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Til Death: Gone Girl and A Good Marriage

October 3, 2014


I should probably recuse myself from reviewing Gone Girl—not only because I haven’t read Gillian Flynn’s novel, but also because I (briefly) worked with Gillian at Entertainment Weekly. Then again, I didn’t really know her. In fact, the only memory I have of speaking with her was when she asked to borrow a copy of a Showtime movie I had recently reviewed, 2001’s Things Behind the Sun, because she was a fan of its star, Kim Dickens. Perhaps not coincidentally, Dickens co-stars in the David Fincher film adaptation as the cop who investigates suspected wife-murderer Ben Affleck. (No spoilers here: I didn’t know the plot’s twists when I went to see the movie, so I don’t want to ruin it for anyone else.)

Dickens gives one of the film’s best performances, along with—shockingly—Tyler Perry as Affleck’s defense attorney, and Affleck himself, who makes good use of his natural smarminess. My biggest problem with Gone Girl was the Girl herself. I’m not sure if it was the character or the actress, Rosamund Pike (or both), but I didn’t buy her motivations for a minute. Fincher sets an aptly creepy mood, and the music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross—who won an Oscar for Fincher’s The Social Network and also scored his Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—nails the disquieting tone.

As for the vaunted plot, well, Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?” kept running through my mind, at least until two hours into this 150-minute slog, at which point, I started counting the endings. I stopped at five, and none were satisfying. But maybe I’m just jealous because Gillian is now a gazillionaire and I’m still writing this blog for free.

I’ll give her this: Gone Girl works better as a portrait of a terrifyingly dysfunctional marriage—and the terrifyingly dysfuntional media—than it does as a mystery. And it works better as a mystery than Stephen King’s A Good Marriage, a straight-to-VOD snoozer that shares some of the same themes. Nothing wrong with the cast: The always-great Joan Allen stars as a New Hampshire housewife who suspects her seemingly mild-mannered accountant husband (Anthony LaPaglia, another reliable pro) may be a serial killer.

The trouble is, as opposed to the overly plotted Gone Girl, there’s just not enough story in King’s short story (which he adapted himself) to sustain a feature-length film. Lifetime’s upcoming version of King’s novella Big Driver suffers from the same shortcoming. The best thing I can say about A Good Marriage—and Gone Girl, for that matter—is that it made me oh-so-blissful to be single.

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