Thursday, December 25, 2014

On torrenting Gone Girl

I don't feel great about using torrent sites, you know? I know they're bad. But I broke down and torrented a few films anyhow this week, because I wanted to watch a few particular movies with my Mom, while I had time to, and they were movies that I knew I was either going to buy regardless, once they came out on Blu-Ray (so no harm done, really), and a few films that I conversely had no intention of ever paying money for without having seen them first to ascertain their quality. For instance, now that Gone Girl is more or less out of theatres - where I might have made it a date night movie - I was never going to pay money to see it on video. I might have waited til it showed up at the Maple Ridge Library to satiate my mild curiosity, but watching it that way wasn't really going to make money for anyone anyhow. So, yes, folks, I torrented it, knowing that either it would impress me (in which case I would make good on my bad behaviour and pay money for it on disc, no harm done), or prove to be something I was glad not to have wasted cash on (harm to myself averted!).

...And my God, here is what torrent sites were made for, because holy cripes, Gone Girl is, in the final analysis, awful. Worse, it's awful in a very sneaky way, because, despite the presence of Ben Affleck, it actually isn't all that bad for the first half. I was curious on sitting down to it whether it was the misogynistic vindication of rape culture that some feminists have described it as being. It might be, but I couldn't take it seriously enough to tease out the implications of its utterly asinine last act. The film accomplishes a great deal setting up a very complex situation, making us care for a fairly mediocre man, then taking us on what could have been a very unusual adventure with a woman who has had enough of his mediocrity. There is a moment where - spoiler! - Rosamund Pike is shown driving away from her marriage, explaining to the cameras how she has faked her murder and liberated herself - and you feel an honest to God EXCITEMENT for her, as a plausible female antiheroine. The moral complexity is considerable; we've discovered she's doing an awful thing, but we're with her, more than her husband - a victim, but a dope, who doesn't really deserve her, and kind of deserves to suffer a comeuppance at least a little. We're invested in this story, at this point, and want to see what happens next. At least I was.

Then the film runs out of ideas - or courage - and simply makes a monstrous psychopath out of her, intelligent enough to fake her own murder and escape her old life, but still, when a crisis strikes, utterly dependent on men. Though she can fake her death and get her husband arrested, she's neither crafty or smart enough to keep her sole stash of money safe (there's a really silly contrivance for her losing it, one of many less than plausible plot devices employed). Nor does she appear to have a credible plan for her future (like, say, a fake identity, which might be helpful if she truly plans to disappear). When she finds herself penniless - spoiler alert again! - she turns to an old boyfriend, whom she uses shamelessly, then murders, as part of a plot to contrive a story (she'd been abducted!) that will allow her to return to her husband, who wins her over via a TV broadcast where he apologizes for his failings (the film is very much interested in how TV operates in America today, but that doesn't make the plot any more believable; it mostly suggests that the author sure watches a lot of TV). How much more interesting would that film have been if she'd gone off to live a new life, and her husband just went to prison? Perhaps there could have been a reconcilation later on. Instead, we get something that plays like a high schooler wrote it, full of drama and plot twists and blood (Presumably GIllian Flynn's novel is much of a piece with the film; she adapted it herself for the screen). It turns its very interesting female main character into a spider lady, and turns itself into a piece of crap culture - possibly misogynist, but for me, it is a far worse crime that a movie be an insult to the intelligence than that it be politically incorrect. There is some great cinematic misogyny out there that is actually worth taking to task for its political failings. Gone Girl is just a bad movie, unworthy of serious consideration. David Fincher has finally, with this film, successfully done what The Curious Case of Benjamin Button could not, and gotten himself permanently crossed off the list of directors whose craft and skill are such that I will watch anything by them based on their name alone. It's a shame. I'm glad not to have spent any money to find this out.  

(I actually went and consoled myself by reading the various negative comments left by other people who disliked this film, below the review of one Brad Keefe. I'm with you, Brad!).

1 comment:

Allan MacInnis said...

An excellent (and spoiler-free!) discussion of the film by Flick Filosopher Maryann Johanson: