Thursday, October 9, 2014

Gone Girl and The Drop

          Hate, Crimes, and Punishment
                      Review by Ken Burke                 Gone Girl
A marriage deteriorates to the edge of divorce when suddenly the wife vanishes with the husband as the prime suspect even as we see her perspective in past scenes.
                                                                                  The Drop
Although this is James Gandolfini’s final film, the focus is rightfully on Tom Hardy in a story about misguided clandestine crime within a Brooklyn Chechen-run syndicate.
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By the time I started writing this review I must acknowledge that between the huge crowd of readers who already knew the secrets of Gone Girl (David Fincher) from having read the Gillian Flynn novel (she also adapted the screenplay, so I don’t think you miss too much if you’re not up on your literary “must-reads,” although if you—like me—are in that “left behind” group [not to be confused with the current-apocalypse-story-movie of that name (directed by Vic Armstrong), which I have no interest in, along with many other avoiders, leaving it with a slim $6.3 million opening despite playing in 1.825 theaters] you might be interested in this article from Time magazine about the 13 biggest differences between book and film—although after now having seen the cinematic version I don’t think that too much of critical significance was left out, although if Fincher had another hour to work with he could have made his film even more intense with further inclusion of the impact Nick’s misogynistic father had on him just as Amy’s miscarried-non-siblings [all named Hope] had influence on her development with her parents) and the likely-even-larger-crowd who flocked to the theaters last weekend to give Fincher’s version a hearty $37.5 million domestic opening there probably aren’t many of you out there who don’t yet know what’s going on with this likely-first-film-of-the-year to end up making serious money while also having some consideration when awards nominations come out in a few months (if you look here I think you’ll see that the 2014 releases so far that have grossed over $100 million aren’t likely to be recognized for much beyond technical achievements, except possibly for The Fault in Our Stars [Josh Boone; review in our June 12, 2014 posting] but even there Shailene Woodley may find that her fine performance will be overshadowed by herself in what’s to come in a few weeks when we see her really take command of the screen in a disturbing film that may not make a lot of cash, White Bird in a Blizzard [Gregg Araki; review will be posted about the time of its scheduled Halloween opening in my area]), but if you still haven’t found your way to the ticket booth yet (which I heartily encourage you to do for Gone Girl) then please take my Spoiler Alert notice above seriously because, as The Temptations sang long ago (1966), “Get ready ‘cause here I come,” with plot points a-flying.  (Is it too early in the review to cut away to a musical interlude?  Of course not, so here are the Temps at

If you need any quick plot summary for Gone Girl, the set-up is that Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) once had an idyllic marriage to Amy Elliot (Rosamund Pike), but that’s gone sour after they moved from NYC back to his small-city North Carthage, Missouri (fictional location, but the film was shot in Cape Girardeau, MO, which Flynn agrees is a location that speaks to her Kansas City, MO roots and the type of setting she had in mind for her book; read more here if you like) hometown (with no mention of the current racial and police crises in Ferguson, MO given that this plot occurs July 5-September 23, 2012) as the result of their recession-reverses (“gone jobs”) and his dying mother.  On their 5th wedding anniversary Nick intends to pursue divorce but she goes missing—smashed furniture and traces of blood in the kitchen immediately suggest foul play—with him increasingly looking like the prime suspect in killing her, enhanced by happy-fading-to-disturbing-flashbacks of their earlier life as narrated by Amy in voice-over as she’s writing entries in her dairy.

