers into sci-fi territory where aliens are the species pretending to be human, as people have already lost all semblance of their humanity. While this is obviously the work of a control freak who delights in conniving and manipulating the lives of others, where every film is a variation of PANIC ROOM (2002), Fincher has a reputation as being a perfectionist, where according to producer Ceán Chaffin, Fincher took, on average, as many as 50 takes for each scene, where it should also be pointed out that on the first day on the set, Ben Affleck changed the lens setting on the camera by the slightest degree, betting the crew Fincher wouldn’t notice, only to have Fincher take a look through the lens and exclaim, “Why does the camera look a little dim?”
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
—Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5, 1606