Welly welly well, monday is upon us again. I was kinda at a loss for ideas on what to write about at first, but then I realized that the movies I watched this past weekend had a somewhat unifying theme: they both deal with the darkness in humans, and the twisted, sick shit that we do to each other because of it. So there was the proper core for this double-feature. And as my “Night Terrors”-series is focused solely on horror genre, I had to make up a new article series(this would be the fourth then?), titled “IAB’s Shelf”. Yeah – I spent like
3 seconds countless waking hours thinking that one over.
So here we go (Just a reminder – there be SPOILERS):
“Gone Girl” is based on a best-selling 2012 novel by Gillian Flynn. As is the case with bestsellers, a movie option was made by 20th Century Fox almost instantaneously, by producers Leslie Dixon – and Reese Witherspoon, of all people. Witherspoon was actually intent on starring in the film at first, but actually decided later on not to, and only remained as a producer. Interestingly, author Flynn was given the job of writing the screenplay almost from day one, and wrote the first draft actually during her promotional tour for the book. Meanwhile, David Fincher was going through a nightmarish pre-production of a remake of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, but disputes over the ballooning budget and other things made that project go into a slow halt, walking the line back into Development Hell, so Fincher left that project and read Flynn’s first draft – having shown interest in the project even early on – and quickly signed on. Together they began the process of finessing the story into a manageable form. It didn’t take much effort to sign actors on board – Ben Affleck even withdrew from a directing gig to be on the picture.
On the 5th wedding anniversary of Nick and Amy Dunne, Nick(Ben Affleck) returns home after a concerned call from his neighbor and finds signs of struggle inside the house and Amy(Rosamund Pike) gone. With the help of Detective Rhonda Boney(Kim Dickens) and Officer Gilpin(Patrick Fugit), Nick and Amy’s parents quickly launch a large “Missing person”-media campaign, believing that Amy might have been kidnapped. Amy is, as we learn, the basis of a famous children’s book-character, authored by her parents. As the cops investigate the case, Nick also investigates the trail of a annual wedding anniversary “treasure-hunt”, which weirdly seems to lead to pieces of criminating evidence, that makes it seem that Nick is actually behind Amy’s disappearance, or even murder. In between we get glimpses of Amy writing her diary, giving us flashbacks of the once happy couple slowly becoming not-so-happy. As the layers of his deceptive ways are peeled off, Nick soon finds himself crucified in front of his family and the national media. In a mid-point twist, we actually find out that Amy is in fact alive and well(kinda) and has in fact orchestrated the whole thing with great minutae, and the diary was in fact fabricated, just another piece of evidence designed to prove Nick’s guilt. After she gets robbed from all her money, in desperation she contacts a wealthy former lover, Desi Collings(Neil Patrick Harris), who turns out to be completely obsessed with Amy and in fact locks her in one of his homes. So as Nick is struggling to get out of a murder investigation, Amy – the only person who could exonerate him from it – struggles to get out of the cage she has gotten herself in.
I read this book last year, and when I heard that Fincher was attached to the film version, my first thought was: “good” – this is exactly the sort of material that suits for his charcoal dark sensibilities. You see – I’ve read a lot of murmur around the web that “Fincher’s lost his edge”, or “Fincher’s gone mainstream”. That’s a bunch of bullshit. Not counting “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” – which was in my mind his Spielberg-film(and it actually WAS a project considered by ‘Berg in early 90’s) – Fincher has done a pretty admirable trick, actually: he is still very much exposing the dark sides of humanity, but making it LOOK like mainstream. It’s like he’s pulled off the ultimate “fuck you” to the studios – which is nice, since his first studio picture(“Alien3”) was probably one of the most hellish experiences for a first-time director. Because, Nick and Amy Dunne are in their basis, sociopaths. This was a gleeful twist in the book. Nick is very much a con-artist(as he even says in the movie), who uses his golden boy-looks and shiny white smile to get whatever he wants in life. Affleck is absolutely perfect casting here; probably one of the best performances he’s ever pulled off. But the real star here is Rosamund Pike as Amy; a person who was basically made into a manipulating, scheming sociopath by her parents(a back-story that’s sadly kinda excised from the film), a pair of child psychologists who treated her more like an experiment than as a child. In the process they created a monster, who tries to mold men into her own image by any means necessary – and if failing, she is certainly not above staging them as rapists, abusers or murderers. And – as we find out – she is not above murder, either; the hapless slimebag Desi finds this out the hard way. Pike has – in my mind at least – never been this good before, and got a well-deserved Academy Award-nomination for it. These are two despicable human beings who are pretty on the outside, but truly, deeply ugly in the inside. And that’s kinda a fitting description of this movie, too; top-notch execution, great actors and a truly dark, twisted story within. Great stuff!