As we piece together the fragmented aspects of the Dunne’s lives we find that both of them had promising careers in Manhattan (him with a publishing company, her as a journalist) which merged nicely with their instant, passionate attraction when they met, yet over time Amy’s become disillusioned with the tempo of her new life (in her words she goes “from desperate to pathetic”), Nick’s receding-interest in her, and—as the last straw—her discovery of his 1½ year affair with Andie Fitzgerald (Emily Ratajkowski), one of his creative-writing-students (part-time-work on his part, balanced out by his ownership with his sister, Margo [Carrie Coon], of a local bar—although not as important a location here as we’ll find later in The Drop [(Michaël Roskam]); of course, she was no blossoming rose herself, having learned frustration at an early age as each failure in her actual life was made into a triumph by her parents in their fictionalized version of her in their Amazing Amy books, leading her into becoming a manipulative personality where she caused great personal distress to a couple of her former lovers, including one, Desi Collings (Neil Patrick Harris), who’s strangely still hoping to reconnect with her despite her past actions against him.  While all of the negative stuff that comes out about Amy is revealed through Nick’s attempts to find out what happened to his wife—he’s adamant that he didn’t kill her, even though statements in her dairy as told from her standpoint indicate otherwise—we also learn from the current scenes, shot not so much from his perspective but with him as the lead character, that his problems with their marriage had to do with his constant feelings of failure on his part in trying to live up to her expectations of him as the dynamic, driven stud that he created himself to be when they met 7 years ago in order to overcome his insecurities, making himself worthy in both their eyes of her assertive confidence.  In retrospect, we see that neither one of them are admirable characters, which normally makes for a difficult sell of a film story to audiences, but Nick’s stock rises a bit in our estimation when we learn how he’s being played for death-row-execution by Amy even though the resolution of this plot purposely leaves us little to praise about either one of them. (Unlike, say, Revolutionary Road [Sam Mendes, 2008] where the Wheelers are also a pair of damaged individuals trying to hold a marriage together but in their clumsy attempts at improvement they both do things that alienate themselves from each other and from us, yet in the end of their tragedies we get newfound respect—tinged with plenty of melancholy—for both of them; Gone Girl may actually be more like another Mendes masterpiece, American Beauty [1999], where it’s hard to care much for anyone in this brutally-honest-film about contemporary-societal-breakdown except for the 2 teenage kids of these neighboring families who just want to get as far away as possible from what their tarnished parents have created in their sadly-wasted-lives.)

Nick cooperates with Amy’s crusading parents to hold passionate press conferences and vigils for her safe return, although his heart doesn’t seem to be in it enough to make him a sympathetic figure with the public who know him only through cable-news-media-exposure, especially given that his purported innocence is being challenged daily by self-appointed- “prosecutor” Ellen Abbott (Missi Pyle), based, I’d say (as do others; please note if you like), on the non-stop-accusations of TV’s HNL host Nancy Grace (with her talent for such honed in part by her work as an actual Special Prosecutor with the Atlanta-Fulton County D.A.’s office in her native Georgia—where she was officially reprimanded for misconduct, along with compiling a record of successful convictions) in such situations as her coverage (2008-2011) of the disappearance of Caylee Anthony, with constant accusations against the child’s mother, Casey Anthony, even after the woman’s acquittal.  In Gone Girl we get the same full-court-press by Ellen Abbott against Nick, which ultimately results in him trying to bolster his image by turning to a Johnnie Cochran-type defense lawyer, Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry, turning in an effectively-serious performance)—coincidentally, Grace had a legal commentary show with Cochran on Court TV before moving on to her individual fame—but even with Bolt’s well-conceived-image-burnishing-strategies beginning to take hold (Nick gets interviewed by another cable TV personality, Sharon Schieber [Sela Ward], where he comes off as captivating, momentarily enhancing his position) Nick soon finds himself in major trouble again when Amy’s improperly-burned-diary is discovered (again, through her careful maneuvering), clearly pointing at Nick as a likely-homicide-perpetrator, depriving him of his only potential-law-enforcement-supporter up to that point, local police Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens)—her partner, Officer Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit), was ready to lock up Nick early into the investigation—even seriously undermining whatever support he has with Bolt and Margo (although part of what keeps her hanging on for Nick—besides a more-positive-brand of twin-sibling-bond than what we get with The Skeleton Twins [Craig Johnson; review in our September 25, 2014 posting]—comes from one of Abbott’s many-unfounded-implications, that this brother and sister are “close” on another level entirely).

