Sunday, February 8, 2015

Gone Girl: Insult to Cinema

So now I'm relegated to writing about films that arise deep dissatisfaction. Last year, 2014, continues to be the year of cinema that underwhelms and annoys. And in the case of Gone Girl, I would say we have found the biggest example of cinematic tripe disguised as critically praised masterpiece. From all corners (88% Rottentomatoes, 79% Metacritic), this film has gotten heaps of praise. In this day and age, that's not necessarily saying anything though. Today's critical establishment is made up of numerous self made critics, the likes of which can gain access to these sites through blogs or online "zines" without any actual significant time building up a reputation over the years. Heck even I could be one of them if I really wanted to. The years of Siskel and Ebert are so far behind us, it's almost comical with which we look to sites like RT or Metacritic to tell us that a film is great, due to the network of nobody's that make up the data set. But I guess I'm not surprised that it's a Fincher film that is drawing my ire. I find his cinema to be stilted, manipulative and misogynistic. Gone Girl continues his grand tradition. It is far and away the worst film of 2014 that I've seen, as it positions itself as some kind of intelligent, pulpy noir, but in actuality, is a manipulative, pretentious, misogynistic piece of trash.

One of my main issues with the film is the way that it shifts point of view to serve the needs of suspense and entertainment. The first hour carefully avoids telling us certain information in order to set up the final 90 minutes. We're not even privy to the Ben Affleck character's every move in order to build suspicion of his character, when in actuality, the story never follows through on this point of view, continually shifting to the Rosamund Pike character's voice over in flashbacks. These flashbacks near the beginning are deliberately manipulated to allow us to believe she's the innocent voice from the grave. But it's only the lack of information provided by the director that deliberately avoids telling us her true story until the entertainment requires the switch of tone in the second half. If it's one thing I can't stand, it's a director whose film only becomes entertainment through bait and switch. Literally, the suspense and structure of the entire film revolves around the director leading us on through avoidance of complete information. If you think back to shifting points of view in Rashomon (1950), one realizes it was done to speak to the audience about truth. Shifting points of view in Gone Girl are only utilized to keep us needlessly guessing. I literally cannot understand how the critical masses were foolish enough to allow themselves to be blindly entertained by such manipulative and self-serving cinema. Literally the first hour is pointless set-up to serve the needs of the switcheroo. As was put well by another review, this is a cinema of obfuscation.

This is not to mention the extreme misogynism of the film. Every female character in this film is either a fool, a gossip, an easy woman, or a psycho. The lying and cheating husband is positioned as practically a Saint in this film compared to all the women. The Detective Rhonda Boney character is shown to be slow to act and indeed paralyzed into inaction at the end even when she knows the truth. What about the gossipy women on the newscasts who appear petty and flighty? What about the sister who is so subserviently tied to her brother that she can't come up with anything to do but find ways to support him? What about the Andie Fitzgerald girl who gets naked for one scene, appearing like the uncaring, easy woman with nothing more to add? What about the "trailer trash" girl at the cabin? What about the "best friend" who unwittingly pees her way into a con? Last but not least, what about the Amy character, who is a complete psycho, who has gone so far off the grid that her manipulation and revenge tactics make her par with the devil? All of this makes the Ben Affleck character and the Tyler Perry characters look like the "sane" ones in a sea of crazy, idiotic women. Gone Girl is offensive and unintelligent in the worst way. All those critics that got fooled by it should have their responsibilities for film criticism removed.


Anonymous said...

I'm sort of with you on this. To be fair, though, most of the things you dislike about the movie aren't Fincher's fault: they come directly from the source novel, toward which all the same criticisms could be directed. (I didn't like the novel much, but know I'm in a minority!)

I'm not sure I'm 100% with you on the misogyny, though. I know where you're coming from, but another way of looking at the movie is that the men -- even including Nick, whatever he might think -- are actually only peripheral to the story, which is really about the female characters. You could say this even of the sister; without her, Ben would be nowhere.

Jon said...

Nah. I still think the perspectives given to each of the women is condescending and feeds into the stereotypes that many men and society in general feel about women, which is wrong. If Fincher's not at fault for the content of the film, he's at least at fault for attempting to adapt it.

Oh and regarding the misogyny/feminism debate, I think this article highlights the argument....I'm still viewing it in the light that I saw it in and think there is plenty of evidence to back it.

Jon said...

From The AV Club...

"While Flynn, who wrote the film’s screenplay, keeps Amy’s feminist leanings intact—presented in the film through voiceover—Fincher ditches the dual subjectivity that gives her critique power. In the book, there is no such thing as truth. There is no one you can trust. In the movie, Nick might be a liar, a cheat, and an overall bastard, but he didn’t kill his wife, and for Fincher, that seems to be good enough. Instead of Flynn’s competing pair of antagonists, battling for the reader’s sympathies, the movie pulls a different trick: It looks like Nick is guilty, until he becomes the film’s beleaguered hero, searching for anyone on his side.

The film provides an important clue to its stance on the Nick versus Amy debate. In the novel, Nick’s sister, Margo, provides a crucial sounding board. But the Gone Girl film uses Margo not just in that capacity, but also as a surrogate for the audience, directing our sympathies. As Margo begins to question her twin brother’s innocence, the viewer does the same. How much do we know about Nick, anyway? But as the plot slowly exonerates him of Amy’s murder, Margo eventually comes back to Team Nick as her initial supposition is proved right: Amy is just another bitch.

This isn’t the first time that Fincher has struggled with the inner life of his female characters. While The Social Network overtly functioned as a critique of the misogynistic underpinnings of the Facebook revolution, its most narratively prominent woman was an unstable girlfriend who sets a trash can on fire. In Fight Club, Marla Singer spends most of the film being insulted, emotionally abused, neglected, and/or raped by her schizophrenic boyfriend, only to be trapped in a toxic relationship with him when he blows up the world. If The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo offered a step forward for Fincher, Gone Girl takes it right back.

It’s a particularly troubling regression considering the cultural moment in which Fincher’s film is being released. On May 23, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger shot and killed six people because he felt rejected by women, and his digital footprint details his feelings of isolation and frustration in a world he felt was slipping away from him. Earlier this February, Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice assaulted his girlfriend in an elevator; his employers originally suspended him for two games before suspending him indefinitely due to public pressure seven months later.

This is the same milieu that told Jennifer Lawrence she “deserved” to have naked photos of herself leaked onto the Internet, after they were stolen from her phone and made public, and it’s one that Flynn engages with head on. In the novel, Nick fights the misogynistic culture he was born into, embodied by his father, who views women as “stupid, inconsequential, irritating.” Whenever Nick has an altercation with a woman he doesn’t like, he hears his father’s words in his head (“dumb bitch”), and he tunes them out. But in Fincher’s version, it’s like Nick has started listening."

Anonymous said...

I don't agree. Sure it wasn't a masterpiece, but I found it an interestingly exaggerated take on marriage as nightmare. The institution has the 'potential' to bring the worst out of people, and I don't think either Nick or Amy come out well. I saw them as twisted versions of perfectly normal people and felt the blind spots in narrative mimed the way we often unimaginatively view the people in our lives.

T, MUmbai

Sam Juliano said...

Jon, plenty of reliable critics aside from Siskel and Ebert loved this film. It didn't make my Top 10, but it is solid, and I pretty much disagree with most of what you say here in this still well-written review.

I haven't yet reached the point in my life that you have, with your Howard Beale shtick that everything stinks.