This Man May Kill Me
A Film Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
“I will practice believing my husband loves me but I could be wrong. I feel like something to be jettisoned if necessary. I feel like I could disappear. I’ve finally realized that I am frightened of my own husband. The man of my dreams, this man of mine might kill me. This man may truly kill me.”
Gillian Flynn’s writing and David Fincher’s direction were a match made in heaven. Her tense, suspenseful thriller as ripe material for Fincher’s absolutely phenomenal direction, cutting right before the suspense goes away into another frame before he returns to that setting. Gone Girl, based on Flynn’s novel, has been a highly anticipated film since its announcement and rightfully so. There is a propulsive energy throughout the entire film where each frame manages to create suspense out of the most mundane shots possible. Amy is opening her door and there’s a terror before the shot suddenly moves to bright and sunny suburbia. As the promo materials have shown, the story of the film largely revolves around Nick and Amy Dunne. One day, he appears home and his wife is seemingly missing. Ensues a perfect media circus over which Nick becomes sympathetic, suspicious, hated, and loved. Did he kill his wife? Did he kidnap and hide her? Why? Where? How? When? What truly happened? In cases of missing individuals, the spouse is the one most often under suspicion. Perhaps he got bored of her. Was there a younger girl involved? The best trick of the film is not truly realizing where the film is ultimately going until the last ten minutes or so and even then the most innocuous moments are fraught with tension because that’s what you’ve come to suspect. The central question at the heart of Gone Girl is how well do you truly know someone? And when they reveal the basest versions of themselves (because they do exist) and all the lies are laid bare before one another, does anything worth salvaging remain? “That’s marriage,” Amy at one point replies vindictively. And is she right
The best part about Gone Girl is how it rarely spares anyone some semblance of scathing indictment. Nick is a philandering a****** who treats his wife as if she just sort of exists to be there. Nor he is as self-confident, mature, and intelligent as he consistently presented himself. As a boyfriend, he was perfect. As a husband with actual responsibilities, steadily he became something far, far less. He’s removed from reality and is deep discontent and resentment fuels nothing but misery into their relationship. He molded Amy into the cold pizza for breakfast and drinks canned beer. And her struggling nonchalance became something he took for granted, cheating on her and staying out late every night because he knew that she didn’t want to become the nagging wife. There’s a ton of sympathy in the beginning for him as you genuinely believe him, but slowly the chips began to fall away. A great caper that the movie manages to execute to perfection is as the movie precedes and Nick becomes more innocent of the crime that he’s been accused of, the more smug and confident he becomes, leading the audience to believe that he indeed committed the crime. Ben Affleck is expertly cast as he can go from innocent to loathsome to smug to nonchalant between seconds of each other.
The supporting cast is absolutely brilliant. Tyler Perry is cast in the film as Tanner Bolt, a lawyer with a $100,000 retainer who often represents men reviled in the media. A man like that needs to be inherently charismatic and Perry absolutely nails the part. It might be the best performance he’s ever given. Neil Patrick Harris is Desi Collins, Amy’s ex that she finds refuge with. She quickly realizes how he became even more oppressive than Nick’s neglect and abuse. And then comes Nick’s interview, where he becomes as smug and confident as Amy had always wanted him to be. Desi gets his throat slit by a box cutter and Amy finds her way back home, a heroic escape for America’s sweetheart. And the upcoming mother of Nick’s child. Carrie Coon is amazing as Nick’s sister Margo. She takes no crap from him, giving him the tough love that he so often needs. Kim Dickens is sharp and amazing as Detective Rhonda Boney, adding layers of nuance and thought into a character who could have become a caricature so quickly. Patrick Fugit is good in the few scenes he has, the immediately suspicious officer to Detective Boney who nails the dead pan humor he’s so often given.
