Friday, March 13, 2015

The Strange Review: Gone Girl

This is going to be a spoiler filled reviewed, so if you haven't seen "Gone Girl", GO WATCH IT, it's good! Since this is a spoiler review I'm going to talk about "Gone Girl" under the assumption that you've already seen it, so I won't rehash plot points, just discuss them. The reason I'm writing this is because there are a lot of reviews out there and I have to say one review in particular made me go "Seriously?". While I won't be writing in response to that review, I will be writing my thoughts on "Gone Girl" as a movie and it's overall themes. Please keep in mind that this is a review of the movie, NOT THE BOOK! But considering the screenwriter is the author, I think it's safe to say I'm looking at a pretty reliable adaptation. LAST CHANCE!! And now, "Gone Girl".

So right off the bat, let me start off by saying I NEVER thought Nick Dunne killed Amy. Not for one second. I'm not saying that because I'm smarter than the rest of you or because I had some inside scope on the matter. The reason I knew Nick didn't kill Amy is because of when he came home he was just as surprised as anyone else would be to find something amiss. Basically, he had no one to "act for". So unless Nick was coming home and acting surprised (for no one) that his wife was missing, I'd say based off of that alone, I knew he didn't kill Amy and never questioned it for a second. Just so we're clear.

With that outta the way let's get to the movie proper. Full disclosure, I was planning on writing a screenplay titled "Mary", about a Police Officer who finds the eponymous Mary chained up in a man's basement. Upon rescuing Mary, the Police Officer soon discovers that he really should have left her there. The only reason I'm telling you this now is because this movie pretty much did what I did not, and by that merit alone, I absolutely loved it. As an objective critic, I thought the story and it's presentation of the story was handled very well. There was humor, there were legitimate shocks and there were moments where I was sitting and staring at the screen like;

Any movie that can do that to me is well worth the price of admission. The running time of this movie is long and parts of it seemed to drag, but I can't really think of a frame a scene that was wasted, so in that respect the running time is justified. Everyone did a great job on this movie, even Tyler Perry & Neil Patrick Harris (who I was concerned about). But everyone brought it, they all hit the right notes and tones for where they needed to be. The story was engaging and I think was a story that hasn't really been told that often, or at least not in this respect. Can you imagine if this movie came out during The O.J. Simpson Trial?! Anyways, that concludes my objective critique of the movie. I loved it.

My subjective critique (although, I don't really think it's subjective given the fact that Amy is the central antagonist throughout the movie) is The Victim Card. Amy is a genius at playing The Victim and it's a role she's played for quite sometime. This is made evident when Nick goes to meet Amy's former boyfriend Tommy, who she framed for rape. False Rape accusations and the effects thereof aren't really discussed in society today and it was refreshing to see that. While Amy planted considerable evidence that Tommy raped her, the sex was in fact consensual. But this proves what many have been saying all along, that rape is largely a "He Said, She Said" Crime, ESPECIALLY if there is alcohol involved. And more often than not The Police take the female side of the case, because it's easier to believe a man raped a woman than he's being framed for it.

This is even further proved when Officer Gilpin continually expressed is belief that Nick was guilty. Det. Boney was skeptical and was only doing her job of going where the evidence led her (which would have led to Nick being guilty). But Gilpin had no such skepticism and constantly urged Boney to arrest & charge Nick. Gilpin can be characterized as a "White Knight". A Male Figure who instantly takes the female side of any dispute because it'll boost his status. Gilpin's "White Knight" status is made clear by 2 things. The first thing is the fact that Gilpin is Boney's #2, notice, Boney is the Detective, Gilpin is merely her back up and is also not a Detective, therefore he isn't on equal footing with Boney. I am not saying he should be. What I'm saying is he's in a servant role of Boney, as White Knights are in a servant role to women. The 2nd thing is when Amy, upon returning, tells her story to the FBI, Nick instantly notices an odd detail "How did she manage to get a boxcutter, if he had her tied up the hold time?" which is a valid question that any Officer worth their salt would ask, but Officer Gilpin considers this for what can't even be called a moment before he says "Can't you just be happy your wife is home and safe?".

