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Gone Girl (R)




Gone Girl (R)
Film reviews by Amy Diaz

10/09/14
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



Gone Girl (R)

Ben Affleck is one handsome, guilty-looking man in Gone Girl, the best movie so far this year about a woman in peril.
A Walk Among the Tombstones, No Good Deed, the CBS TV show I can’t bring myself to watch called Stalker — terrorized women seem to be a big trend in fall 2014, a trend that’s exhausted me pretty fast. Gone Girl takes the bare-bones idea of a missing girl/suspected husband and has some serious, twisted fun with it.
On the morning of his anniversary, Nick Dunne (Affleck) leaves his suburban home in North Carthage, Missouri, heading eventually to The Bar, a watering hole we later find out he co-owns with his twin sister, Margo (Carrie Coon). While they are chatting — in large part about Nick’s difficult relationship with his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), and his unwillingness to return home to her — Nick gets a call from a neighbor who has spotted Nick and Amy’s cat wandering around outside the home. Nick returns to his house and finds the door slightly open, a coffee table upended and broken and his wife gone. Worried, he calls the cops. 
Pretty much immediately, Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and Officer Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) are giving each other the significant looks about the state of the house and about Nick. They bring him down to the station, take his DNA and get him to call Amy’s parents, who live in New York City — Rand (David Clennon) and Marybeth Elliot (Lisa Banes). By the day after Amy’s disappearance, Nick starts to screw up what a political campaign would call “the optics” of his situation. A too-big smile when he poses with his wife’s missing poster and later overly friendly behavior at a center for volunteers looking for Amy make him seem not particularly as grief-stricken as he should be, a fact quickly noted by Boney and Gilpin. In a matter of days, he is clearly the main suspect and TV news people such as the Nancy Grace-ish Ellen Abbot (Missi Pyle) are musing on whether or not he is a psychopath or his relationship with his sister is a little too close.
This movie does many things well, so let’s start with this facet — the relationship TV news has with a certain kind of crime, specifically the sensationalistic crime involving pretty blonde women who go missing. Gone Girl nicely plays with the cliches of the way these crimes are covered and how well even non-TV people know the cliche and know what will look bad for them. The day after his wife goes missing, Nick is set to appear at a press conference about his wife’s disappearance. He’s barely slept that night and in the morning his sister tells him he looks awful. He says he’s about to go shower and she says, no, don’t, you’ve been up all night and you need to look like you’ve been up all night. She realizes immediately that the appearance of being distraught is just as important (maybe even more important) as actually being distraught.
There is an added element of juiciness to Amy’s disappearance: She isn’t just any pretty blonde housewife, she’s a pretty blonde housewife who is moderately famous for being the inspiration for a series of books her parents wrote when she was a kid. “Amazing Amy” is the character they’ve gained great success writing about, a character, we’re told in flashbacks, whose life was similar to the real Amy’s but forever “improved upon.” If real Amy tried playing the cello one year, Amazing Amy became a cello prodigy. When Nick proposes to Amy, it happens at a book party for a book wherein Amazing Amy gets married. When the Elliots show up to start the search for their daughter, they call her Amazing Amy and even have that name as part of the website they set up to look for clues. They are better at the optics than Nick and immediately seem to get the grieving parents role down, even as they also, to us in the audience, seem like grieving parents whose website about their missing daughter probably includes a link to the books on Amazon.
So here’s the part of this review where I have to start getting cagey. If somehow you’ve managed to know absolutely nothing about Gone Girl, the It summer book of a few years ago, and you want to know nothing else going in, perhaps stop reading. I haven’t read the book (it’s been in the iPad shelf of things to sample for a while but, once I started hearing that the film was on its way, I decided I might as well wait for the movie) but I had a general idea of what this story was going in, a general idea that is spoilery but, I think, not too spoilery to talk about here. But, consider yourself SPOILER ALERTed.
The story of Nick and Amy’s relationship — its beginnings and how the marriage hit the skids — is  told via flashbacks that are, in large part, narrated by Amy via her diary. I think even if you saw this movie after just returning from a five year trip to Mars wherein you had no contact with the people and culture of Earth, you would probably catch on pretty quickly that Amy is not a completely reliable narrator. There are some clues early on, that while she is a pretty blonde with a trust fund and a sense of humor, she might also have a few elements of screwiness. The movie does a nice job of telegraphing facets of its characters and their relationships and mindsets through snippets of dialogue (in Amy’s case, remembered dialogue that seems occasionally too perfect and occasionally weirdly stilted) and little details. For example, Nick and Amy begin their relationship as writers living in New York City. But after job layoffs and a family illness, they decide to move to Nick’s native state of Missouri. You’d think a couple, with no children and no job prospects and previously stated money woes, would go modest when picking out a new dwelling. Apartment, maybe, or small, two-bedroom, one-bathroom type house. Nick and Amy lease a large suburban home, one that seems conspicuously too big for them, one that seems meant to convey an image of their life, regardless of how closely that image hews to reality. You could argue that perhaps homes in this depressed area (we’re told large employers recently closed) are just as cheap as an apartment but in a movie that seems careful with what its doing at all moments, this little matter of the house and what it means seems like another small block in this meticulously built construction that is both minor and load-barring. 
This perfection of detail is what helps make this two-hour-and-25-minute story seem tight. This was the first time in a while that I would have happily spent even more time with a movie that long. Though the central story is smart and strong and deliciously engrossing, this is the kind of movie where you’d love to go back and turn over some of the smaller details and moments as well — a quality which left me actually wishing I could get more. More of Affleck, who fits the movie like a glove, and more of Pike, who is, uhm, great? I wish I could be more explicit about what she does that works so well, but suffice to say, there are layers to Amy and Pike makes each one work. What’s particularly impressive about Affleck’s role is that, not only does it use all of his strengths but it turns anything you might be inclined to call a weakness into a strength. This is not a movie of good guys and bad guys but of morally compromised guys and careful guys and hapless guys and, in a few instances, bad guys. Shades of gray, even shades of very dark gray, get careful examination and Affleck and Pike lead the way in letting us see that.
Meanwhile, this movie wins the lottery when it comes to supporting cast. I haven’t watched The Leftovers, so I don’t know Carrie Coon before this, but sign me up for her fan club. Margo’s relationship with Nick and her tendency to be the audience’s proxy — the person who says something is crazy or that he’s being an idiot — doesn’t get her off the hook from having a few less-than-perfect character traits, namely her knee-jerk hatred of Amy. Casey Wilson shows up in a small role as a neighbor of the Dunne’s, one who perhaps enjoys her role as a key witness a little too much. Kim Dickens is excellent as the local detective on the case. She perfectly accomplishes the tone and personality that the dreary, high-class lady-detective TV shows of late (The Killing, for example) seem to be aiming for but missing. And here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write: Tyler Perry turns in a glittering, fun performance that might very well be his best. Or, to simplify, I unironically, unreservedly like a Tyler Perry performance. I know!
Gone Girl captures the must-watch dark-fun quality I think of when I hear the words “beach read.” Masterfully constructed, this movie is one you want to see, convince your friends to see so you can chat about it, and then go see again, just to marvel at all the little gems you missed the first time. A
Rated R for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity (including of the Affleck parts!), and language. Directed by David Fincher with a screenplay by Gillian Flynn (who also wrote the novel) Gone Girl is two hours and 29 minutes long and is distributed by 20th Century Fox.





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