Gone Girl: A Riveting, Well-Directed Lifetime Movie of the Week

gone-girl-new-posters-releasedAn hour ago I got home from a packed showing of the new movie Gone Girl. The subject line pretty much summarizes my perspective on the movie: It’s a well-produced film, and it held my attention throughout, but overall the story itself felt like an embellished, overdramatic Lifetime movie or soap opera. Is it worth watching? Sure, you’ll get your money’s worth, and it’ll be fun to talk about with your coworkers.

Plus, watching it will let you read the rest of this entry, which is FULL OF SPOILERS.

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I’ll start with the good:

  • The movie is very well-directed. David Fincher continues to show he’s one of the best in the business, although I’m sensing a disturbing pattern in the violence in his movies, particularly sexual violence: Seven, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Zodiac, Fight Club, and now Gone Girl.
  • The acting is pretty good.
  • The 5-10 minutes immediately after you learn that Amy is alive are some of the best minutes in the movie. It’s really interesting to see how she planned the “perfect” fake murder.
  • I thought Ben Affleck’s character was perfectly written. He acts like someone actually would in those circumstances, like when he smiles for a brief second during a press conference. Basically, he acted like a human in stark contrast to Amy’s character–I’ll get to that in a minute.
  • The cat was awesome.

Now for the bad:

  • For the first 5 minutes of the movie, I had no idea what the main actress was saying. There was something really odd about the sound editing, and I think it’s connected to the British actress’s American accent. She doesn’t project enough for you to hear her clearly.
  • The press’s reaction to Amy’s disappearance seemed way overblown. Maybe I just don’t watch enough daytime talk shows and local news, but do stories like these really capture the nation’s attention? I bet stuff like this happens all the time, and there’s no way every network in the country ends up camping out in front of the house. It comes across as self-important writing to me.
  • The movie combines the narrative device of Amy’s voiceover reading her journal to the audience while we’re shown flashbacks of what she’s describing. The device is good because we trust Amy’s writing (until we learn it’s a lie). However, we’re also shown scenes that never actually happened. Amy made them up, so there should be no visual available to pair with them. The viewer needs to be able to trust the camera even when we can’t trust the characters, so this was a big letdown for me.
  • Amy is way too good of a liar. I stopped watching Law & Order a long time ago, partially because I watched The Wire and realized that all other cop shows paled in comparison, and partly because every character on Law & Order is the best liar in the world. No one lies that well in real life! When someone lies that well, the veil between fiction and reality is solidified, and I stop thinking of the character as a less of a person and more like an actor.
  • Why was Amy carrying around all of her cash all the time after she escaped (like to mini golf)? I guess she needed to have it in case she needed to make a run for it at any time, but wouldn’t she keep it strapped around her hip? It’s a little thing, and it makes sense that Amy would make a mistake at some point, but it seemed contrived.
  • Amy’s plan appears to be that she wanted to frame her husband, get him sentenced to death, then kill herself. Some of that makes sense, but why would she want to kill herself? That would make sense if her husband had been a terrible person who left her emotionally scarred for life, but that’s how Amy describes Nick in the journal, not how Nick is in real life (he’s not a hero, but he’s also not the villain).
  • On that note, I had a hard time rooting for anyone. This is a little odd to me, because there are some “good” characters, but they’re not particularly likable. The best candidate would be the lead detective, but in terms of screen time, she’s barely in the movie. I need someone to root for if I’m to love a movie. In this case, only the cat caught my eye.

That’s just me. Did you see it? What do you think?

7 thoughts on “Gone Girl: A Riveting, Well-Directed Lifetime Movie of the Week”

  1. Thanks for the review, Jamey. I raf the intro and skipped the spoilers, as I’ll be going to see this with my wife soon. She is dying to see it. It will be our first date since moving to the UK almost four months ago (we have three little ones). I’ll come back for the rest of the review/spoilers after I’ve watched it.

    Reply
  2. I had a few head-scratching moments with the film as well, but not the same ones you did, necessarily.

    1. This sound mixing bothered me too at first, and I was worried that the whole film would have dialogue that was hard to hear. But it went away rather quickly and the rest of the film was fine. I was curious and did some digging, and I saw an explanation that it could be because those were the scenes that were flashbacks to their earliest memories together, so they were meant to be kind of foggy and fuzzy, like a memory from years ago would be in your mind (it’s noted that those happier times in the diary actually happened, so she was reaching back to remember things that were said, etc.).

    2. It wasn’t just another disappearance; it was “Amazing Amy.” If someone disappears who is the subject of a well-known book series, it’s going to get covered to death, especially by news personalities like Nancy Grace, who the Ellen Abbott character was skewering. Add in that she was rich, young, white (and then pregnant to boot), and you’ve got a ratings hit for the 24-hour news networks and talking heads. The news coverage for cases like Laci Peterson and Caylee Anthony were insane, and they weren’t even known by the public before their disappearances.

    3. I think this was all part of the unreliable narrator, and a great way to build suspicion as to whether Nick was guilty or not. If you view it from the detective’s standpoint (for whom the diaries were really intended), you can see them building this case in their mind as they visualize these fake scenarios that Amy has made all too real. It’s all part of creating this narrative that they then tear down for the second half of the film.

    4. Sociopaths lie that well. Like it’s their job. They’ve lied all of their life, and some are even good enough that they can pass a lie detector test if needed.

    5. From what I gathered, Amy had the cash in one of those tourist belts that you tie around your waist under your clothing. However, when she jumped in the air, it became untied and fell out from under her baggy shirt. I don’t think she trusted leaving it in her room since someone could easily break in, but she needed to double-knot that shit if she was really smart.

