Tuesday 2014-10-14

Gone Girl by David Fincher and Gillian Flynn

Wherein Fincher and Flynn fixup and discard the underlying plot of GoneGirl in order to focus on the poisonous power of narrative.

Together they have edited the farcically shallow and not-so-bright yuppie couple of the book into a sharp wife and a slow husband. This kills the plot off because we cannot simultaneously believe that 1) she's super smart-manipulative and that 2) she's always wanted the same thing from the relationship. She simply wouldn't have let him wander at all.

This is enough of a change-up to make one think that her total control of the plot's initial trajectory will force the movie in a new direction. However, Fincher and Flynn keep to the book's basic storyline, and instead focus on the stories in our heads.

In the film, these mental fabrications take two forms: 1) Crude Stereotypes, such as Tyler Perry's token black man who is only on-screen to tell us "you white folk sure are fucked up!", plus the one asian male who's only there to serve as a submissive gofer under a powerful white woman.

And 2) Foregone Conclusions, as when there's a missing pregnant wife, an adulterous husband, and a big pool of the wife's blood in the kitchen, everyone jumps to the conclusion that the husband killed her. And when a woman says that a man raped her, he's automatically guilty. So when she kills him "in self defense", everyone nods along with her version of events.

While these prejudicial accusations source from the same narrational shortcomings as the racism, it seems an ethical stretch for Fincher and Flynn to condemn both with seemingly the same weight. The disquiet one feels with this social inquest and self-negating plot is mirrored in the film's pacing, as we await with minor unease the unfolding of scenes that take slightly the wrong amount of time to complete.

The strangeness continues when we compare Gone Girl to Fight Club. Inasmuch as FC is a boy's quest for authenticity, GG is a girl's quest to find the right boy. Imagine Fincher and Flynn channeling an angry wheres-MY-boy? Jane Austen and you have this film, with its quaint 19th-century expectations.

In the end though, the bitter and film-acknowledged truth for story-tellers is that they only control the narrative for as long as we're listening. Then the chaos begins.