Shut up and be happy!

This dismissal is due to the fact that Gilpin still sees Nick as "The Bad Guy" in the scenario. Even after Nick is exonerated of all charges and proven NOT to have killed his wife, Gilpin's attitude towards Nick is still chilly. This brings me to Detective Boney. Boney was a good character, at first I didn't like her, but as the film progressed, I realized that Amy's frame job was just too good and unlike Gilpin, Boney was just doing her job and going where the evidence lead her. Boney is clearly the most impartial character in the movie as you can see her skepticism of Nick's guilt slowly eroding with each interaction they have and only until Amy's return does Boney finally see the big picture, too little, too late of course.

Amy's ability to play "The Victim" instantly thwarted Boney when she questioned her about being held by Desi Collings. Amy accuses Boney of reading the evidence wrong and states that had she remained on the case Nick would be on Death Row, which The FBI can't argue with because Amy is clearly alive while Boney & The Police department were running on the theory that Amy was dead and Nick was responsible. According to The FBI, Boney almost sent an innocent man to prison or worse, chances are they're not going to allow her to continue an investigation. Boney knew the inconsistencies of the case that could only be filled by Nick being guilty, but Amy's secondary story now left a lot of unanswered questions, questions that The FBI wasn't interested in asking because Amy was "The Victim" and as long as she had the bruises, tears, alibi and a patsy to put it on (Desi) she was home free. After all Desi did have a history of mental illness, whether the story about Desi attempting suicide and being institutionalized is true or not, Amy's story is pretty much air tight as The Police nor The FBI can really prove what she's saying isn't true. Which is why in the 3rd act, Boney is firmly on Nick's side but unfortunately has an inability to do anything because it's in the FBI's hands.

Now let's talk about Nick. Nick was a genuine character, not an entirely likable guy but a guy I understood and therefore wanted to see come to some resolution. Despite his infidelity to Amy and his lack of acquiring employment, he doesn't deserve to be sent to Death Row. Now maybe my perception of Nick was skewed because I knew for a fact he wasn't guilty and perhaps maybe if I wasn't as attentive as I was I might have a different perception of him, I'll never know. That being said one major thing that did frustrate me was the fact that Nick was never entirely open about everything with The Police and that's ALWAYS the NUMBER 1 thing that makes anyone look guilty. TELL THE POLICE EVERYTHING!

Had Nick told the police immediately about the money troubles, his affair and everything else and had the police cross reference his affairs with everything, I doubt Nick would be in the same mess. That whole thing about "The Truth setting you free," isn't just an old proverb, it's The God's Honest Truth and no more needed than it is when it's your life on the line. Granted, Nick skated by on the skin of his nuts because Boney wanted a body. Nick IS The Victim of this story as nothing Nick has done warranted the extreme reaction of Amy. Nick's infidelity could be easily managed, all Amy would have to do is divorce him and Nick would end up paying alimony and he's still be The Bad Guy of the story as Amy had intended. But because Amy is spiteful (and this is made perfectly and crystal clear when she spits in Greta's drink) she decides to frame him for murder...just like she framed Tommy for rape.

Basically, Amy is an attention starved Psychopath. I'm no psychologist (big shocker there) but looking at the way Amy addressed certain things Let's start with "Amazing Amy". Amazing Amy was a character that excelled where Amy failed. Obviously, Amy's parents capitalized on her failures, more than likely communicating to Amy that she was a failure. In order to gain attention Amy took to playing The Victim. I call her attention starved for a few reasons, for starters when Amy spits in Greta's drink it was immediately after Greta had a less than favorable view of Amy on the news, the 2nd reason is because upon Amy's return to the house as she's looking out of the car window you can see the wide eyed wonder on her face and the fact that she's practically bathing in all the adulation her return has caused, even more evident is when she turns to wave to her adoring fans.

Yes, yes, shower me with your love and praise!