    6. Another hallmark of sociopaths is that they can be incredibly vindictive. I think Amy had her “Cool Girl” persona that she’d worked so hard to craft, and Nick destroyed that by moving her to the Midwest and cheating on her. She felt like every part of her identity had been taken away from her, so she wanted to take everything away from him. When she was in the thick of it, the thought was all-consuming and seemed like the best way to really make sure he received the death penalty. However, as she got further away from him physically, she seemed to realize that she could start a new life, which is why she kept moving or throwing away those dates she’d marked on her calendar to kill herself. The distance gave her slightly more perspective, at least where that part was concerned.

    7. I liked that they were both pretty despicable people. Nick is just enough of a creep that you don’t really want to root for him, but Amy is so insane that you feel sorry for him a little bit at the same time. Just like i don’t need for there to be a happy ending with each film, I don’t need a black and white, “good vs. evil” set of characters either. I think it makes it more realistic that way, actually. They were both flawed people (more extreme in some ways than others) and watching what happens when their lives start to implode was more interesting that if Nick had been this picture perfect husband that never did anything wrong.

    ______

    Two things that really bothered me were the blood on the floor during the staged kidnapping. According to the forensic tech, the amount of blood was so great that Amy wouldn’t have been able to just get up and walk away, but that’s exactly what she did. I felt it would be more realistic if she’d built up a blood supply over several weeks or months and then used that to stage the scene. Also, when Amy showed back up, where was the supposed gash from which all this blood was spilled? If it was that severe, you’d think she’d still have it even weeks later (or a new scar at the very least). So why didn’t the cops question the lack of an injury? I’m sure Detective Boney would have if given the chance, but she kept getting shut down, unfortunately. I loved that shared look between her and Amy in the hospital though. She knows Amy is full of it, and Amy knows she knows she’s full of it, but Amy’s smug because she’s going to get away with it anyway.

    I also found it hard to believe that when Amy was in hiding that her neighbor friend at those cabins in the Ozarks didn’t recognize her when they were sitting there watching coverage of her disappearance. Her hair was a shade or two darker and she was wearing glasses, but she was still very recognizable. They could have made so much more money by calling up the news networks for an exclusive interview than whatever amount they stole from Amy. That was probably the hardest plot-point for me to swallow.

    Overall though, I did really enjoy it. It’s a sick and twisted movie to be sure, but I thought it was well-made. Sorry for the long response!

    Reply
    • Katie: Thanks for your detailed reply! That’s interesting about the sound in the flashbacks. I think I prefer better sound in flashbacks than that artistic style. 🙂

      That’s a fair point about the press and “Amazing Amy.” I thought it was clever how her parents treated the whole thing kind of like a publicity stunt.

      I’m okay with unreliable narrarators, but…in this case, it just didn’t work for me. The camera was my anchor–it’s job was to tell me what really happened. Because once you stop trusting the camera, how can you trust any scene in the movie?

      I keep reading your comment, and you’re so pro-Amy! Are you Team Amy, Katie? 🙂

      That’s a great point about the gash Amy should have had! I didn’t even think of that.

      As for Ozark Amy, I thought she was pretty convincing. She looked completely different. She put on glasses, Katie! Glasses!

      Reply
      • The plausibility of Amy’s journey back home definitely is head-scratching—especially for someone who is supposedly extremely intelligent. Having read the book, I was hoping Flynn would have revised some of this in her screenplay, especially since it was very forced/rushed in the novel. Like…

        I understand that she doesn’t want to be traced, hence the $10K in cash, but if I were in her shoes, I wouldn’t be talking to anyone in a run-down cabin complex in the Ozarks (especially with that shoddy transformation job). And if I did talk to people and go mini-golfing with them, that belt would have been triple-knotted.

        I actually threw the book when I was reading the part about how she went to a casino to get Desi to help her out. Let’s just go to a place where there are cameras EVERYWHERE…and somehow the police still won’t have a clue!

        However, Flynn did flesh out Amy’s captivity (for lack of a better word) at Desi’s lake house a little more, and I really appreciated seeing that. NPH and Pike were great in those scenes, and I think they definitely helped cement Pike’s Oscar nomination. I’m not necessarily pro-Amy, but I’m definitely pro-Pike…she ran away with the second half of the movie.

        Re: the gash, Flynn also changed how the blood got on the floor. In the book (sorry I’m becoming that person), Amy used a chef’s knife to gash her upper arm and bled out on the floor. She said something about feeling the blood loss. I’m guessing it would have been a little gruesome to show that? Though I guess seeing her sterilely draining herself of blood had that creepy, sociopath-y effect, too.

        Reply
        • Andrew: Great points here. I totally agree about the triple-knotted money belt and the casino appearance! I think Amy got caught up in her own cleverness, and she wanted to experience other people’s reactions to her.

          It’s interesting that you’re pro-Pike for the Oscar. I thought she did okay, but her acting was really stilted in my opinion. Maybe that was intentional.

          I see what you’re saying about the knife wound. It may have been less gruesome, but we got plenty of gruesome later in the movie anyway.

          Reply
      • Am I Team Amy??? Could anyone in their right mind really be Team Amy? She’s an interesting character to be sure, but I can’t quite put myself in the camp of a psychopath who falsely accuses men of rape, sets up her husband for murder, and manipulates an old friend before killing him with a box cutter in bed. I don’t know if that makes me Team Nick, but I’m definitely not Team Amy! 🙂

        Hey, if the glasses worked for Clark Kent, they can work for Amy, I guess!

        Reply

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