Dir: Dan Gilroy
The Gilroys are an interesting family. The three sons of writer/producer/director/playwright Frank D. Gilroy, that is. All three brothers have followed their father into the motion picture-business, with some pretty good results, I might add. You’ve got Tony Gilroy – screenwriter of “Dolores Claiborne”, “The Devil’s Advocate”, “Proof of Life”, the “Bourne”-films and writer/director of “Michael Clayton”, “Duplicity” and “The Bourne Legacy”. You’ve got John Gilroy – editor of “Narc”, “Pride and Glory”, “Warrior”, “Salt”, “Pacific Rim” and of course all of the films directed by Tony. And then you have Dan – co-writer of “Freejack”, “The Fall”, “Real Steel” and “The Bourne Legacy”, who now makes his directing debut with “Nightcrawler”, which he also wrote. And what a lightning-in-a-bottle debut it turned out to be!
Lou Bloom(Jake Gyllenhaal) is a thief, stealing materials from construction sites and selling them to a scrap yard for a quick buck. Driving home after one of his scavenging trips, he comes across an accident site. He witnesses the arrival of a freelance film crew, lead by Joe Loder(Bill Paxton), who film the wreck and the rescue of the driver from the burning car into footage to be sold at local news stations to be used in the morning news. Lou sees an opportunity, steals an expensive racing bicycle the next day and pawns it in exchange of a camcorder and a police scanner. The following night, he comes across a carjacking aftermath and proceeds to film extremely graphic footage of the victim, getting himself and Loder kicked off the site. Lou approaches a news director of a not-so-high-in-ratings local station, Nina Romina(Rene Russo), who sees an opportunity in Lou’s more sensational approach of filming, and they form a partnership. Lou quickly climbs up the ladder, makes more money, hires an assistant, Rick(Riz Ahmed), gets better equipment and a fast sports car with the latest navigation system and top-of-the-line scanners. There’s just one little thing: Lou is, in fact, a total sociopath. He sneaks into crime scenes, he drags accident victims into better filming angles, he black-mails Nina into a relationship AND giving him a bigger credit as a news-provider. One night, Lou & Rick arrive at a triple-murder scene WAY before the police, and actually manage to film the murderers leaving the house. Lou goes into the house and films the bodies, still warm, and manages to gain police’s interest. He blatantly lies to them and begins to track down the murderers by himself, adamant at filming their arrests first hand – effectively now MAKING news, instead of just filming them….
Wow. This film kinda came out of nowhere. I read a whole heap of glowing reviews before, but holy shit had I no idea how incredibly twisted this film was. And rightfully earned to be nominated for an original screenplay-Oscar. But shoulda gotten so many more nominations. First off, what a helluva directing debut! Dan Gilroy is definitely someone to watch. With cinematographer Robert Elswit(“Boogie Nights”, “Magnolia”, “There Will be Blood”, “Michael Clayton” et al), Gilroy makes an Los Angeles-set neo-noir that absolutely channels the finest of Michael Mann, William Friedkin’s “To Live and Die in LA” and recently, Nicholas Winding Refn’s “Drive”. This is just a visual feast. Add to that the razor-sharp editing by John Gilroy and the looming score by James Newton Howard, and you’ve got some serious visual/aural candy here. But the big star here is Jake Gyllenhaal. He has played characters that have had a certain darkness to them before – Donnie Darko, Swofford in “Jarhead”, Jack in “Brokeback Mountain”, Robert Graysmith in “Zodiac” – but godDAMN; none of those prepared this author for the character of Lou Bloom. Lou is, without a doubt, one of the most despicable sociopaths ever put on film. Gyllenhaal lost 20 pounds to play this character, in his own words “making him look like a hungry coyote”. I tend to think of him more like a Vampire actually; feeding on the blood and tears of those that he films at night. There’s also a strangely familiar vibes of Christian Bale’s portrayal of Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho”. Just an absolutely magnetic performance. You are forced to follow this absolutely evil human being, and yet feel some kind of an odd joy in watching him do the things he does. I guess it could be called the “Hannibal Lecter”-effect. The supporting cast fairs well too; Rene Russo as Nina is as good as ever, it’s always nice to see Bill Paxton, and Riz Ahmed is instantly likeable as Rick, who at first is excited about his new job, but soon begins to learn just how twisted and manipulative his employer really is. This movie need to be seen. It’s not necessarily easy to watch, as we are in essence, following the path of a sociopath, but it also gives something to think: is the news-business now become such a dirty, rotten, soulless place, that it really takes a heartless sociopath to excel in it?