Saturday, 11 October 2014

Gone Girl

The opening sequence of Gone Girl shows the America of recession, with shots of failed small businesses, reduced-price real estate and a deserted main street. Subsequently, tiny glimpses of this grubby world are allowed in occasionally - the main character's father's house, mainly; his twin sister's house, to a degree, (it is hardly horrid, just not aggressively glossy); a place that I think might be a trailer park, (but not a gritty one, or, if that is considered gritty, I dread to think what the film's director would make of Australian country town motels [for whose dagginess I have a peculiar fondness, but that is another story]).

Apart from those brief moments, the movie's subsequent action takes place almost exclusively in the honey-lit world of media fantasy - that golden, skipping-through-flowery-pastures, having-breakfast-with-shiny-kids-in-sparkling-white-kitchens environment that we have all had poured into our retinas for decades now. It is a world created in order to sell us stuff - insurance, breakfast cereal, pointless disinfecting kitchen-top 'wipes', lavatory paper, fast food. It is what has made many of us neurotic, barely able to convince ourselves that interiors are never really that perfect, that newness is neither a quality nor something that endures.

And if you want a true neurotic, Amy, (Rosamund Pike), the main female character of Gone Girl, fits the bill. Exploited by her parents, (David Clennan and Lisa Banes), for profit from her earliest childhood - their Amazing Amy books sell to an adoring public the story of a girl just like their own real daughter, but minus any of her failures - she acquires a husband, (Ben Affleck), who dazzles her with a projection of himself that he cannot maintain in the long run. The story of the film is the story of what happens when Amy realises she's been sold a dud.

The plot is thick with twists and turns of increasing unbelievability. The characters are flimsily drawn and scarcely credible, (Collings [Neil Patrick Harris] is nothing but a plot device masquerading in a person's clothing, surely), there is no explanation of how no criminal charges are brought for what must at least constitute manslaughter or why Go, [Carrie Coon], the main male character's sister, appears to have no life of her own at all. The two people I most wanted to see more of were the policewoman, (Kim Dickens), who pops up from time to time but remains undeveloped, while her deputy, (Patrick Fugit) is so clownishly blinkered in his judgments he makes Dr Watson look like a towering genius, and Tanner Bolt, (Tyler Perry), who injects the film with energy every time he appears on the screen.

I don't understand why this film has been acclaimed so widely. It's entertaining, but a bit long. It's very gory. It hints at something interesting about the dysjunction between what we are led to believe existence might be like if we buy enough of the right products and what existence is actually like, but it's not in the business of being deep and serious. It is as glossy as an advertisement - and, while it's possible to argue that's because it's making a critique of that kind of image-making, it ends up being too silly and unbelievable to do a good job of that. The real problem for me is that all the characters are so flimsy - without engagement I find it very hard to be seduced into suspending my disbelief.

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