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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Not How To Murder Your Wife
by Donald Levit

A Raymond Chandler rewrite or a Joan Crawford or Bette Davis might have pulled off the Sisyphean labor of salvage with New York Film Festival World Première Opening Night Gone Girl.

At a post-press screening Q&A, director David Fincher and four stars and screenwriter from her own bestseller Gillian Flynn did the usual about how everyone and everything came together in this “intensely compressed portrait.” But after a semi-interesting whodunit hour or so, the tail hour-and-a-half more self-destructed into such ridiculous intricacies that laughs were more likely at rather than with the mystery. Spilling the beans early along that sinuous way, a culprit’s voiced-over images describe the myriad dastardly deeds that fool police, press and public. The real public out there in the dark will wish things had been kept simpler or that Ben Affleck had wrought changes in line with his début direction, himself and brother Casey and others in Gone Baby Gone, where truth is complicated but comprehensible.

The story indicates that men and women play rôles, basically sell a persona that they and those around them would like to see. Marriage is no different, a con game and continual battle to control the partner by means of love, sex, fear, blows, hatred, purse strings, appearances or reputation.

They have outwardly been a golden couple, Nicholas and Amy Dunne née Elliot (Affleck, Rosamund Pike), he a hunky writer-teacher, she a beautiful cosseted only child famous as the grown-up Amazing Amy of her psychologist parents’ (David Clennon, Lisa Banes) popular children’s books about a little girl more perfect than Eloise.

Their still-childless five-year-old union honeymooned on good looks and sex, but hard times come for marriage and bank account. Absorbing a loss on their New York townhouse and cashing in her trust fund, they move to suburban New Carthage, Missouri, elegance to be near his no-nonsense sister Margo (Carrie Coon) and their dying mother.

The cool-to-cold blonde beauty is bored silly in the sticks, friendless and not embraced by her in-laws and neighbors. Excluded, she senses her husband drifting away, fighting her emotionally and physically and taking refuge at his and Margo’s watering-hole The Bar. One solitary snowy evening there, she witnesses proof of his love affair with years-younger former student Andie Fitzgerald (Emily Ratajkowski).

On the day of their anniversary Amy disappears from the face of the earth. City, state and national media converge in familiar easily satirized feeding frenzy, as clue after clue after clue turns up, some neatly pre-labeled, implicating Nick as more than merely a person of interest. Facts appear to poke holes in the perception of marital bliss and hint at spousal abuse, domestic violence, so he must defend himself against mounting cynicism while continuing to figurehead a Find Amy campaign and cooperate with chief local investigator Det. Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens).

Some suspense builds to a point but collapses into improbable silliness piled on top of impossible silliness. If the very ending would suggest that the institution of marriage is a conspiracy of kindred scheming souls, or sadomasochism or a trap or an openly lived lie, then what is snarled in it in Gone Girl are the actors who were unable to wriggle out of it.

(Released by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and rated “R” for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language)

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