10 Reasons why the critics have got it so wrong about Gone Girl

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Last night, to dust off the writing cobwebs formed after a long summer of football, festivals, house moves and holidays, the Framerates team went to the cinema to see the highly-anticipated, critically-acclaimed, David Fincher directed, adaptation of the Gillian Flynn novel Gone Girl. With the screenplay also by Flynn, and a top cast that included Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, our hopes were high. Could Fincher channel his immense talent to create a chilling, intelligent thriller that echoed the intensity of Se7en and Zodiac?

In a word: no.

To our surprise, though, Gone Girl is seemingly a hit with many critics. Here are ten reasons why we feel that this critical reception is a case of mass “drinking the Fincher Kool Aid”.

This article contains spoilers.

1) A faithful, unfaithful adaptation

Despite a screenplay from Flynn herself, the tense, psychological, emotionally engaging tone that is captured in the book fails to fully translate onto the screen. Flynn has faithfully stuck to the narrative laid out in the novel however without the continuous stream of thought from the characters the movie feels shallow and the characters motivations and emotional arcs unclear. This is no more apparent than in the final act of the movie where we see Amy heartlessly slaughter Desi Collings. This played on screen like the calculated acts of a horror movie psychopath whereas in the novel, despite Amy’s deplorable moral compass, the reader understands that she is left with little choice.

2) Tone issues

Perhaps Fincher added flecks of humour throughout Gone Girl to provide comic relief, and to heighten the darkest moments of the movie. However, when characters are making the stupidest decisions left, right and centre, unfortunately, the humour intended as light relief was actually just a series of snorts at the movie’s ridiculousness. An absurd movie this was; “an absurdist thriller” this was not.

3) Pacing. Pacing. Pacing.

I felt I was watching three episodes of a TV programme that were cut together by an amateur YouTube editor. I do believe that the movie got caught somewhere between police procedural and Stepford Wives thriller, and there was such a blatant division between the three acts of the film, which resulted in an extremely jarring watch.

4) Direction

Was Fincher deliberately telling his cast to act on the same level throughout the film? Everything was so flat, it felt like the director was intentionally channeling Frank Underwood and the entire feel of House of Cards, but with a mixture of Prisoners thrown in for good measure. It was very disappointing that this didn’t feel like a Fincher movie, but maybe that will act in his favour when people finally remove their tongues from his arsehole.

5) Acting

A flat tone, jarring pacing and seemingly misguided direction in Gone Girl all results in some rather underwhelming performances from the leads. Pike as Amy does a good job as coming across as cold, sharp and intelligent but fails to fully round Amy as a character- arguably this is in large part down to the lack of distinction between the opposing Amy’s (see point 7 for more). Affleck has always been a firm favourite over here at Framerates.net as an actor, as well as a director, however the stoic nature of the character of Nick required a nuanced performance that depicted an internal dialogue, instead Affleck at times felt vacant and the emotional weight was lacking.

6) Team Amy vs Team Nick

Fincher himself has said that people will leave in either a “Team Amy” or “Team Nick” camp. If the director has acknowledged that fact, there are clearly flaws in the way his characters are represented. One can claim “misogyny” towards Amy, or “men’s rights” at Nick, until they’re blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is that all of the above factors have contributed to a film that leads us beautifully into Point 7.

7) Failing to define the character roles.

The single most important element of the movie to get right was the clear and apparent differences between the two Amys. ‘Cool girl’ Amy, the Amy created for Nick, and the real Amy. Fincher makes no distinction between the two opposing personalities. Without this we don’t understand Nick for falling in love with Amy and equally we don’t empathise with Amy and the façade she is forced to display. Instead of creating a compelling insight into two flawed characters, who we both empathise with and despise, or making a coherent point about gender roles and feminism, the movie leaves us with two people who we neither understand very much and who represent very little.

8) It looks beautiful, but what is below the surface?

