November 2, 2014


Afterthought (February 2015): I finally figured out what's wrong with this film! No versimilitude!
"Versimilitude is the guardrail that keeps us from crashing into the abyss of disbelief."--Hal Ackerman, Screenwriting, UCLA. This film pretends at reality but it's all surreality. 


I don't know why this simple premise intrigued me when the best-selling book and now movie, "Gone Girl" first came out, but it did: A young married couple. The wife suddenly disappears. Was it murder? Did her husband do it? But alas, the film, for all its accolades, is a massive disappointment, and really, a failure as a film. My biggest beef is with the ending which makes no sense. No sense. Way beyond a plot hole. [Disclaimer: I have not read the book, but am told it ends the same way.]


There is no way to do this review without spoilers--given the thin premise--but I will jump around and be as sketchy as I can. Several things about this film make it feel amateurish (although I like other David Fincher films). The author of the book, Gillian Flynn, also wrote the screenplay (not bad for a first-time screenwriter, but it shows). Maybe this is part of the problem. The offbeat casting actually does work: Tyler Perry as a high-powered lawyer; Neil Patrick Harris as a wealthy, obsessed fanboy; homey and likeable unknown (but not for long!) Carrie Coon as the husband's twin brother.

There are two main characters: both husband and wife double-narrate their own point of view throughout, although it leans much more to the wife at a certain point, especially since she keeps a diary that provides much of the voiceover.


Ben Affleck does not work in the lead role of husband, and I even question Rosemund Pike as the wife. Affleck is a one-note actor who often blurts his lines without truly grasping the emotion or the moment. Everything about Pike is always pristine (which this part calls for), but I'm not sure that either Affleck or Pike grasped the intricate dance that the story was all about--unless I read more richness into the story than is there. Affleck NEVER changes, and Pike only changes from beleaguered wife to full-out psycho which seems SHOULD have been a much slower, more gradual reveal. I thought we could really have commiserated with the wife over the affair, and been made to think that that was the real issue for a while.

You see, ONCE we know that the wife is a full-on psycho, she can longer be THE main character. Screenwriting 101 Rule #1: criminally insane people do not make good main characters because nothing will stop them. They are capable of anything. There is often no real logic to their motivations or actions, as meticulous as they may be. Even if there is a powerful, dangerously crazy, scene-stealing antagonist (Hannibal Lecter, the Joker, any "monster" in a horror film) in a movie, they are offset by a sane protagonist.


BIG SPOILER ALERT! The ending makes absolutely no sense. Why in heaven's name does the husband stay with her?* He was exonerated. There was absolutely no need at all. The entire story breaks down at this point and veers into ridiculousness. But audiences seem to "just go with it" which is scarier to me than the broken story. I know our society struggles to reason and think logically, but audiences have always been tough on films with shoddy plot points. Maybe guys give it a pass because it's a woman-scorned-chick-flick-dark-drama-but-God-help-you-if-pulled-something-like-this-with-Star-Wars. But gals? Thinking caps?

The brief sex scenes/nudity are not as graphic as they were drummed up to be, but one bloody violent scene is deeply disturbing. There are other problems with the film: it's choppy, a tad boring, the beginning and ending music is odd and drowns out the dialogue, the characters are not fully fleshed out: people talk and talk and talk about who they are and who everyone else is, but we never actually SEE them acting that way. We never really grasped who this couple was (even though they were not always true to themselves) which is essential for the audience investing in them and the story. 
Screenwriting 101 Rule #2: "Show, don't tell." Screenwriting 101 Rule #3: The audience MUST care about the characters because the filmmakers have made us feel like we know them and can relate somewhat (even if they aren't sympathetic characters). The script/dialogue is definitely a writer's script: fancy verbal sparring at all times. Even the cop uses "meta." Really? The urgency of the film doesn't kick in for quite some time (the music could have been used more effectively hear to build tension).

There was some fun layering of plots (the flashbacks, the diary itself, the "treasure hunt" of clues) but the wife's parents were, like, extra appendages or something. They served no purpose. That might be allowed in novels, but not in films. Or if their purpose was that the wife's life wasn't quite "reality" from the beginning because of them, that needed to be played up.