Of course, what saves Nick in our eyes (last chance Spoiler Alert; beyond this you’re on your own) is the shift about mid-film to the present with Amy where we see her “disappearance” from the perspective of the truth, learning how she plotted her supposed-murder for a long time after finding out about Nick’s affair with Andie (which, in further indictment of his questionable-character, if not his “murderous actions,” he broke off in an attempt to protect his reputation when he started being seen as a suspect, only to have that backfire when she was encouraged to come forward as a further nail in Nick’s potential coffin), “befriending” an impressionable neighbor (whom Nick hardly knew) with her stories of fear for her life, draining her own blood on the day of the “crime” to smear on the kitchen floor then cleaning it up in a manner that would be revealed by CSI-procedures, heading out away from North Carthage where she changed her appearance (with the use of hair dye, plus a junk-food-diet to gain some puffy pounds) and took on a fake Southern identity, all in anticipation of killing herself in a manner where her body would be found finalizing Nick’s “guilt” (like the intended ending of Fatal Attraction [Adrian Lyne, 1987] where the Glenn Close character was going to set up her suicide as murder by the Michael Douglas character so that he’d be punished for refusing to continue their affair; however, test audiences howled against that outcome so it was reshot to allow her to invade Douglas’ home so that Ann Archer’s wife character could shoot Close, restoring stability to the meltdown that had contaminated this nuclear-family).  When Nick’s fate seems sealed anyway with the discovery of the diary (full, as we now understand, of fake entries to throw suspicion on Nick as well as the concocted claim that Amy’s pregnant), Amy abandons her suicide plan but suffers her own setback when her redneckish neighbors steal all of her cash at gunpoint; she’s always got a backup-strategy, though, so she seeks out obsessive Desi, gives him a crap-filled-story about abuse from Nick, then allows herself to be a luxuriously-kept-woman at his lakeside mansion until she sees Nick’s TV interview, which charms her into wanting him back (with that event itself being a grand part of this whole ambitious-though-ambiguous-morality-tale, as we know he’s lying about missing Amy, desperate for her return, because by now he realizes how he’s been set up—but he can’t prove it yet without her reappearance in non-corpse-mode—yet we’re also amazed that such deception on his part actually plays to her desires, showing how shallow [and ultimately ruthless] she is as well).

So, if Desi thought he caught a bad deal from Amy in those days of yore, he has no idea what’s in store this time as she spends a good bit of time with him, trimming herself back to her “fighting weight,” showing attraction for him, then seducing him in prelude to whipping out a box cutter used to slash him unmercifully to death, after which she drives herself back home still covered with his blood to dish out a story about how she was held captive, finally escaped, and is so relieved to be back with her loving husband.  Nick doesn’t buy this crap for an instant but the FBI does.  (Another aspect of the subversive humor that permeates this story, as the all-male federal agents will barely let suspicious female Det. Boney get a question in edgewise, as she has come to accept Nick’s private explanation to her of how he was framed by his ambitious, psychotic spouse—not to say that he’s any saint, because he’s clearly not, but at least he doesn’t murder people who are in his way, even when he’s accused of such; if Amy had been the one with a pistol back when her neighbors pulled off their heist you can bet that money would have been as bloody as what turns up in a key scene in the next part of this review concerning The Drop—10/13/2014: Please scroll way down to the bottom of the Comments section at the end of this page to note another probable plot hole in Amy's story about Desi that I forgot to note in the original posting.)  Given their now-partnership in media fame, Nick begrudgingly accepts Amy promise that she won’t hurt him as long as he continues to play along with their public farce, now further enhanced by her actual pregnancy that she got from Nick’s sperm stored at a fertility clinic (the pregnancy is then given final public sanction by an interview with Ellen Abbott, who simply and sweetly brushes aside Nick’s personal disgust with her before the session begins), especially if he maintains that constructed effort of making himself “worthy” of her, which is what proved to be her once-and-present-attraction for him, despite their current singular-sleeping-arrangements.  Nick and Det. Boney still want to bust Amy but have no way to do so, although Nick’s facial expressions at the very end of Gone Girl give the impression that there may be more to this new version of a partnership with Amy that he’d initially considered, so we’re left not having any idea where this marriage nor its conspirators are headed, which is just what Fincher and Flynn intended (although, as she notes in her interview cited above she might be open someday to a sequel—assuming that we’re ready for more debauchery from this pair; Nick and Amy, that is, although the presented cinematic debauchery from this director and screenwriter would be effective future teamwork as well).  Essentially, Gone Girl is a mystery morphed into a thriller that reveals itself as even more of an effectively-creepy-social-commentary (just as Mark Frost and David Lynch’s surreal TV series, Twin Peaks, proved to be very little of a murder mystery about Laura Palmer but instead a wicked soap opera that satirized much of supposedly-stable Middle America, just as Lynch has done so successfully in films such as Blue Velvet [1986] and Mulholland Drive [2001]; and if you missed Twin Peaks, or just miss its marvelous weirdness since its demise in 1991 after its short broadcast run, take heart because it’s coming back, to the Showtime network in 2016), with its explorations of how our obsessions with incessant cable-news-coverage can so easily sway public opinion on guilt or innocence, proper understanding of politically-charged-issues, etc.

