Saw this last weekend. It’s a hit here, with long lines at the cinemas and stellar reviews by critics and Allociné spectateurs alike. With US reviews mostly very good as well and having liked other films I’d seen by the director, David Fincher (e.g. ‘The Social Network’ and ‘Zodiac’, though not ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’), I figured this one would be a safe bet. The verdict: It’s certainly entertaining and holds one’s attention for the entire 2 hours 20 minutes but is overrated. It does not merit the praise that has been bestowed on it. The pic is, as NY Post critic Lou Lumenick aptly put it in his mixed review (one of the handful), “empty and ultimately unsatisfying.” First—spoilers to come!—, the marriage of Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike) was not credible. They may have been physically attracted to one another and had mind-blowing sex but, apart from that, their relationship was a big nothing (and his initial pick up banter when they first met at the cocktail reception was 100% Hollywood cliché). They were an uninteresting, one-dimensional couple, despite both being professional writers at prestigious New York magazines. Secondly, on Amy willingly leaving her life in NYC to accompany Nick back to his bumfuck Missouri hometown where she would then be bored out of her mind, and despite her being the one in the couple who had the money and fame—who wore the pants, as it were: I’m sorry but this was simply not believable. Thirdly, Amy’s diabolical caper—which is what the movie is all about—was preposterous. One would think she’d have found it so much easier to simply divorce the wanker, take her money (she did have a prenup, as one learns), and move back to New York, rather than concoct a crazy Rube Goldberg scheme in which something could obviously go wrong (though had she taken the simpler way out, there would have been no movie). Okay, so she was a psycho, but still… And the bedroom scene at the luxurious hideaway villa, where she dispatches her creepy high school ex à la Norman Bates, drenches herself with blood, and which is not washed off at the hospital… Ouf! Fourthly, on Nick’s affair with his ditzy student—Nick teaching a writing course on the side at the local community college—, i.e. the college prof bonking a hottie half his age from one of his classes: As I’ve written elsewhere (here, scroll down), this only happens in movies. Fifthly, the ending is both unsatisfying and puzzling, raising the question as to what it’s supposed to mean and how to interpret (possible answer: wait for the sequel, ‘Gone Girl 2’).
Now there were a few good things about the pic. E.g. the supporting cast was first-rate, particularly Nick’s sister (Carrie Coon) and the detective (Kim Dickens) (though I thought Affleck and Pike were merely okay). The media circus around Amy’s disappearance was also great satire of the us et coutumes of American cable TV news. And, as I’ve already said, the pic held one’s attention malgré tout. But that’s as much as I’ll say in its favor. It is a film that may be seen, but that may also be skipped.
Here’s brief mention of other American films seen over the past few months.
A Most Wanted Man: I’ll see any geopolitical thriller about radical Islamists and Western intelligence agencies that gets halfway decent reviews—as this one did—, and particularly if it stars Philip Seymour Hoffman (his very last film). And if it has a Chechen-Russian angle to boot, that makes it that much more interesting. This one—directed by the Dutchman Anton Corbijn, entirely set in Hamburg, and which is actually a US-German-British production—was entertaining enough but I gave it no thought after leaving the theater. A week later I had to go on to the Internet to recall its name and what it was about (and I do not have premature Alzheimer’s). In other words, the pic was, for me at least, not memorable. In an exchange on social media, a friend who saw it remarked on how cinematic adaptations of John Le Carré’s novels tend not to work too well. I agreed. And this one is a case in point.
Night Moves: This indy pic, by Kelly Reichardt—who directed the fine ‘Meek’s Cutoff‘—, opened in France a full month before it did in the US, which sometimes happens. It’s about a community of baba cool, ecologically militant, urban transplanted organic farmers in Oregon, a few of whom become radicalized in their opposition to the construction of a dam in their area, decide to carry out an act of eco-terrorism, and how it all goes very wrong. Which all goes to show that baba cool écolos are not cut out to be terrorists, as they absolutely do not want to physically harm anybody. It’s a well-done, meticulously paced thriller and with solid performances by Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, and Peter Sarsgaard. Recommended. Trailer is here.
Short Term 12: This indy pic, set in an L.A. group home for troubled teenagers, is based on the personal experiences of director Destin Daniel Cretton, who worked in such a home himself. The protag, named Grace (Brie Larson), is in her mid 20s, works full-time with the kids, has an outwardly strong personality and imposes her authority, but meets her match with a troubled, turbulent 16-year-old, Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), who joins the home. As it turns out, Grace had traumatic family experiences similar to those of Jayden’s and which, behind her facade of solidity, rendered her as psychologically fragile as the teenagers in her charge and complicated her romantic relationship with colleague Mason (John Gallagher Jr). It’s a pretty good movie and which received top reviews in both the US and France. It may be seen. Trailer is here.
Only Lovers Left Alive: Jim Jarmusch’s latest. I was a fan of his in his early years (‘Stranger than Paradise’, ‘Down by Law’) but have found him increasingly uneven with time (though I did like ‘Dead Man’ and ‘Broken Flowers’). I would have normally avoided this one, as it’s a vampire film, a genre that I have absolutely zero interest in—if not a downright anti-interest. But I decided I really should see it and for a reason that may strike others as being silly, which is that much of it was shot in Tangier, a city in which I spent two weeks last year and greatly like. I wanted the thrill of seeing on the big screen streets in Tangier I’ve walked on. And as it’s Jarmusch, I figured that it would be offbeat in an interesting way and contain some kind of message or meditation on something. So with some trepidation, I expended two hours of my time and checked it out. The verdict: As of this date it is the worst, most insufferable film I’ve seen this year. Now I won’t say that it’s bad in an objective sense; it was, in view of my tastes and sensibilities, simply bad for me. And also for my wife, who whispered to me after an hour that she had had quite enough and was leaving. I should have accompanied her but decided to sit through it to the end, to subject myself to another hour of cinematic torture—and which was absolutely not compensated for by the few scenes of the Tangier medina, and which were all at night to boot (as were those of Detroit—its bombed out sections—, where it was also set; the entire film was at night; as for its message or meditation, bof; if one is interested in that, see here). But my and wife’s sentiments were clearly not shared by too many others in the packed salle at the UGC Ciné Cité Les Halles multiplex, as there were no other walkouts. And the film did decently at the box office and to top reviews by critics and Allociné spectateurs alike. Chacun son goût. Really.