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Don't worry, details are purposely vague to be spoiler free.
No question, this was the most anticipated movie of the year for me. Not just of the year, but for recent memory. I read Gillian Flynn's book back when it was released a few years ago. I'd previously read her debut novel Sharp Objects and really liked it. I remember being drawn to it. It'd been a while since I read something that I hadn't seen the movie or was already familiar with the author and/or series. The shiny picture of the razor blade grabbed my attention, and the endorsement from Stephen King on the cover sold me. When Gone Girl came out, it took over pop culture. It was particularly all over Entertainment Weekly, which I read um weekly, mostly because Flynn used to be a writer there. I loved the book so much. It was one of the most disturbing things I'd ever come across, which is really saying something. As is often the case when I read, I tore thru it so fast (especially when approaching the end) that much of it is a blur.
For the movie, expectations could not possibly have been any higher. I was already excited to hear it was in the works, but finding out David Fincher was directing increased that exponentially. He's a favorite because A) he's such an incredibly smart and genius director and 2) most of his films are deliciously dark and subversive, exactly how I like them and perfect for this. More news started coming out. Ben Affleck was cast. Despite some career mistakes he's made, he's redeemed himself of late, and he really is a good actor. Fincher later said part of why Affleck was cast was his history with paparazzi and the tabloid spotlight (mostly from his Bennifer days), which is perfect experience to draw for Nick Dunne. That little known Rosamund Pike beat out some pretty big starlet names (including producer Reese Witherspoon) for Amy was a bit of a shock, but an intriguing one at that. And it's exactly that mystery around her that's fitting for the character. As more and more details emerged, all I could do was wait.
Now, could the film possibly live up to these impossibly high expectations? Surprisingly yes. Wait, let's make that sound a bit more exciting. Yes! In most cases, when I see a movie based on a book that I have read, there's two possibilities. It either feels dry or deviant. It sticks too closely to the source and/or stays with it in a very high level (pretty much all I'm likely to remember) or it's so different that it feels like its not related to the book. Going into Gone Girl, I remembered a lot of the high level stuff, but the details I'd forgotten about came to life in front of me. It all flooded back watching the film unfold.
Real quick recap. The story is about Nick and Amy. On the morning of their fifth anniversary, Amy disappears. The plot flip flops between Nick and the investigation and Amy's diary entries recounting their relationship. Over time, you see how completely contradictory their stories are. The overall themes are about how you never really know how well you know someone, even if you're married to them. After five years, these two have such different views of what their marriage is, and that's where a lot of the real scare comes from. Not from the suspense of the disappearance, but from the possibility of not knowing the person you're living with.
Not a big surprise that the film stuck close to the book, seeing as how Flynn write the screenplay herself. I was particularly impressed with the pacing of the first act, which revolves around the mystery of whether or not Nick is involved in his wife's disappearance. Suspicions and doubts ebbed and flowed exactly the same way I remember feeling them before. Now of course I won't spoil the ending, but there was some controversy about how Flynn supposedly threw out the third act and rewrote it. That's the section I remember least from the book, but it did hit on the few points I did recall, and I remember feeling slight dissatisfaction with the end of the book. With the movie, I wasn't dissatisfied with how it ended story wise, I just didn't like that they took a note from LOTR and gave it a bunch of false endings on the way to the final conclusion. But I can forgive that. Especially since the screenplay picks up bonus points for some really twisted dark humor. I don't specifically recall that from the book, but it was laced throughout the script. Uncomfortably funny moments that set you off balance. So good.
Affleck and Pike delivered exactly what I expected of them. This seriously has to be among Ben's career best performances. There's a lot of complexity behind that character, and he nailed every nuance. Even more complex is Amy and Pike was stunning. My favorite character in the book was Nick's twin sister Margo, portrayed on screen by Carrie Coon. Still my favorite. But the really fun one to watch was Neil Patrick Harris, in an uncharacteristically understated and creepy role. Very much skeeved out, but in that same twisted way that I love everything else about this story. Others worth keeping an eye out for: Kim Dickens, Tyler Perry, Patrick Fugit, Scoot McNairy, Missi Pyle, Sela Ward, and Casey Wilson. For any fellow 90's enhtusists, keep an eye out for Lee Norris. You'll remember him as Minkus from Boy Meets World. That was a trip. Seriously Fincher can clearly get any actor he wants.
Oh and speaking of Fincher collaborations, he brought back his buddy Trent "Nine Inch Nails" Reznor to do the score again. Absolutely haunting perfection.
Fun fact: Fincher really wanted Affleck to wear a Yankees hat for one scene. Boston Boy Ben flatly refused. You'll see him wear a Mets hat instead.
I went to see this with a couple of friends who'd "reserved" this movie with me like two months in advance. I gotta say, given the film's idea of marriage and the themes it plays with there, kind of awkward sitting in between a newlywed couple, but damn there were some fun conversations over Corona margaritas afterwards. We fawned over Fincher and his achievements, hypothesized what would happen if the story picked up in the future, went over book vs film, and basically just basked in the glow of an awesome film. For the record, they didn't know each others blood types either.