When you look at a movie like Zodiac, you can literally peel back the nuanced layers within the frame, the acting, the cinematography and plot. In Gone Girl, because the characters were so unrelatable, it was hard to get fully immersed into the world that Fincher is normally so great at building. Gone Girl left me with a similar feeling as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which is a movie referenced in another 10 things post from last year.

9) No one shags in a library after 3 years of a relationship

After 1095 days together, you’re lucky if you get your genitals get but a fleeting glance when you’re out with your other half, let alone being balls deep in a dark corner of a public library. I will suspend my disbelief for many things, but this is not one of them.

10) It’s just really not as good as people are claiming

All-in-all, the film was over two and a half hours long and after half an hour I was feeling frustrated and bored. The word flat has been used many times in this article to describe elements of this film and that’s exactly what the overall experience left me feeling. There was no excitement, intrigue or desire for any of the characters to succeed in anyway. Unlike Se7en, Zodiac or Fight Club, which are intense, thrilling and heaped with personality, Gone Girl is as grey as the colour palette it displays.

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Argo

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“Argo fuck yourself”

It signifies just how competent Ben Affleck has become as a director that he effortlessly takes on the critically-acclaimed Argo; a big, ambitious, political thriller of a movie. Based on the book The Master of Disguise by Tony Mendez (Affleck’s character), Argo is set around the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis and the secret mission to extract six escaped U.S diplomats from the Canadian Embassy, in Tehran, under the guise of a sci-fi movie: Argo.

The star of Argo, it has to be said, was the story itself. I was gripped from the outset. A tangible unease and sense of danger shrouds the drama and my heart was in my throat until the climax. All credit here lies with Affleck as he easily traverses the unfamiliar landscape with the same familiarity and intimacy that he achieves with Boston in The Town and Gone Baby Gone. Affleck has a directorial eye that transcends time and static locations.  The film itself is pacey and most impressively, extremely balanced; Affleck lets the events dictate the tone instead of judging or preaching to the audience; helped by the archive footage woven seamlessly into the drama.  It would have been easy to be patriotic and overly sentimental with Argo, but Affleck never cheapens the drama, which means when the pay off happens at the end it’s easy to feel genuinely elated.

Argo truly is fantastic. I could talk for an hour alone on how much I loved the last shot; a beautiful, simple lingering pan across a set of Star Wars toys, which seemed to symbolise the decoration of false heroes, the idols we hold in esteem above others, and a nod to the role science fiction played in this story. It was distinctly sad and poignant that these were the heroes that the child honoured and it almost felt as if Affleck was alluding to the ceremony at the end of A New Hope; silently saluting yet notably lacking from the protagonists own story.

Argo is an amalgamation of excellent writing, storytelling, cinematography, direction and acting. For a film so appreciated by Hollywood, it is distinctly lacking in that shiny, artificial quality. All credit here goes to Ben Affleck who is directing really brilliant, cerebral movies. I’m officially now a huge fan and can’t wait to see what he does next.

The Town

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The screen-writing partnership of Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockhard first had success in 2007 with Affleck’s directorial début Gone Baby Gone . The Town, Affleck’s second directorial outing sees them team up again, this time with Peter Craig in an adaptation of Chuck Hogan’s novel Prince of Thieves. The Town sees Affleck take the lead role of bank robber, Doug MacRay, who along with his friends and fellow residents of Charlestown, ‘The Town’, Boston, undertake numerous bank heists whilst trying to avoid ever increasing FBI attention. The Town tackles themes of friendship, family, loyalty, home and questions the inevitability of destiny within a broken community.