Gone Girl is one of the strongest indictments of the media and celebrity I’ve ever seen. It’s an extremely cynical but unfortunately accurate depiction of how the media chases a story and becomes obsessed with it, adding in its own spice without any care in the world for any integrity and honesty whatsoever. To top it off, they have the most pathetic response with the defense of their “journalistic” principles. And the characters who embody it the most are Missi Pyle’s Ellen Abbott and Sela Ward’s Sharon Schreiber. Abbott is basically Gone Girl’s version of Nancy Grace, almost down to the hair. She grabs a story and runs with it with the defense of being in favor of women’s rights, which she understands to be the impetus for basically running with a story, influencing public opinion, and nabbing the most headlines possible out of a single story. Abbott’s smile at the end when the Dunnes announce their pregnancy is so vile, it’s vomit inducing. Schreiber is less vindictive and despicable, but she isn’t above the whole nabbing stories for ratings thing. The perils of celebrity are on full display here. When someone approaches you for an autograph or a picture, if you can you kindly oblige for a quick second before you move on. But in this case, when his wife is missing, it’s a highly suspicious and even despicable move. Two quick pictures with that charming smile as Amy puts it creates a hailstorm in the celebrity-oriented media intent on destroying someone without any substantial evidence, whether or not they’re guilty. The perception of reality, more often than not, can become more powerful than reality itself and this is the prey the tabloid media is so intent on capturing.
The tour de force of the entire film goes to Rosemund Pike. Pike gives the absolute best performance of her entire career, commanding every single frame that she’s in. No one comes close to the sheer power of her Amy, no matter how hard they tried. Perhaps it’s because this is such a pointedly powerful, sharp, intelligent role for an actress who can basically do any role and sell it with aplomb. Her Amy is cruel, vindictive, humiliated, hurt, a malignant narcissist who believes so firmly in her own brilliance (not entirely her fault), that the neglect just carves away at her. Throughout most of her life, she has constantly been molded by other people, especially her parents. They created a series of children’s books named Amazing Amy, embellishing her childhood so it became perfect. Amazing Amy mastered the cello. Amy only attended a single lesson. And that brilliance was always tied to Amy at every single waking moment of her life. Even when her parents were requesting help to find her, they never said Amy. They said Amazing Amy. And that brilliance seeped into every single facet of her existence, always her shadow, always her better half, whether she wanted it to exist in that fashion or not. When she became an adult, that Amazing Amy had fed a malignant narcissism that had taken firmly ahold of her, refusing to let her go. Rarely were men good enough for her and when they began to treat her as disposable, she removed them from her life by hook or by crook as a just punishment of sorts. She’s a Hitchcockian blond through and through, seemingly innocent and revealing herself to be far more conniving and cunning than anyone could have expected of her. And when she comes back home, the darling of the media, she finds an equal in Nick. He finally became as clever and smart as he was when she first met him, before the recession had hit and turned their lives upside down. But as the film comes to a close, it’s obvious that it’s the ultimate feminist revenge against a ubiquitous misogyny. He had killed her identity and he would die for it, literally or figuratively. Poetic justice, perhaps. It’s a loveless eternity they’re both resigned to, but it’s one in which they’re finally equals, their basest, most cruel selves lying out in the open. Amazing Amy never existed and she’s certainly never coming back.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+Reznor and Ross’s score is amazing
+A bar called “The Bar” is brilliant in its simplicity
+Robot dog and cat
+The opening and final shots emulating one another
+Spitting in the Mountain Dew
+The golf course slip-up
+“You two are the most fucked-up people I have ever met, and I specialize in fucked-up people.”
+“You. F***ing. B****.”
+“What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What have we done to each other? What will we do?”
+Officer Gilpin: “You ever hear the expression the simplest answer is often the correct one?”
Detective Boney: “Actually, I have never found that to be true.”
+Margo: “ Whoever took her is bound to bring her back.”
+Tanner: “Whatever they found, I think it’s safe to assume that it is very bad.”
+Amy: “There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every ****ing thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain.”
+The two finger “I love you.” So much symbolism right there.
Title: Gone Girl
MPAA Rating: R
Director: David Fincher
Produced by: Leslie Dixon, Bruna Papandrea. Reese Witherspoon Ceán Chaffin
Screenplay by: Gillian Flynn
Based On: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens
Music: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
Cinematography: Jeff Cronenweth
Editing: Kirk Baxter
Production Company: Regency Enterprises, Pacific Standard
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Running Time: 149 minutes
Release Dates: September 26, 2014 (NYFF), October 3, 2014 (United States)
Image Courtesy: Indie Wire Blogs