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Critic vs. Critic: ‘Gone Girl’

Its release marks the start of the 2014 Oscar season, and anything associated with director David Fincher is a must see. Add the presence of Rosamund Pike, the best actress mistakenly not atop the A-list, and you have enough ingredients for critical catnip.

Then I sat through the film’s 2 hour, 25-minute running time and left the theater deflated.

I quickly checked RottenTomatoes.com to see how other critics had pounced on the film. Instead, I found I was in the minority. One critic who cheered on “Gone Girl,” Rebecca Cusey, agreed to debate me on the film’s merits.

Rebecca, what was your gut reaction after seeing the film? Did the experience equal the pre-release hype for you? (warning: mild spoilers ahead)

Cusey: Yes, it did. I was completely engrossed by the movie and never bored for a second. That’s the first job of a movie in my book – to entertain. And this one did that very well.

I had not read the book, so the plot development was a surprise to me. As with all movies, I actively avoided reviews and discussions of the movie – even more so for this one because I knew enough to know there were spoilers. I always wait to read other peoples’ reviews until after I write my own, so I know my thoughts are original.

The movie had great direction, really good acting, and a whiz-bang plot. I was immediately sucked in and stayed that way until the credits rolled. I think the crowd got it right on this flick. It’s just an old fashioned good movie.

What left you feeling deflated? What turned you off?

Toto: The movie more or less had me through the midway point, and then the big twist occurs. It didn’t shake me off initially, but that’s when the illogical storytelling started to bloom. Smart characters start behaving as if they left a few IQ points in the opening scenes. Character motivations that don’t make a lick of sense dog the narrative. And, most importantly, the bond between Nick and Amy never cemented in my head. That’s where the film’s major failure lies. No amount of sex-filled flashbacks could make this couple come alive in my mind.

I was never bored, but the film’s flaws kept taking me out of the experience. Did you buy all the final act maneuvers?

Cusey: I think it’s kind of the point that the marriage doesn’t sit quite right from the get-go. I didn’t believe in Nick and Amy, completely, but I did believe that Nick believed in them. I did think their meeting was a bit too precious, a bit too literary, and not at all how people actually talk, but I quickly lost that worry as they moved into their story.

I liked the ambiguity of Nick’s behavior in the first half, how you couldn’t tell if he was sinister or just very confused and dazed. And I liked how Amy, once the reveal happened, wasn’t as clear in purpose as we thought. She actually changes course several times, which makes her more interesting to me. A lesser story would have had the bad guy continuing on to the logical conclusion. This one actually seems more human because she adapts as she goes.

I did buy the final act, for the most part. One key element wasn’t quite enough for me. Still, the ending leaves you with a thud, in a good way, and I liked that as well. Did you like the resolution or the lack thereof?

Toto: The resolution sealed the deal for me … in the very worst way. We’ve already witnessed what Amy is capable of. Now, we’re supposed to wonder about the future of their marriage?

A third rate soap opera wouldn’t attempt such a howler.

And while Amy is so blazingly bright as to set the movie’s events in motion, she’s also so dumb as to expose herself in ways that just make no sense.

This isn’t a marriage, good or otherwise. It’s a poorly conceived story gussied up with an A-list director, top talent and sky high expectations never remotely met.

Cusey: The ending is delicious precisely because Amy wins and her winning is so horribly, wonderfully complete. She gets what she wants: complete subjugation of her man. It’s not a marriage, it’s an enemy conquest, complete with both shock and awe.

Would this happen in real life? Of course not. But that’s exactly why we need and love stories. They go places we never could.

Rebecca Cusey is editor of entertainment at Patheos.com. You can follow her on Twitter @rebecca_cusey and via her Patheos blog, Tinsel Talk.

 

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