Rosamund Pike channeling Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Venus (1484-86);
Ben Affleck channeling Bruce Wayne in an unorthodox remake of Rebel Without a Cause
As with so many other Fincher successes (such as The Social Network [2010], The Curious Case of Benjamin Button [2008], Zodiac [2007], Fight Club [1999], and Se7en [1995]), the unsettling, moody atmosphere of Gone Girl is a great contribution to the impactful experience of watching this hard-to-predict-story unfold (for those non-best-seller-consumers among us), allowing the 2 ½ hour running time to flow effortlessly, just as the uniformly-superior-acting, especially by Pike (a truly stunning-breakthrough, award-nomination-worthy performance after a long career-in-waiting) and Affleck (maybe the fanboys will cut him some slack now on the upcoming Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice [Zack Synder, scheduled for 2016], at least until it actually comes out) consistently draws you into these complex characters.  The murder-mystery-aspect of the narrative works well until it shifts into the equally-compelling-revelations about Amy’s scheme, with the final brutal attack on Desi followed by the unexpected rapprochement between the 2 devious spouses pushing the closing scenes into emotional high gear (despite the frustration that some may feel over Amy’s ability to manipulate just about everyone and not only get away with it but also reinvent herself as a pop-culture-hero, as well as the disappointment that Nick proves not only powerless in thwarting his wife’s vicious ambitions but also compliant in her new vision of their union, putting both of them on the same level of eager manipulation which seems to lie at the heart of their empty souls).  You could easily raise the same narrative nitpick that Nick notes (how’s that for a sentenceful [I'm creating words; flow with it] of alliteration?) about how did Amy get that box cutter if she was supposedly tied to Desi’s bed during her capture, but even that is part of the satire, as the male law officers (along with the public at large) just eagerly buy into her story because it makes for such an easy resolution: pitiful victim, marriage restored, followed by the crowning pregnancy of the reunited couple.  It seems that no matter how high the bullshit is piled (something that Nick pledged early on to Amy that he’d never burden her with) you can convince those who step in it that it’s really rose petals if you make the story of how fragrant the flowers are sentimental and exaggerated enough; Gone Girl addresses the current national idiocy that we see so much melodrama in both our fictional and “news” programming on TV, the Internet, etc. that all you need is the appearance of desired-closure for such a “satisfactory” ending to be embraced as reality, while we know the truer reality here from Nick’s opening off-screen questions about his wife:  “What are you thinking?  How are you feeling?  What have we done to each other?”

Speaking of satisfactory endings, I’ve been trying to find an opportunity to see The Drop ever since it opened a month ago, but, with getting back into a routine after a lengthy vacation plus doing some long-planned-non-cinematic-activities, that chance didn’t come until last weekend.  If you haven’t tried to find The Drop yet I’d encourage you to do so quickly, both because it evolves into a very fascinating film and it’s likely to disappear soon given that its theater coverage dropped about 74% from just a week ago, now down to only 429 screens, while its domestic grosses haven’t even topped $10.5 million yet so I imagine that video of some sort will soon be your only option.  My chief interest was in seeing the final film appearance of former-Sopranos star James Gandolfini—as well as keep up with the career of powerful-presence Noomi Rapace (her most impactful role so far is as Lisbeth Salander in the original Swedish versions of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo [Niels Arden Oplev, 2009] and its sequels [which were released prior to the launch of this blog, but I did make some comparisons between her take on the character and how Rooney Mara portrayed Lisbeth in the American remake of the first of that trilogy [directed, appropriately, by David Fincher, 2011, with the other 2 installments to follow in due time; review of ... the Dragon Tattoo remake in our December 28, 2011 posting, one of our first], although she proved to be one of the main selling points for Prometheus [Ridley Scott, 2012] as Elizabeth Shaw, a role she’ll reprise in Prometheus 2 [Scott, scheduled for 2016], where I hope we’ll start getting better clarity as to how the events in these films will finally take us to Alien [Scott, 1979])—but the real impact in The Drop comes from Tom Hardy in a completely different characterization from what we saw in The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan, 2012; review in our August 5, 2012 posting) where his diabolical Bane almost proved the undoing of Batman.  Here, Hardy as Bob the bartender at Cousin Marv’s Bar in Brooklyn at times hardly seems like he’s got 2 brain cells to rub together to keep himself warm during the winter yet proves to be the clearest thinker of anyone in the cast, as well as a lot more ruthless than you’d initially suspect, based on his reclusive manner early on in the film.