In the final step of her plan Amy planned to kill herself, OF COURSE, being an attention starved psychopath, I knew she'd never go through with it (because then she wouldn't be able to enjoy the satisfaction of all that attention). So when she decided to stay alive (after having all her money stolen, more on that later) she turned to Desi. I have to say, I REALLY like Neil Patrick Harris as Desi Collings. He managed to play Desi just on the cusp of creepy. The fact that Desi was harboring a person knew they were presumed dead & would be complicit in the death of an innocent man (Nick) already proves how not all there Desi was. This also establishes Desi as The Ultimate White Knight!

Desi is The Ultimate White Knight because there is no question of his loyalty to Amy. Consider the following: Desi knows Nick did not kill Amy, Desi knows Nick will get the death penalty when he's found guilty of Amy's murder, Desi knows Amy framed Nick and is perfectly comfortable with this knowledge and doesn't see the horrible irony in all of this. Just as quickly as Amy threw Nick under the bus, she threw Desi under that same bus when it was convenient for her. As The Ultimate White Knight, Desi didn't see Nick as a person, he saw him as "The Bad Guy" and himself as "The Hero". Consider this, Desi knows he'd be in MASSIVE trouble if anyone found out Amy was there and instead of going to the police (like a rational human being), Desi offers Amy an ENTIRE HOUSE, free of charge and insured her safety. Desi was perfectly content with letting Nick die to please Amy.

Yes, I am awesome, aren't I?

This brings me to the Gender Politics of the movie. The Men in this movie (Gilpin, Nick, Desi, Tommy and yes, even Tanner Bolt) all fall into a particular category of  stereotypical "manness". Gilpin is The White Knight, Nick is cast as The Bad Guy but is actually The Victim, Desi is The Ultimate White Knight, Tommy is The Evil Ex-Boyfriend and Tanner is Overseer. I've already explained The White Knight. Let me explain The Evil Ex-Boyfriend. All too often Women are prone to running down their Ex-Boyfriends to their current boyfriends, highlighting their worst qualities and diminishing what made them fall in love with them in the first place. I'm not stating this as a bad thing, both sexes do it to varying degrees, just pointing this out. Also the "The Evil Ex-Boyfriend" is made evident in the film when Amy tells Desi that "Nick's idea of culture was a reality TV marathon with one hand down his boxers.".

Amy has established Desi & Tommy as past victimizers and Nick as her champion. However, while Nick was aware of Desi Collings, Amy made no mention of Tommy (because Tommy didn't do anything as Nick discovered after speaking to Tommy himself). Nick attempted to speak to Desi to see if Amy's account of their encounter was also embellished, but Desi, being The Ultimate White Knight chooses not to say anything because he either believes Nick to be guilty of Amy's murder or sees Nick as The Bad Guy, someone beneath him. This is made evident when Amy calls Desi and says that Desi in the ONLY person she could turn too and Desi IMMEDIATELY (and without prompting) spills the beans that Nick visited him. Offering her information was a way of establishing his worth. Sort of like when mobster, after returning from interrogation by the police tells his boss, "I told them nothin'!". It's a way of saying "I'm on your side, not his!".

Because Desi sees Nick as The Evil Ex-Boyfriend, he's all to comfortable with seeing him destroyed, which is why Desi is able to rest easy with the knowledge that Nick will be sentenced to murder for a crime he DID NOT COMMIT. Because Desi has picked a side, and he picked Amy's side. Tommy as The Previous Evil Ex-Boyfriend immediately sympathizes with Nick and KNOWS Nick didn't kill Amy because his circumstances matches his own. However, since Tommy was the first he can't really offer Nick anything bu sympathy and companionship. Nick has to play this role of "The Bad Guy" when he goes on TV and apologizes to Amy for all the wrong he's done, calling himself a con-artist and everything else, and while none of that is false and he did cheat on his wife and he should apologize and suffer the consequences of those actions, but this self-flagellation of men is all too often expected.

...and that's no bullshit.

Notice, Nick apologizes for his affair on national television, Amy however, never apologizes for setting Nick up, instead she justifies her actions, telling Nick "I killed for you!". Which isn't true. She killed Desi for the attention, she was NEVER going to kill herself. Also the statement "I killed for you!" is made to prop Nick up as important to her, however, Nick knows he's not important to her exactly, as she was willing to throw him under the bus. The Overseer is a bit of a mixed bag, Tanner Bolt now knows that Nick was set up, along with Boney, but rather than aiding Nick in a divorce plan, Tanner points out all the benefits of Amy's return (namely their financial success with the bar) and says humorlessly that he may want to Amy.

