Year Released: 2014
Directed by: David Fincher
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Carrie Coon, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens
(R, 145 min.)
Genre: Mystery and Suspense, Drama
“In revenge and in love woman is more barbaric than man is.” Friedrich Nietzsche
It’s slick, sexy, and a little sick. Not to mention superficial. Hitchcock’s icy blond sexed up and deconstructed with no sign of a Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant to come to the rescue.
Instead, Ben Affleck’s Nick Dunne, the prime suspect in his wife’s disappearance, which is starting to look more and more like a homicide, is at best a good looking schmuck, a barely likeable cad with a ready smile his prime asset.
Contrast that to Jimmy Stewart, Mr. Nice guy, even when he gets sucked into a vortex of lust, obsession and longing, as he does in Vertigo. Gone Girl’s Nick is actually more like the good-looking tennis pro from Strangers on a Train, another callow, good looking opportunist. We wonder whether he did his wife in, but are we really rooting for him to be innocent?
That’s also true of Amy (Rosamund Pike), Nick’s missing wife, whom we get to know mostly through the pages of her diary, presented as flashbacks. Early infatuation quickly gives way to a semi toxic brew of disillusionment and distrust, and we wonder if we are going to get Hitchcock’s 1941 Suspicion where the husband is innocent in the sanitized film version of the novel Before the Act, or the one from the actual book, where he is guilty as sin.
But again, we cannot really warm up to Amy; she is the icy blond who fails to keep her distance, and thus loses the allure of say, Kim Novak in Vertigo, who really knew how to make an entrance:
Madeleine is across the room in an elegant restaurant, her platinum coif and alabaster back about all he (Jimmy Stewart) can see. Then she gets up from the table and almost floats toward him, a haunting ice princess vision in a flowing white gown, trimmed in green, her colors throughout the film.
Gone Girl, in true millennial tradition, completely abolishes the long tease. The pretense of a courtship ritual is shortened to a brief witty dialogue at a trendy Manhattan party, an arranged shower of powdered sugar as a prelude to a kiss, and then probably more than we want to see of randy first-date sex.
In fact, it’s mostly the sex that seems to unite the couple, and director David Fincher sprinkles his film with heavy doses of it in all the graphic details, almost like a hapless chef substituting salt and a fancy French name for genuine sizzle.
In fact, we are teased into expecting something substantial to savor, as in the intriguing sketch of Amy’s parents, who chronicle her childhood in a series of books about a gifted child called Amazing Amy. Only, as the real Amy explains to Nick, the book is more a compensation for failed expectations. Just as Amy drops out of cello lessons, she becomes a child prodigy in the series; a fictional soccer star in the books when the real Amy is cut from the team. The actual Amy is always foiled by her fictional better. That conversation, however, is about all we get to explain what’s going on in Amy’s head. Despite Nick’s disquieting wish that he would like to crack open Amy’s skull to find just what is in there, neither he or the audience ever really finds out.
It almost makes you wish for the over the top Fruedian analysis and symbolism of those Hitchcock classics, Marnie and Spellbound, where we go all the way down the rabbit hole to the very source of our characters' neuroses. Gone Girl seems satisfied with merely sniffing grass at the warren’s entrance.
So, with two rather shallow and unsympathetic leads, we look to the supporting cast to draw us in. Carrie Coon as Nick’s long-suffering twin sister Margo does just that. She sees her brother’s faults square on, but she sticks by him, even mortgaging her house to afford the pricey celebrity defense lawyer he most decidedly needs. You know, the one you only go to if you are indeed guilty. If nothing else, Margo makes us want to believe in Nick, even if we don’t have the shared genetics to urge us on.
Tyler Perry, as Tanner Bolt, the defense attorney, hits just the right note, able to laugh at Nick’s boneheaded behavior even as he plots an expensive exit route. Kim Dickens as Detective Rhonda Boney, does her dance with equal finesse, for every step forward toward nailing Nick, she takes at least one beyond-a-doubt backward one.
Who does the playing and who gets played in this twisted thriller psychodrama? Well, just about everyone, including the audience. Are you game for the game? You will be entertained for almost all the 21/2 hour run, but as a savvy movie going friend announced on her Facebook page today,
“Do not Expect Hitchcock. “
Nick, the alternately bemused, manipulative, and shifty husband of the vanished “gone girl,” owns “The Bar” in his old home town in Missouri.
In fact, the moody husband finds himself drowning his morning sorrows there just before he comes home to an explosion of shattered glass and a missing wife.
Naturally, we thought a cocktail from Missouri would be appropriate, even if we wait for a more conventional happy hour.
Our first recipe is the Missouri version of the drink, sweet and peachy.
I prefer the second recipe, however, that claims, "It will either cure a rattlesnake bite, or kill rattlesnakes, or make you see them." It is certainly not from Mizzou territory, instead going back to the original 1930 bartending manual from London’s Savoy Hotel.
While those old Londoners might not ever have come across a slithering diamondback, as Texas’ Different Drummer has on more occasions than she would like to recall, this second recipe seems to capture some of their tart nature. And perhaps a bit of the character of our “Gone Girl.”
Missouri Rattlesnake Cocktail Recipe
1 oz. Southern Comfort Peach Liqueur
1 oz. Triple Sec
½ oz. Grenadine Syrup
2-3 oz. Orange Juice
Shake Well and pour in a cocktail glass over ice.
London Rattlesnake Cocktail
"This tangy whiskey drink has just the right amount of sweet, sour, and straight-up booze. It's a spiteful but lovely little drink, with a smooth and frothy airiness provided by an egg white."
1½ oz. blended whiskey
1 tsp. lemon juice
¼ tsp. absinthe (or anise-flavored liqueur)
½ tsp. simple syrup (or powdered sugar)
1 egg white
Combine all ingredients with ice and shake vigorously in a cocktail shaker until rich and frothy. Strain into a cocktail glass, and serve.