not in our stars, but in ourselves
DISCLAIMER: Yes, it’s another article about Gone Girl. Yes, everyone is talking about it. No, I don’t care if you read this or not; I just need to say my piece.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way.
Last night, I saw Gone Girl. Going into it, I was slightly wary. While the film currently holds something like an 8.6/10 rating on IMDb, and while many critics have been quick to heap praises upon it, I’ve noticed some extremely negative reviews from critics who are, shall we say, slightly more thoughtful. However, I know David Fincher is a mostly capable director. I hadn’t read the book, but people who have claim it’s a great read. I had hopes.
Let me say some nice things first: the performances are pretty good. Everyone seems well cast, I’d say. Ben Affleck is eminently believable as a handsome lout of a husband; Rosamund Pike, likewise, as an ice-cold Cool Girl; even Tyler Perry as a witty and expensive lawyer. It’s beautifully/creepily shot. Trent Reznor’s score is interesting but not distracting. Let’s see. Is that it? Yes, I think so.
I could post this picture of Tyler the Creator, and let that stand as my review of Gone Girl.
It would be entirely accurate as a summary of my feelings, but I’ll give you something more, soul of generosity that I am.
Gone Girl is a nasty, nihilistic little movie. Quite a bit of ink has spilled about its misogynist tendencies, and those are there in abundance. Gillian Flynn, the author of the original novel and of the screenplay, claims that she doesn’t “write psycho bitches. The psycho bitch is just crazy – she has no motive, and so she’s a dismissible person because of her psycho-bitchiness.” Well, Gillian, I have news for you: you wrote at least a movie (I haven’t read the book, so I can’t say anything about it) about a psycho bitch. As this blog post (a review of the book) puts it: “Amy is not an interesting or compelling villain. She is the crystallization of a thousand misogynist myths and fears about female behavior. If we strapped a bunch of Men’s Rights Advocates to beds and downloaded their nightmares, I don’t think we’d come up with stuff half as ridiculous as this plot.” There’s that. It matters how women are represented in media. It especially matters how we treat each other. For every one Beyoncé, there are twenty million Taylor “I’m not a feminist!!!” Swifts. We could present ourselves as interesting, complex human beings. We could make it clear that our interests, desires, and hopes are as compelling as any man’s. We could dismantle all the myths about our fragility, passivity, shrewishness, etc. We could all be Clarice Starlings, in a word, but here we are. Stuck with a wildly popular psycho bitch, written by a woman instead of a basement-dwelling, fedora-wearing neckbeard. I despair.
My quarrel with Gone Girl goes beyond that, however. I highly recommend reading this, from Reverse Shot, because it expresses all my EXTREMELY negative feelings about the film. I will be less eloquent, I’m sure. Here goes: in short, this is an ugly movie about hideous people.
Cynical movies are fine by me, since cynics are heartbroken idealists, and I can relate. Dark movies are fine by me, because we all have our inner demons and furies and the like. I mean, for crying out loud, one of my favorite periods in film history is the Weimar Republic. You want to watch some twisted, pitch-black movies? Pick anything from Germany between 1919 and 1933. Furthermore, I read Silence of the Lambs in 48 hours, and then (from this past Friday to Saturday) Red Dragon in 24. I read articles about serial killers for fun. I am not afraid of the dark (except when I am).
This movie isn’t dark, though. This movie is hateful. This movie is empty. This movie is boring, frankly. This movie posits that (a) we are all essentially parasitic, (b) all our relationships are doomed to fail, (c) everyone lies all the time, and (d) being white is so stressful. Gone Girl gives us Nick (Affleck) and Amy (Pike), beautiful people who hate each other. Ho hum. They used to live in Manhattan, and now they live in Missouri. They resent each other. Ho hum. Nick teaches Creative Writing at a community college, and he’s fucking one of his students. Ho hum. Amy has been a miserable cunt from childhood onward, hating her parents and falsely accusing an ex-boyfriend of rape and generally being The Worst. Ho hum, ho hum, ho hum.
Look. We’ve all been in bad relationships, full of resentment and misery. We’ve all lied to ourselves, and probably others, about who and what we were. Guess what! Contrary to what Gone Girl posits, that’s not normal! That’s wrong! There are other ways! Sometimes, you fall in love and it doesn’t work out. That’s too bad. You learn, you heal, you move on. Sometimes, you fall in love and it does work out. You’re happy together, and you’re interested in each other, and you can talk to each other, and you feel better together than you do apart. I look at the couples I know, especially those whose marriages have lasted decades. They drive each other up a wall sometimes, the romance no longer features as heavily, they’re all thicker and more wrinkly now than they were way back when – but they all love each other. It’s obvious.
Not so, in Gone Girl‘s universe. It’s all nihilism here. There’s nothing to believe in, nothing to hope for. This movie hates you. This movie hates itself. This movie hates everything. Again: I am not opposed to a dark movie about difficult themes. I am very much opposed to a movie that treats everything – characters, plot, audience, everything – with pure contempt.
Who’s to blame? Allegedly, the book is more complex and fleshed out than the movie. This is to be expected, I guess, except for the fact that Flynn wrote both novel and screenplay. Fincher can be a hell of a director, but he isn’t exactly known for his optimism. Or his expertise on the subject of marriage. The pair of them, with their powers combined, have created a resoundingly horrid little film about dreadful little people. It’s not a satire, because it has nothing to say about anything, except that everything is terrible. Remember: as Nabokov said, satire is a lesson and parody is a game. What did we learn from any of this? It’s not a thriller, because the central thrill/mystery is revealed about halfway through the action; and, unlike the midway reveal in Vertigo (of which Gone Girl would obviously love to consider itself a descendant), the film ceases to offer anything worth caring about thereafter.
It’s all just nothing. It’s a nothing movie for nothing people, and if you found yourself amused or delighted by any of the horrors depicted within, you should be ashamed of yourself.