Overrated thriller from the master of creepy ‘auteur’ directors, David Fincher, that is far too muddled and subjective to be credible. It’s one of those films that attempts satirize and remind us all how utterly insane news/television media whilst trying to makes this point in fresh and surprising way; it half succeeds. The film is a claustrophobic and uncanny mystery, which has been carefully crafted by Fincher just as he did with The Game, Seven, Panic Room, Social Network and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, to name just a few.
The acting and script goes well with imitable camera direction, which has the grainy, green glowing precision of his other films, but here the shocking twist is the malicious skill and intelligence with which the villain resorts to achieve her goal. Fincher explores the same existential and Nietzschian ‘superman’ themes of moral and social destruction he did with Social Network, Fight Club and Benjamin Button, but with the unsettling creepiness of Seven and The Game, and with a slightly hackneyed and implausible Fatal Attraction/Basic Instinct plot line. I’d often wondered what Fatal Attraction would’ve have been like had it been filmed from the point-of-view of the deranged ex-lover, Glen Close, and I think this is it.
Despite Fincher’s style, and the critics praise for the film’s intriguing premise and delivery, I found the story and characters shallow and unlikeable, even when they ‘ironically’ parody themselves as being too ‘hip’ and perfect. Essentially it’s like a cross between Dawson’s Creek with a dash of thirtysomething romcom, and some Donnie Darko for decoration (if that sentence makes any sense at all).
Ben Affleck seems to be reprising the nice guy/dumb guy/lovable jock/hipster he’d played fifteen years ago in Chasing Amy (1997), Good Will Hunting (1997), Forces of Nature (1999) and Armageddon (1998), before he’d made one too many blunders (Dogma 1999, Pearl Harbour 2001, Daredevil 2003, Smokin’ Aces 2006) and became accused of being a talentless B-list typecast, but then luckily reinvented himself as a nice guy/hipster/director with Argo (2012) and The Town (2010) (both of which were equally adored by the critics for his efforts and completely forgettable). Rosamund Pike’s performance as the jilted and super-intelligent heroine is sharp and scary but perhaps is nothing that Linda Fiorentino hadn’t already done in The Last Seduction (1994), Julia Roberts (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind 2002, Duplicity 2009), Catherine Zeta Jones (Traffic 2000, Entrapment 1999) or Charlize Theron (Young Adult 2011, Snow White 2012), basically scenes where she can switch from a loving trophy wife to a massive super-bitch at a moment’s notice, although she does so with a mischievous sense of humour. As a couple they never quite seem rise above being a weird Ken and Barbie sitcom parody, perhaps Fincher watched Affleck in Forces of Nature and hated it so much he just had to make a sequel.
I haven’t read Gillian Flynn’s novel but assume it’s a better than the film, just as Shutter Island was more interesting than the lurid adaptation turned out to be.
The main issue I have with the film is it’s utter conviction and conceit that the media and police detective would be so clueless and gullible, where it seems that it’s not as difficult as you’d think to falsify forensic evidence; the most obvious instance being in the weeks after Pike’s abrupt reappearance, isn’t she meant to have sustained some fatal head injury showing massive blood loss found at the crime scene? How in Oscar Pistorius’s self-defense plea could the police and anyone not notice this?!
Definitely worth watching if you’re a fan of cult horror movies.