Gandolfini is Marv, who really is Bob’s cousin and used to own the bar named after himself until he sold it to the local Chechen thugs who seem to run the criminal underground in sprawling Kings County (in case you didn’t know, each of NYC’s five boroughs is also a separate county, given the population density they contain, with Kings being contiguous with the huge city of Brooklyn)—in The Equalizer (Antoine Fuqua; review in our October 1, 2014 posting) we find it’s the Russian mafia in control of Boston’s illicit operations so it seems that our Slavic longtime-enemy/newfound-friend-of-the-Millenium-Age/enemy-again-because-of-Putin’s-rampant-ambitions is now providing the on-screen-easy-villain-choice, giving a break to the long-suffering-reputations of Italian- and Irish-Americans, due to the actions of their law-breaking-societal-segments.  The thugs here seem just as vicious as the ones that Denzel Washington had to destroy as a 1-man-wrecking-crew in The Equalizer (maybe we could send Robert McCall to the Mideast to take on the ISIS hordes as his boots seem to be the only ones needed on the ground when trouble arises), so much so that neither Bob nor Marv has any intention of taking out any of these goons who control their lives, although Marv is bold enough to plot a huge robbery intended to allow him enough resources to hit the road for good, although by not involving Bob in his plans he ultimately seals his own fate.

Given that you may be reading this in lieu of seeing The Drop—if not, you should know by now to take my Spoiler Alerts seriously—I’ll get right to the point of the plot:  Marv knows that each night in Brooklyn all of the criminal cash generated throughout the borough is taken to some bar (location unknown until almost the last minute) for safekeeping until the mob guys show up to collect it; Marv also knows that sooner or later his joint will be chosen for such a drop so he has a plan to stage a robbery at his place to lay the foundation of such a dumb act occurring there, even though it’s known that Cousin Marv’s Bar is directly owned by the Chechen overlords, so that he can arrange for it to happen again when he’s got the major swag-bag, thereby throwing suspicion off of himself long enough to blow town, then live out his remaining days in seclusion somewhere (Marv’s not the brightest bulb on the bar sign, but he’s operating more on pride than brains as he’s tired of being disrespected by the Chechens as well as being angry that he no longer commands the type of “honor” that he once had in the neighborhood).  So, Marv hires a couple of lowlife brothers to pull off the first fake heist, although one of them wears a stopped wristwatch that Bob notes even though their masks hide the rest of their identities.  Marv is so annoyed that either of these goofballs would do anything to draw attention to who they are that he kills the stopped-watch-guy (offscreen, so that it takes a bit longer for us to know fully what’s going on), puts his severed lower arm (watch still attached) into a bag with the stolen money, then leaves the bag in the alley behind the bar for Bob to find so that the cash can truly be “laundered” (to clean off the blood from the bleeding limb, providing us with minor shades of the famous "horse head" scene in The Godfather [Francis Ford Coppola, 1972]) and returned to the Chechens, both to placate their demands that somehow Marv and Bob find the thieves and to set in motion Marv’s decision to off both of the brothers (we get to watch him set the other one up to be run over several times by Marv’s car) in favor of recruiting psychotic Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts) to be his thief when “the drop” finally comes to his bar, with a huge payday in place because it’s going to be Super Bowl Sunday night (why he’s told this in what seems to be far in advance of the date wasn’t that clear to me, but it comes at a point where we as viewers need to understand what’s really happened, along with what’s now intended to happen, in that Bob has emerged as the main character so we need to get more invested with the confusion that accompanies his previously-peripheral-involvement in Marv’s scheme with the now-building-tension to be resolved based on whatever Bob decides has to be done).  By now, we’ve also developed some strong sympathy for Bob based on his concerned care for a pit bull puppy that he’s taken ownership of after finding it wounded and whimpering one night in Nadia’s (Rapace) trash can as he’s walking home from the bar.