Ben Affleck first film was visceral, superbly well written, and directed with an eye and a touch that delighted. The Town is no different. The drama is engaging from start to finish and the set pieces are expertly executed. The car chase in the middle of the film, following a bungled heist on a security van, epitomises Affleck’s constant commitment to be true to a moment instead of succumbing to the draw of the gratuitous or ridiculous. All the action in the film felt necessary, and the narrative, despite the easily over-dramatic subject matter, always felt real and plausible. The same can be said for the characters and the performances delivered by the entire cast. It’s clear Affleck knows how to get the absolute best out of his actors; I certainly don’t think I ever considered Blake Lively as someone to note before. Affleck himself is as compelling an actor in the stand out role as he is filmmaker. His multi-faceted role, as actor, writer and director, meant his performance was precisely pitched, and dare I say it, flawless.

That’s not to say that The Town was without fault. In fact, in hindsight, Gone Baby Gone was the better film, however the slower pace may have allowed it to be. Where The Town stumbled slightly was it’s unfailing dedication to the authenticity of the situations and the dialogue/dialect used; there were points in which understanding the regional and occupational language used was difficult for anyone that wasn’t a bank robber from Boston. With the fast pace of the action some of the dialogue became slightly lost. However, if that’s all the problems The Town has then it won’t be too long before Affleck wins an Oscar for his brilliant films…….. oh wait…..

 

10 films we can’t wait to see in 2013….

Ain’t them Bodies Saints

Exciting cast, interesting narrative and some positive rumblings from its Sundance Première.

Cast: Rooney Mara, Ben Foster and Casey Affleck

Director/Writer: David Lowery

IMDB Synopsis: The tale of an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met.

Est. Release: Aug.2013

Trailer: N/A

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Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck in Ain’t them Bodies Saints

Runner, Runner

Ooo I do have a soft spot for the Afflecks. Ben Affleck can do no wrong for me at the moment.

Cast: Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake and Gemma Arterton.

Director:  Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer)

IMDB Synopsis: A businessman who owns an offshore gambling operation finds his relationship with his protégé reaching a boiling point.

Est Release: Sept. 2013

Trailer: N/A

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The only proof this film is happening. No stills from the films or a trailer have been released yet

Anchorman: The Legend Continues

Please don’t be shit, please don’t be shit, please don’t be shit…

Confirmed Cast: Will Farrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Harrison Ford, Kristen Wiig, James Marsden

Rumoured Cast: Luke Wilson, John C. Reilly

Director: Adam Mckay (Anchorman)

IMDB Synopsis: The continuing on-set adventures of San Diego’s top-rated newsman

Est Release: Dec. 2013

Trailer: 

Elysium

Loved District 9, love Matt Damon and, if done well, this could be amazing.

Cast: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster

Director: Neill Blomkamp (District 9)

IMDB Synopsis: Set in the year 2159, where the very wealthy live on a man-made space station. The rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth, and a man embarks on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.

Est Release: Sept. 2013

Trailer: N/A

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Matt Damon in Elysium

Kick Ass 2

If the writing and the story is as good as the first then I’ll be happy. Sequels are tricky beasts so I hope this retains the simplicity and class from the original. 

Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Aaron Taylor Johnson, Jim Carrey, Christopher Mintz Plasse, Donald Faison

Director: Jeff Wadlow (Matthew Vaughn directed Kick Ass)

IMDB Synopsis:  The costumed high-school hero Kick-Ass joins forces with a group of normal citizens who have been inspired to fight crime in costume. Meanwhile, the Red Mist plots an act of revenge that will affect everyone Kick-Ass knows.

Est Release: July 2013

Trailer: 

Mud

Trailer looks fantastic. Matthew McConaughey has been reborn as an actor with some real weight. The supporting cast aren’t half bad either.

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Michael Shannon, Sarah Paulson

Director: Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter)

IMDB Synopsis: Two teenage boys encounter a fugitive and form a pact to help him evade the bounty hunters on his trail and to reunite him with his true love

Est Release: May 2013

Trailer:

The Iceman

Michael Shannon (his second feature on this list) stars; he is fast becoming one of my favourite actors. Fantastic cast. Compelling story. What could go wrong?

