Gone Girl

Gone Girl ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Ignaity Vishnevetsky cued the Verhoeven similarities before the screening, and it's easy to see the pulpy self-referentialism (from sugar clouds to the dialogue—"vey meta") playing with the procedure in a way that exposes Fincher's digital obsessions here. But something is off from the start: Fincher's credits have never been so dull—a series of generic shots of small-town America—so it becomes strange to place his relationship to the material. Ironically because the material is so directly cued into his interests: the manipulation of narrative into data (or as Kasman calls it "facts"). Gone Girl plays like an urtext to Fincher's work, the idea of transforming evidence into narrative and the manipulations of that, whether it's the Rashomon debates of The Social Network, the wondrous final 15 minutes of Salander's cyber-revenge in Dragon Tattoo, or the entire play of analog evidence and its follies in Zodiac. Here it's all about the various evidentiary pieces and the narratives that can be formed from them: a murderous husband, an incestuous relationship, an American sweetheart ("they improved reality and peddled it to the masses"). Everything is just a series of numbers that you can mix and match given the functions (or psychological details of a narrative) you devise with them.

It's not that I don't find Fincher's interest in digital narrative and the manipulation of it compelling—I find it enthralling. But Gone Girl turns what's been an auteurist consideration of Fincher into the very text itself: there's no work left to be done here, it tells you everything it's about very plainly. When secondary cop Patrick Fugit notes that Nick is "being a good guy so everyone can see him being a good guy," that is exactly the kind of thing that Flynn puts down on page because she doesn't understand Fincher's camera can tell us that. The script always underlines and double underlines the camera, but not in a Verhoeven-Eszterhas way where it turns the underlines into their own contradictory mystery; everything just becomes plainly obvious that it at times threatens to turn Fincher's camera into "point and shoot."

Not all is lost of course. Along with his ace DP Jeff Croneweth and especially editor Kirk Baxter, there is still an understanding that every shot is a moment of data: a sudden pan from Amy seeing here parents to her new life with Nick, or an amusing match cut of the couple kissing to Nick being cotton swabbed. The hues of the digital cinematography are a bit less outspoken, only going nutty when appropriate (especially when we return to the house in the final 15 minutes). And the violence is all beautifully grotesque, the exactingness of what we need to see given complete clarity (as well as the digital static on Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross's score).

But look: there's a scene in a casino where Amy sees Nick's young conquest on TV giving a statement, and she starts uttering aloud contemptible lines that would give her way. Everything we are told by Amy is that she's ruthless, methodical, and exacting, but here we get a moment (one of many) where Flynn's writing gets the best of Fincher: a close-up on her eyes could have said everything. Compare this to my favorite moment in the movie: Amy watching Nick's TV interview, and the sudden drop of ice cream from her spoon that's only registered by the camera (one of many fantastic food moments in this movie). This is why Flynn's writing is so antithetic to Fincher's approach, just as the long montage that begins the second part of the film would have been better without the manifesto. We never really come to understand Amy—her desire to kill herself feels like a tossed joke with the post-its, her interaction with the hicks is simply a really terrible plot device to get her to Neil Patrick Harris' house (if we really want to have the hicksploitation debate, this is a much better candidate than any Alexander Payne movie). In all, we're told about Amy's frustrations a lot, but because of the subjective nature of the narrative, it never comes together as a coherent psychological portrait. That should be fine—Basic Instinct doesn't either—but too much of Gone Girl relies on us thinking we are getting equally inside Nick and Amy's head (parallel shots of surveilling outside a door) when only one really comes full circle.

Where were you guys when Soderbergh literally made the same movie a year ago?

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