Here's a cool concept. James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain made a movie about trying to hold onto a falling apart relationship. Except, they didn't just make one movie, they made two. One from his perspective, the other from hers. The idea is that you see the same events happen, but they unfold differently according to each's memory and perspective. Well that's a cool idea, and it was pretty well received on the festival circuit, but then the people who decide these things figured that most audiences would not want to sit thru 4 hours of the same story twice. So there was a third movie which combined the two. That's the version that I just saw. Subtitled: Them. (As opposed to subtitled: Him or subtitled: Her).
I was really hoping that we'd still see the dual perspective, just maybe for not as many scenes as the fully realized versions. Nope. It was all edited together to be a normal movie, such that if you didn't know the gimmick that was employed, you'd never have had any idea. Needless to say, kinda disappointed.
As a regular film, it was okay. That cast was its saving grace. Chastain is such a committed and engaging actress, and McAvoy is equally engaging and charming. Without them, I would have been bored. It's just not the kind of story I'd have been otherwise interested in. Oh also, the title is a bit misleading. I thought there would be some mystery to her disappearing, but no, she just ran off, and you see where she is the whole time. Maybe it was a bit more obvious in the separate versions, but together it's not as effective.
I'm still kinda interested in seeing the split versions, but not any time soon. Not really in a hurry to sit thru it again.
Last second bonus points for the supporting cast. Bill Hader and Viola Davis in particular. Then again, any movie with them will always earn a couple extra bonus points. (Disclaimer: bonus points may but are not required to be reflected in a film's rating)
Oh look! Liam Neeson being tough and beating people up! I've never seen this before! Oh wait. Yes I have, because that's all he ever does lately. And he's doing it again.
Granted, Tombstones is a bit more noir and mystery than butt kicking. Eh. Not a very memorable film. Sure, it's been a lil over a week since I saw it, but it shouldn't be this hard to find a topic to write about. I stuck with the film while I was watching it, but it didn't stick with me after.
Cast? Besides Neeson? No one particularly noteworthy. Plot, a little plodding and slow. Mystery? I can't recall if I figured it out or stopped caring. Oh there was a thing about a wannabe sidekick kid. He was kinda cool. But still. Eh.
Oh my God, this cast. Who wouldn't want Tina Fey as a sister? Or Jason Bateman as a brother (as long as you aren't Bluths)? So what if this movie looked like an overly sappy film? I wanted to see Adam Driver as the spoiled child of a youngest sibling.
And yes, it was overly sappy. Emotionally manipulative even. You couldn't go more than ten minutes without a pair of characters bonding and crying. I didn't really care though. Some of those moments may even have tugged at these stone cold heartstrings of mine. The cast really did sell it.
Loved everything Tina Fey did. Okay, maybe her crying needs some work, but her sarcastic tough love was wonderful. No really, I want her to be my sister. Jason Bateman was very Jason Bateman, but that's why we love him. Adam Driver was also very Adam Driver, but he too knows what he's good at and sticks with it. Different turn for the stoic Corey Stoll, even if he was the straightest character in this wildly comedic bunch. Wonderful supporting turns from the ladies in their lives: Connie Britton, Katheryn Hahn, Rose Byrne, and the anchor and matriarch Jane Fonda. And I still haven't even dropped all the names of the awesome and beloved people in this movie.
It did eventually get a little hard for me to watch. It wasn't even the father's death, which is usually a trigger for me. It was the sibling relationships. I'm an only child, and while I'm grateful for everything I've had, it always hurt that I never had siblings. I know it was circumstances more than choice, but that never made it any easier. This movie felt like a big showcase of everything I missed out on. Sure, being a sister has its own challenges that I never had to deal with (that were displayed on screen), but there are some bonds that I'll just never know. Even if we refer to my mom's dog as my sister, it's not quite the same thing.
Okay. About to attempt a marathon blog session. I've got 5 theater movies and 1 at home movie that I haven't written up from the past week, and potentially time to watch another at home tonight. Things have been busy. Let's do this.
Skeleton Twins had been a maybe on my list. The buzz was good, especially for our twins Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader, but the trailer seemed dull. As luck would have it, timing wise it just made a lot of sense to squish this one in. It was the only viable before noon option, and yes, it was worth it to me to save four dollars.
The trailer told the truth. I should have known. If your movie starts with both main characters failing in suicide attempts, it's gonna have a certain tone. The whole thing was them dwelling on how bad their lives are, and trying to put back together the relationship they once had. Both Wiig and Hader were trying to stretch their dramatic legs since both are better known for comedic work. And while yes, they can do dramatic well, it was the fun and funny moments that I liked. Every so often, we did get a glimpse of how happy they could be together, and would just be two goofball sibs goofing around. I liked those moments. There weren't enough.
I watched this the morning after the evening I'd seen This is Where I Leave You, so we were continuing with the sibling theme. A lil of the same only-child-out-of-place thing, but not as strong. Guess it's harder to feel like I'm missing something when they're not really selling it. By which I don't mean the acting wasn't convincing (because it was) I just mean that they didn't make it seem like being siblings was that awesome.
I don't know. Just thinking about this movie to try and write it up, I'm feeling the same blah I felt watching, which reflected the blah in their lives. Maybe there was a point somewhere that I missed.