Tanner is able to remove himself from the situation because nothing in the situation is of concern to him. He can point from the sidelines and realize how messed up a situation is but that's as far as it'll go. Don't get me wrong, Overseers can offer advice and damage control things, but they don't get involved. Notice, Tanner & Amy NEVER have a scene together, even after Amy returns. Tanner is not at Nick's side when The FBI questions Amy. Tanner is the guy in control of his situation and encourages Nick to know when he's beaten and embrace defeat the best way possible (by enjoying the financial success). While Tanner's advice is sound, it doesn't change the fact that Nick nearly losing his life for something he didn't do and it doesn't satisfy Nick now knowing that his wife is a Murdering Psychopath. Tanner see the big picture, like an Overseer, Amy can't kill Nick and Nick can't kill Amy, mutual shared destruction, so the only thing they can do is ride it out.

As for the women of the movie, Detective Boney is what she is a Detective, she goes where the evidence takes her and like I said, she's the most rational character in the movie and held on to her skepticism of Nick's guilt until she couldn't. Having her power taken away from her by Amy immediately cast her in a bad light and made her look like she was bad at her job. But we know she actually wasn't. Ellen Abbott (the Nancy Grace analogue) serves as The Gossiper. Everyone knows someone who just can't wait to spill drama, especially if it's not their own and suspect the worst even if they only have one side of a story and very little facts. To be fair, Amy's useful idiot did EXACTLY as she was supposed to (like I said the frame up job for Nick was excellent). But notice, after Amy returns and when Ellen goes to interview Nick, NOT ONCE does she apologize for anything she said about Nick, she merely justifies it and offers Nick a gift.

No apologies, just icebreakers.

Margo is Nick's Sister and as such stands by her brother no matter what. I love Margo and while she continued to be the voice of reason (urging Nick to come clear about the affair about the budding divorce) she was preempted at every turn by Amy. At the start of the film, Margo is seen wearing a shirt that says "Protect Your Nuts" which is essentially Margo's advice throughout the film. However, it's also Margo's goal, "protect her brother". It's established early on that Amy & Margo had mutual disdain for each other, perhaps because Margo knew Nick wasn't himself around her and vice versa. She saw something she didn't like. I can attest to having such a gift, and I'm not bragging here. But someone I know hooked up with a woman some years back that I was none too keen on but couldn't exactly place why I was (as she hadn't done anything to me). But it turns out that she was pretty much a manipulative and clinically insane shrew. So Margo is the character I related to and liked the most.

Subliminal messaging at it's best!

In the end, "Gone Girl" is an amazing study of the manipulative power of women & men's inability to combat it as well as a study of public opinion and the sensationalism of the media. Having dealt with the manipulative nature of women, I can say that "Gone Girl" hits a little close too home for me. Male violence is physical, two guys have a problem, they punch each other until the problem is solved. Female violence isn't physical, it's psychological. Women cut each other down with words, manipulate opinions of other girls, shun them, shame them and outcast them. Women have a much more vast arsenal of non-physical violence than men do, and since their violence doesn't leave any scars, it's easy to deny.

When women are faced with violence against men their tactics change. Men aren't prone to harbor public opinion of themselves in much regard, which is why women will often manipulate other men ("White Knights") in doing the physical violence for them. This is made evident in these videos here (I STRONGLY suggest you watch BOTH videos):

Amy is a prime example of non-physical violence and the manipulation of having others carry out her violence for her (ie, The Police). Men don't possess the necessary tools to combat women on this level, after all women are able to play The Victim Card where as men are not. Women can easily prey upon Men's emotions where as Men can't prey upon Women's emotions with the same ease. Long story short, I HIGHLY recommend this film, not just for all it's social commentary but for the story it's self. It's a tour de force of writing and imploring the unreliable narrator effectively and giving us an engaging story with fun twists and turns that'll keep you entertained, but why am I telling you that, you've already seen it. Anyways, catch you guys later!

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