When the dog enters the story Bob doesn’t know Nadia at all, but she’s been involved in animal rescue (and had nothing to do with the pup being in her trash) so they bond over the dog, only for us to find out the most-stretched-coincidence of this mostly-fascinating-plot, that Nadia used to be Eric’s girlfriend before his abusive actions pushed her away.  Well, now he’s back putting demands on Nadia to run away with him (his share of “the drop” theft will be substantial as well) along with claiming ownership of the dog (a true statement, with papers and the implanted-identity-chip-information to prove it; injuring the pooch was just a mean act to rattle Nadia before Eric was ever pulled into the lives of Marv and Bob) which leads to a demand on Bob to pay $10,000 for the pooch or else Eric’ll hurt the dog again.  All of this comes together late on Super Bowl night when Eric shows up at the bar; Bob’s got the cash for him but doesn’t hand it over when Eric ups the stakes by demanding that Bob open the safe containing all of the huge amount of “drop” money that’s accumulated during the night.  When Eric gets really belligerent (after a phone call to Marv telling him of Bob’s non-cooperation, which gets Marv in motion to the bar), Bob pulls out his own hidden gun, shoots Eric in the face, later hauls the body back to his basement to dispose of it with lye, a shocking scene because we really haven't been fully led to expect it.  (In the same manner, Bob and Marv got rid of the evidence years ago of a local kid that Eric was supposed to have killed but who was really done in by the cousins even after having paid Marv back for a $20,000 gambling debt; the guy’s disappearance with no public knowledge of the repayment, along with the false story implicating Eric, was all Marv’s doing, although I still can’t make sense of the rationale of it, except that it provides a further surprise about Bob’s fierce abilities hidden beneath his intentionally-quiet-exterior-self.  I noted in my September 25, 2014 posting [review of The Skeleton Twins and This Is Where I Leave You (Shawn Levy)] that I highly recommend Calvary [James Michael McDonagh], another almost-gone-and-largely-under-the-radar-film [out for 10 weeks, playing now in only 23 theaters, grossed only about 3.5 million in domestic dollars], one of the best films of 2014 because—Spoiler Alert again, so please take heed—like in The Drop, there’s an overarching atmosphere of ingrained evil with the killer in that film turning out to be a character that we’d least suspect [Chris O’Dowd, playing a jovial Irish butcher] just as bartender Bob proves to be much more fierce than his actions throughout most of The Drop would imply, leaving us a bit stunned as to what he’s easily capable of.)  Nadia’s taken aback as well because she witnesses Eric’s sudden execution (he dragged her to Marv’s bar with him, intending for the 2 of them to escape together after the theft), then has to decide whether she wants anything further to do with Bob (he gives her a choice, seemingly believing her that she won’t testify to anything she now knows about him), giving him what appears to be a positive answer as she first walks off screen (possibly to hightail it away from him just in case he proves to not be as genteel toward her as he professes), then we close with a closeup of his face as we hear what sound like her footsteps walking back toward him as the film ambiguously fades to black and final credits.

