I saw the movie the other day, but I wanted to let it sit and marinate in my head before writing a post about it. I wanted to be fair. I wanted to figure out if it could have been my too-high expectations that made me disappointed in the movie. I wanted to decide if my opinion about it was skewed because I’d enjoyed Gillian Flynn’s novel so much.
But here’s the thing: I just didn’t love the movie. Did. Not. Love. It. At. All.
The book is a twisty page turner with a he said/she said narrative that leaves you breathless to get to the end to find out what the hell happened to Amy. There’s no question that having the answer leaves the moviegoer at a disadvantage, plot wise; we all know how the story ends (despite rumors that director David Fincher and Flynn, who adapted her novel for the screen, had changed it). So there’s that.
But the book had nuance. The characters were interesting. They weren’t likable but so what; they were layered enough that you kept reading, kept wondering about their fates, kept appreciating Flynn’s skill at depicting a marriage that began with such promise and deteriorated badly.
If only the movie had been structured with the same sense of nuance. Instead – and I know I’m in the minority here; the reviews have been glowing with the exception of the NYT, Washington Post, New Yorker and a few others – I found the film plodding, too long, one note. For me it was the story of a lunkhead and a psycho, period. Ben Affleck, as Nick, who is portrayed in the book as being a charming deadbeat, isn’t particularly charming. He walks like a robot and coasts along looking bewildered. And Rosamond Pike, as Nick’s missing wife Amy, while a British beauty who masters the American accent, is, as written, a cartoon; by the end of the movie when she’s soaked with blood she’s more like Carrie at the high school prom than a whip-smart nutcase.
I did like some of the secondary characters: the female cop, the sister, the stalker ex (Neil Patrick Harris was super creepy). But where was the pace? Shouldn’t it have picked up as we moved toward the big Ta Da finale? And what happened to the snarky humor that was so welcome in the book? Gone, girl. That’s where it was. Gone. The whole exercise made me want to go home and watch my DVD of “The War of the Roses,” another dark film about marriage but one that entertained and had brilliant performances by its leads.