Even though Vulture’s Adam Sternbergh says we shouldn’t, many people still worry about spoilers. Even when it’s more of a premise than a twist, some viewers would rather go into a movie knowing nothing, while others hungrily lap up every detail they can get before it opens. (I’m not linking to the supposed giant spoiler to “Star Wars Episode VII” that supposedly leaked earlier this week, but I don’t imagine it will be too hard to find it; just follow the steady stream of fanboys.)
“Gone Girl,” however, presents a special case. The twist that occurs about an hour into the the two-and-a-half hour film, or about a third of the way through Gillian Flynn’s novel, is key to any informed discussion; it turns what we’ve seen as a murder mystery into — well, something else. Without it, you can’t discuss the way “Gone Girl” develops its themes, or the accomplishments of its actors, replacing the dissection at the heart of good criticism with vague hand-waving.
Reviews once served as something to chew on after the fact; thus, re-view. But with so much marketing targeted towards a movie’s opening weekend — and so much journalism trying to catch a ride on that wave — the need to be first has replaced the dedication to being thorough. We could simply wait until after that first weekend to discuss “Gone Girl” in toto, but by then you’d be forgiven for feeling “Gone Girl”-ed out.
Given that “Gone Girl” is based on a novel that has sold more than 8.5 million copies, a few critics have gotten ahead of the game, writing pieces for audiences that already know what happens, or those who don’t mind finding out in advance. After all, as Film.com’s Kate Erbland argues, “Gone Girl” is a movie “so canny that spoilers can only make it better.”
Spoilers, obviously, follow.
NPR’s Linda Holmes wrote twice on “Gone Girl,” once with circumspection, and once giving away the whole megillah. (As a preface to the latter, she asks, “Are you still here? I’m telling you. You’ve been warned.”) She praises Pike’s performance in a near-impossible role, as a charismatic psychopath who’s like the feminist equivalent of Hannibal Lecter. The accusations of misogyny that dogged Flynn’s novel are redoubled with regard to David Fincher’s film, but Holmes says Pike makes Amy enough of a distinct character that she escapes from being seen as a caricature:
It has always been perfectly clear that Amy is an aberration. She is a woman, but she is not only a woman. She is also a monster, and the second half of Fincher’s film is, in many ways, a horror movie about the great difficulty — and eventually the impossibility — of defeating her. She is the rare monster in a monster movie who wins at the end. Whatever she has to do, however offensive, however distasteful, however horrifying. Whatever.
For Reverse Shot’s Michael Koresky, however, Amy “seems as machine-tooled as a T-1000,” part of a “profoundly misogynistic” movie that fails in its attempt to give dual perspectives equal weight.
The New Jersey Star-Ledger’s Stephen Witty zeroes in as well on the question of misogyny (and misandry, which he throws in for free). What does it say when a major motion picture has as its title character a woman who fakes her own death and then lies about being raped, a cold-blooded murderer who traps a man into staying with her by getting herself pregnant with his unthawed sperm?
In the world of “Gone Girl,” it’s relationships that change people, often for the worst. When, going off the grid, Amy meets another single, the tramp-stamped woman still seems normal enough. They become friends, and Amy makes her vow that they’re both going to give up men for awhile. But the good ol’ girl just can’t help taking up with some good ol’ boy. And once she does she immediately changes, and cruelly sells Amy out.
In trying to attract and hold someone else, we lose who we are, “Gone Girl” warns. Sometimes we even lose more than that.
At Cinema Scope, Adam Nayman not only deals with the plot but recounts it in detail, on his way to concluding that “‘Gone Girl’s ‘portrait of domestic bliss as a kind of personalized thermonuclear détente is glib and obvious, but it’s also deeply satisfying,” and labeling the film “a comedy of remarriage — one to freeze Stanley Cavell’s blood in his veins.”
In the Boston Globe, Flynn’s former Entertainment Weekly colleague Ty Burr goes halfsies on spoilers, coyly allowing that Amy is eventually “revealed to be not a nice person at all.” (Ain’t that the truth.) His observations, however, are clearly informed by “Gone Girl’s” bleakly cynical ending, a kind of grotesque parody of “They lived happily ever after.”
This is a view of coupledom that’s less misogynistic than misanthropic; it also has its acrid truths. Think of those couples who correct each other’s version of events during dinner parties. Think of the husband and wife who look rock solid for years before splitting into take-no-prisoners warfare, each lining up their respective audiences. Think of the little tiffs you have with your own spouse about who said what when, the lower-case grievances, the wondering why he or she just can’t see it your way.
We all write our own scripts and try to convince others that they’re sound. And cowriting — collaborating on a life together — is hard. “Gone Girl” rather gleefully says it’s not only impossible but dangerous to one’s health. Perhaps we need the outlier stories, if only to have something to work back from.