Assuming that their relationship of accepted-secrets has more true-mutual-attraction to build on than what we observe in the finale of Gone Girl, Nadia and Bob likely have a stable situation in that the Chechens found Marv outside the bar, probably had a quick understanding of what his plot was, shot him in his car, then offered ownership of Cousin Marv’s Bar to cousin Bob in acknowledgement of how he refused to screw them even by allowing Eric to make off with the cash-stash at gunpoint.  Assuming that things stay peaceful between Bob and the mob he’s likely got a stable-enough-future, certainly one that would meet the generally-low-life-(so to speak) expectations that he and Nadia have exhibited, especially when they have that too-cute-for-words-dog to build a relationship on.  It may not sound like much to anyone who’s even just in the better areas of Brooklyn (such as one of my many wonderful nieces—along with OK-I-guess-nephews [just kidding and using a strategy to see if any of them actually ever read these reviews]), but for Bob and Nadia they likely have more stability now than they ever previously dreamed of.  I’ll leave you with stability as well, that of my usual Musical Metaphor—which I know you’ve been waiting anxiously for—about what’s gone on previously in the review, this time Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” (from the 1970 Ladies of the Canyon album), a live version from that year of release at (I wish I could take credit for thinking of its obvious connection to Gone Girl, but as you can see from the accompanying photo the film publicists had already taken care of that), for 2 reasons:  (1) the concept that “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” refers nicely to both the estranged, increasingly-socially-divergent couple in Gone Girl and to the various socially-marginal-folks in The Drop, especially Marv who ends up creating great grief for himself and several others around him through his desperate attempt to recoup some of his former glory, and (2) this was the song I used for one of my very first multi-image-slide-projector-and-audiotape-shows, a skill which later led to several jobs, an academic career, and global travel to act as a judge in several regional, national, and international media
festivals (thanks, Joni!). However, I'll also leave you with another song for the week, Elton John’s “Rocket Man” (from the 1972 Honky Château album), a live performance at http:// watch?v=KlpUvpMx HKE (seemingly from a 2013 concert but very similar to the show I just witnessed—see the photo to the left) for multiple reasons as well: (1) the lyrics of this tune talk of how something we think of as exotic—space travel—in another context is just mundane drudgery, which is what lurks beneath the surface of a supposedly-stable-marriage between supposedly-successful-people in Gone Girl and the misconstrued excitement of what outsiders might assume of underworld life in The Drop, and (2) I finally saw the marvelously-energetic Elton John in concert last week (as part of the 64th birthday celebration for my fabulous wife, Nina), finding some of his tunes to be appropriate for the reviews this week and the next 2 in this blog (I’ve been to a few press screenings recently; as each film is released I’ll pass on the reviews, accompanied by Elton’s music) so bear with me and this “madman across the water” for awhile (also, further inspired by such excessive-Englishness, Nina and I have decided to avail ourselves of the Englander Sports Pub in San Leandro, CA to sample all 75 of their draught brews over the next several weeks so I’ll report back periodically on which ones seem to be the tastiest—as always, no kickback for this although maybe they’ll give us a discount on #75).  The next review will be at least somewhat-musically-oriented anyway, with a focus on an aspiring jazz drummer in Whiplash (Damien Chazelle), a huge favorite at last spring’s Sundance Film Festival.
If you’d like to know more about Gone Girl here are some suggested links: (hilarious satirical review from The Onion’s Peter K. Rosenthal to give a nice balance to all of the seriousness that surrounds this film from everyone else—including me [some nasty language, though, if that bothers you])

If you’d like to know more about The Drop here are some suggested links: (3:53 featurette on the film with commentary from screenwriter Dennis Lehane, director Michaël R. Rosksam, producer Jenno Topping, actors Matthias Schoenaerts and Noomi Rapace, illustrated with lots of clips from the film, along with many of the same people at discussing the dog in the film as the metaphor for the entire concept of the story)

As noted above, we encourage you to look over our home page (ABOUT THE BLOG), found as the first one in our December 2011 postings, to get more information on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, including our formatting forewarning about inconsistencies among web browser software which we do our best to correct but may still cause some visual problems beyond our extremely-limited-level of technological control.

Please note that to Post a Comment you need to either have a Google account (which you can easily get at if you need to sign up) or other sign-in identification from the pull-down menu below before you preview or post.

If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my new email at  Thanks.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile.    Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.


  1. Thought Gone Girl was excellent as was your review. I too was fortunate to see it cold; i.e. without reading the book or knowing anything more than the trailer, which in itself provides misdirection. I had a sense that Alfred Hitchcock would have been proud of this one. Architecture fans will appreciate the posh lake house; beautiful women fans will appreciate Rosamund Pike (who is also very good in Jack Reacher and An Education.

