Saturday, October 4, 2014

Gone Girl

Gone Girl

John and Yoko on the slab
I saw David Fincher's latest film yesterday, Gone Girl. As a whodunit it was OK—pretty much on par with any number of decent thrillers, or an above average Columbo episode. Naturally that's not all that's going on in Gone Girl.

While back at the start Fincher's films were more overt and obvious, he has lately trended into the far more subtle territory of sociological undercurrents and what makes us tick.

Gone Girl has a simple premise. Wife goes missing. Where is wife?  At first glance, this seems to be it. It's not. What is going on here is subtle, and Fincher plays with our expectations of thrillers like he did with The Game. He takes us on a ride. What is the ride? It's that of subtle metaphor. Through a girl-gone-missing story, our own lives are referenced as we watch.

Film thriller media marriage references real life marriage.

We are looking at an off-kilter marriage that is just a bit too clever to be real, but just normal enough to have us maybe not notice. On the surface everything seems normal, but as we listen we find money problems, sex problems, fertility problems, and identity problems. A big perfect house—that's rented. No kids. No friends. No goals. No jobs. It's not real. It's almost real, but with just enough missing so that it's not. And the ever-so-clever way Amy and Nick meet. Their dialogue is too clever. The sugar storm is too contrived. This is farce. It's meant to be perhaps mistaken for real only because we have seen too many fake celebrity marriages and made-up film romances that we might not notice. At first I didn't notice how fake their relationship was, but it gnawed at me as the film progressed. This exaggerated domestic front is analogous for domestic life and marriage in general.

Amy—a very typical American name—goes missing. As the days go by we learn a lot of surface facts about the off-kilter lives of the players in this mystery.  I was reminded of Eyes Wide Shut, another film in which the protagonist is a male wandering around lost and searching. There is a Fincher/Kubrick connection but I'm not going to get too deep into that now. Even the way the days progress in Gone Girl with the type on the screen echoes The Shining some, which is also about domestic life falling apart. 

The more I watched the film the more I could sense the undercurrent pointing to the often varied facades we all put on in real life—with the different people we know and what is expected of us in marriage. We are reminded how ancient biological sexual urges often incongruously attempt to align with the modern idea of domestic tranquility and sociological expectations that are all around us. The film scratches at the things going on in our minds that we never say to our friends or spouses—the chatter in our heads that no one ever hears. Gone Girl is just clever enough to let traces of that leak out onto the screen, buried under the guise of a thriller. 

The media also plays a huge part in Gone Girl. It is depicted much as we know it in real life—a voracious and ever-fickle shark darting from prey to prey, only concerned with the flavor of the moment. The media cares nothing for the real truth—it only thinks it does. We don't need to see a film to realize that, but the media as depicted in Gone Girl is like every judgmental, know-it-all op-ed commentator you have ever seen, all rolled up into one big hot mess. We have the sort of Fox News commentator that is meant to remind us of the real-life Nancy Grace, and the black lawyer who conjures up a bit of OJ Simpson's media spectacle, shattering the idea of domestic bliss right before our eyes as we all gawked safely from home, watching it on TV.  

The wacky fake friends and media depicted in Gone Girl points to how we all think we know what's going on. We all think we know what the deal is with everything. And we are all usually spectacularly wrong. Yet we continue going on every day, still somehow smug despite all the evidence to the contrary. We keep playing the game. We keep putting on a good face. You know, the one the media tells you you should have. 

In the end, Nick stays. He's living with a busted Stepford wife—but he's equally as busted, so he does not care. He cares more about what everyone around him thinks than about his own safety and well being.