I love good suspense-thrillers, but "Gone Girl" just feels generally gratuitous, precious and precocious. And, it's just a nasty piece of work. It also felt like a film that could easily have been made for the small screen.

The most chilling message of the film is: If you turn love into a game, if you are not yourself before or after marriage and neither is your spouse--whom did you just marry? Few of us will experience a "war of images" on national TV, but it does give one pause to wonder what other (perhaps even insincere) "images" we portray of ourselves that "do battle" for us?

Even more chilling (and strange), in interviews with Flynn and in reviews, people are treating this depiction of a crazed woman and a seriously messed-up relationship as, well, normative: "Yeah, that's marriage for ya."

My head hurts. I rarely tell people to save their money and not go see a film, but I'm gonna say it about this unentertaining turkey. But have all the turkey you want later this month.
*See "comments." The book evidently makes it much clearer why he stayed.


--I am dreading Batman.

--Canadians loved the Winnipeg joke. (Saw this in a Toronto theater.)

--I'm sorry. Maybe this is mean, but when Ben Affleck's character is being coached by Tyler Perry (the lawyer) not to look smug on camera...well...I just couldn't stop laughing because...well....

--I couldn't help feeling that this film comes from a woman writer trying to prove that she can write as rough and shocking as any man. As if that's what it means to be a man.

--THEOLOGY OF THE BODY in this film? No. It's not even a cautionary tale unless: "Don't Marry an Axe Murderer." The only REAL thing that could be taken away is the game-playing thing. I know people who lied and pretended (even in little ways) in order to get married. And it turned out ugly.

--There is talk of a sequel. A sequel to Gone Girl makes even less sense than the ending of GG. Unless the point is that society has gone insane. Especially at the male/female, marriage/family level. I'm serious.

1. separate love and sex
2. separate sex and marriage
3. separate sex and fertility
4. make love and sex a game
5. postpone marriage for as long as you can (and make "marriage" about a really expensive wedding)
6. make marriage about finding the perfect sexual partner
7. try to put love, sex, marriage and fertility all back together again right before you get married
8. pretend that marriage is a magic wand that will suddenly make you: know how to be faithful, achieve sexual self-mastery, know how to unselfishly sacrifice for your husband/wife/children, stop looking around, stop flirting around, stop hooking up--when you have actually been "in training" for "the opposite of marriage" all this time
9. even after you get married, stay open to finding "the one," because you can never be sure you married "the one"
10. if the person you married doesn't constantly fill all your needs, start at #1 again.

1. keep love, sex, marriage and fertility together
2. be the kind of person you'd want to marry
3. practice chastity=integration of body and soul, sexual honesty, sexual self-mastery
4. within your marriage, make love and sex a lifelong art
5. get married "young" if you find the love of your life "young." build your life together, not apart
6. make marriage about loving as God loves (Ephesians 5:21, 33)
7. in marriage, practice natural family planning: trust God & each other. NFP=healthy for Mom, Dad, brats, environment
8. show your kids what a happy, healthy, holy marriage looks like for the long haul
9. make the love of your life "the one" and treat them like "the one." they'll do the same for you
10. marriage is: good times/bad times, sickness/health, richer/poorer, till death (see: "The Notebook")


  1. Anonymous4:08 PM

    Sr. Helena, the book was so horrifying that I didn't want to see the movie. Now I really don't. I'm disappointed that Flynn didn't do a good job with the screenplay b/c the book was well-written. As for the plot hole, was the wife pregnant at the end of the movie? She was in the book, with a baby conceived artificially with saved sperm from a previous encounter with her husband, and that's why he stays. She is too crazy to be trusted with a baby.
    And I love your ten rules!

  2. The ending does not make that clear at all. He stays in same house (but not same bed) with violently murderous psycho like it's nothing. Why, why, why? Then after I think it flashed "5 weeks later" on the screen she tells him: "I'm pregnant." He says: "But I never touched you?" All she says is "you didn't have to." That's it. So we're wondering who got her pregnant. It's just soooooooooo stoooooooooopidly done. And not even that clever. It's like Dan Brown or Eat, Pray, Love or whatever.

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