    While many of the plot devices in this film seem contrived and less than logical, it seems many true life stories are often hard to believe but actually happen regardless. While fiction, Gone Girl's many strengths include the ability to make us believe while encouraging us to want more.

  2. Hi rj, Glad to hear from you again, completely agree on the Hitchcockian qualities of Gone Girl, the marvelous lake house, and the attractive presence and excellent performance of Pike (she reminds me here a bit of Caitlin Fitzgerald, the actress who plays Libby Masters, Bill's wife, on Showtime's Masters of Sex). I've read some comments that say this adaptation isn't Fincheresque enough, but I think we'll be seeing some award nominations in various categories in a few months. Ken

  3. Here's one more item to add to the Gone Girl review above, a question appropriately called to my attention by Daryn Castle, Alumni Officer at The University of Northampton (England) via LinkedIn's Movie Addicts discussion groups (if you're a member, just go to Discussions and scroll down a bit to the one he started on Oct. 6, 2014) but please be aware that this exchange between him and me, along with my new comment here, again gets us into Spoiler Alert territory so read further at your own risk.

    If there are video cameras all over Desi's lake house then why is there no footage of Amy tied to his bed to corroborate her story to the FBI? Also, on the day that she "rapes" herself with a wine bottle and then purposely positions herself by a window where she'll be seen crying on camera there is definitely video (with time marks, I'm sure) of Desi driving away just before her actions so why is she still in the house--untied--if he's not there to keep her "captive"? These are more difficult plot holes to explain away than her use of the box cutter noted above, so if they're not somehow addressed in the book then I have to agree with Daryn that this flaw undermines the plot quite a bit (although I don't agree with his overall negative reaction to the film, as we've discussed at length on LinkedIn). I had meant to make mention of this situation in the review but forgot, so I'm just acknowledging that here rather than editing the posted review as a reminder to myself to more fully check my own notes prior to posting. Let's see, now; how many days has it been since perfection? Well: 66 years x 365 days (+ leap years) + 9 months this year ... (again, Daryn, thanks for noting this, a very reasonable plot challenge worth bringing up when the narrative is a mystery story to be believably solved). Ken

  4. It's somewhat counterproductive to analyze apparent plot holes when a good screenwriter could explain them away and may well do so in the future. Amy's character, as drawn, can seduce anyone anytime, even after institutionalizing a younger Desi before drawing him back again and even after framing husband Nick for murder. The cameras were outside by my recollection; clearly Amy did not seduce Desi and then murder him on camera. Amy's plan was changing in realtime but was still adequate for the moments represented in this film. Clearly a sequel is possible; in fact it was suggested by the author in a recent Charlie Rose interview that includes director David Fincher, author Gillian Flynn, Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. Real life is not always wrapped up in neat bows; the beauty of this film is how it conjures one twisted route and takes you along for the ride.

  5. Hi rj, Always good to hear from you. The plot point in question would have to be clarified by another viewing (not on the docket for me, despite enjoying the film quite a bit) so I'll take a definitive answer when anybody's got one; I had the memory of cameras being inside as well as providing extensive outside coverage, but if they were all external that brings a lot of this to a close (although, even with that, I don't fully get the staged "rape" set-up when I'd think that she'd more likely be trying to leave an otherwise unoccupied house when she had the chance).

    However, all that aside I agree that a sequel might someday be in the works (from interviews I'm aware of) where these "problems" might be addressed or even turned into new plot points so maybe we're all just being set up for further twists and turns. More importantly, I also agree that Amy could probably charm/scheme her way through anything, which contributed greatly to my enjoyment of the film and, as rj says, how that conjuring makes this a great viewing experience even if you do want to pick at possible plot holes after the fact. Bottom line: Loved the film, despite whatever narrative-structure questions it might raise. Ken

  6. HEY KEN: here's my online review, for those fans who may want a summary in under five minutes.

  7. Hi Fiore, Thanks for posting the link to your review of Gone Girl, which I encourage everyone to read especially if you want to see how someone deals with this film by getting straight to the point rather asking you to spend the afternoon at the computer like I do. There's also some very useful information in Fiore's review about a new digital editing system that was used on this film which I've seen no reference to anywhere else, so thanks for the technology update as well. Ken