Cast: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, James Franco, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, David Schwimmer

Director: Ariel Vromen

IMDB Synopsis: The true story of Richard Kuklinski, the notorious contract killer and family man. When finally arrested in 1986, neither his wife nor daughters have any clue about his real profession.

Est Release: June 2013

Trailer:

The World’s End

So excited by this!! The cast, writers and director are enough to have me pre ordering my cinema ticket already. If this isn’t funny then I give up.

Cast: Martin Freeman, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Rosamund Pike, Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine,

Director: Edgar Wright

Writers: Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg

IMDB Synopsis: Five friends who reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier unwittingly become humankind’s only hope for survival.

Est Release: Aug. 2013

Trailer: N/A

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Freeman, Considine, Pegg, Frost and Marsan in The World’s End

Monsters University

Monsters Inc. was such a delight, I’m excited but scared for this sequel/prequel. Fingers crossed it will retain the magic and wonder from the original.  Trailers looks great though.

Voice Cast: John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Helen Mirren, Steve Buscemi, Alfred Molina,

Director: Dan Scanlon (Cars)

IMDB Synopsis: A look at the relationship between Mike and Sulley during their days at Monsters University — when they weren’t necessarily the best of friends.

Est Release: July 2013

Trailer:

The Wolf of Wall Street

DiCaprio. Scorsese. Bosh.

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey

Director: Martin Scorsese

IMDB Synopsis: A New York stockbroker refuses to cooperate in a large securities fraud case involving corruption on Wall Street, corporate banking world and mob infiltration.

Est Release: Nov. 13

Trailer: N/A

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Leonardo Dicaprio in the, first look still from, The Wolf of Wall Street

Gone Baby Gone

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Gone Baby Gone, the 2007 directorial debut from Ben Affleck, is a masterclass in how to make a crime thriller. Starring his younger brother, Casey, Gone Baby Gone pulls no punches and rightly so. The screenplay, based on the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, written by Affleck and Aaron Stockard, follows Casey Affleck’s character, Private Investigator Patrick Kenzie, and his wife Angie, played by Michelle Monaghan, as they become deeply embroiled in the hunt for a missing child, Amanda McCready, in the outskirts of Boston.

There are so many things right about this film its difficult not to gush. The narrative is engaging, original and doesn’t patronise the audience by resorting to unnecessary exposition. The dialogue is culturally relevant, poignant and despite the danger of sounding trite or overly sentimental, especially with such a heavy subject matter, it manages to steer clear of being either. The cast more than delivers; Michelle Monaghan brings a softness and femininity, without being clichéd, which emotionally tethers the film; Casey Affleck manages to be credible, understated yet intense, and Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris are predictably compelling in their supporting roles. It’s important to note that even with such Hollywood stalwarts as Freeman and Harris, Ben Affleck manages to resist the temptation to unnecessarily beef up their roles, instead utilising them just as much as the narrative requires.

Gone Baby Gone really is a stonking debut. Affleck demonstrates his competency and unnatural maturity as a filmmaker from the get go. The film is heavy on plot, yet doesn’t feel rushed, and heavy on character yet the characters feel sufficiently developed. His relationship with his hometown injects tangible realism; Affleck actually used real life footage, taken whilst filming, for the opening scene. His deep-seeded connection with Boston gives the film an authenticity that many a seasoned director could only hope to achieve. It’s his Boston, his truth as he sees it, but he invites you to decide on your own truth, never preaching or dictating, just guiding the audience through the story and landscape.

This film truly gives us a glimpse at what Affleck will go onto achieve. He has an eye for filmmaking that cannot be forced. Affleck gives his characters room to breathe on screen yet constantly draws the audience in to the drama. His storytelling is void of pretension and he is not afraid to shock, but when he does it never feels gratuitous or out of place. Gone Baby Gone made the world sit up and pay attention to what Affleck can do as a filmmaker and, dare I say it, an auteur. Ben Affleck, you definitely have my attention…