Sometimes it’s a Fine Line between Bad and Bad.
In my experience there are two kinds of bad movies. The first is the easy one to spot; ineptly made, badly acted, lackluster direction, etc. Movies that are generally direct to video, if not made for cable, or worse, self-released. A lot of these movies are destined for the “so bad it’s good category” ala Plan 9 and The Room. The second kind of bad movie is the truly insidious kind; competently made, decently acted, okay direction, but there’s just something not right about it. Maybe it’s the writing, maybe it’s the pacing, but something is off. It’s bad, but you just can’t quite pinpoint what exactly it is that you don’t like. Gone Girl is a little bit of both kinds of bad, but mostly the latter.
Let me start out by saying that Gone Girl is based on a book. I have not read the book, nor do I intend to after watching the mind-numbing movie version. Maybe the book is better, doubtful, considering that the book’s author (Gillian Flynn) also adapted it for the screen, but I don’t plan on finding out. The movie is more than enough of a waste of time for my tastes.
I would also like to point out that I generally like director David Fincher’s films, but he seems to be going down the path of middle of the road mediocrity with his last few movies. The Social Network showed none of the subversive bent of Fight Club, nor does Gone Girl have any of the edginess of Seven or Zodiac. I never bothered to watch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but I doubt that I missed much with that one either. Fincher started out doing music videos and it shows in most recent work; all style (sort of) and no substance.
So what in the hell is Gone Girl about you might ask? Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck, who does a very good job with what he has to work with) is married to Amy (Rosamund Pike, who is also very good). Nick is a washed-up novelist and Amy writes quiz’s for papers. Amy’s parents also exploited her childhood for a series of crappy kids’ books called Amazing Amy. Amy comes from money, while Nick doesn’t. The two meet in New York five years prior to the events in the movie. The pair eventually moves to Missouri due to Nick’s mother getting sick, and in a series of flashbacks we find out their story. This is intercut with scenes in the present day where Amy goes missing on her and Nick’s anniversary, and Nick eventually becomes the prime suspect in Amy’s assumed murder.
As the film progresses we find out that Nick has been having an affair with a twenty year old student of his (he kind of teaches writing at some college), that Nick and Amy’s marriage has been on the skids for a while, and that Nick has apparently been getting violent with Amy. This is all being told through a diary that Amy has been writing for years, and one that the police end up finding half-burned in the furnace of Nick’s dad’s house. The police also learn that Nick has apparently been running up all sorts of credit card charges (putting the pair deeper in debt), and that they had recently bumped up Amy’s life insurance policy to over a million dollars. Nick claims ignorance on the credit cards and says the life insurance bump was Amy’s idea. The police also reveal that they found traces of blood at Nick and Amy’s house using luminal, and that it is consistent with a struggle. And here’s where the swerve comes in.
I normally don’t do this but I can’t really talk about the rest of the movie without spilling a major plot point, so if you want to avoid spoilers then I suggest you leave now. Seriously, don’t read any further if you don’t want the big secret revealed. I warned you.
Not only is Amy not dead, she chose to disappear so that she could frame Nick for her “murder” and send him to death row. I’m not going to go into the sheer absurdity of her plan (suffice it to say that there is no way the pieces would ever fall into place in an even semi-realistic movie) but is beyond ridiculous, and her motives are so weak that it is hard to swallow anything that happens after this. It doesn’t help that the movie slows to a crawl for a good twenty minutes or so after the reveal. Strangely enough, Tyler Perry is the only real stand-out of the last half of the movie (besides the utter stupidity of the plot) as a celebrity defense attorney that takes on Nick’s case.
Oh yeah, did I mention that the case becomes as big as the O.J. trial within three days? Well it does because, screw it, why not? Who cares at this point?
If the first two thirds of Gone Girl are a slow-burn trip from middle of the road Lifetime movie to full-on bonkers, then the last twenty minutes tries it’s hardest to reach Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans bug-nuts craziness; and it fails miserably. I’m not going to “ruin” the ending of this warmed over piece of trash, but just know that it’s bad. Real bad. Neil Patrick Harris (playing one of Amy’s ex-boyfriends) can’t even save this turd by the final act.
Gone Girl is a bad movie of the worst kind; one that has a high pedigree, but nothing to say. Fincher was a brilliant director at one time and he still gets good performances out of the actors he works with, but he’s missing something these days. His recent movies seem to lack style while simultaneously being devoid of substance. It doesn’t help that the plotting of this movie is so absurd; it’s almost an exploitation movie without the fun or titillation. Like a grindhouse without the grind. Maybe Gone Girl is the start of a new type of film movement. We’ll call it blandhouse.
Don’t take my word for it though; find out for yourself. Several people told me to watch Gone Girl and that it was good. I might never trust those people again, but apparently some people like it. The good news is that Affleck and Fincher are doing a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train next, and it’s probably going to be adapted by Gillian Flynn. What’s good about that you might ask? We’ll finally have a Hitchcock remake worse that Gus Van Sant’s Psycho.
Until next time…