What have we done to each other?
Some people won’t respond like I did. Some people have the kind of quiet, unfussy mental health that keeps the dark and the weird at bay. Enjoy your life and the calm. Forgo the roaring chaos of ambiguity and compromise that surrounds most of humanity. Me, I enjoy all the emotions. Rage, jealousy, love, fear, adoration, joy, lust, sadness, and especially the mixed up ones in between…in the theater. I like to keep all that crazy in a dark room away from outsiders. Turn down the lights and, for a few hours, gorge on a world of emotion that others graciously provide. Then, with every step to the subway, let it waft away, itch scratched. I walked home from The Counselor (2013) with the vague but genuine fear that someone might kill me slowly, brutally, and for no reason. I thought to myself, “Well, the movie wasn’t perfect–it might not have even been good–but it was effective.” Now I’m here, on the A Train, feeling that afterglow of a great piece of effective movie-making.
Of course, we all know that spoilers are next to ebola as the worst thing to spread in America. Well, I know what happens and I still wanted to turn around and watch it again. But I didn’t know much of anything before I went in and I wasn’t so hot on the little I’d gathered. Wife (Rosamund Pike) gone. Husband (Ben Affleck) suspected, but denying it. Popular novel (not a recommendation). Dark, like real dark. Affleck is a wash–To the Wonder (2012) showed he could portray depth–and Pike, a pleasure, might not get 10 minutes, what do I know? But I knew about Fincher, one of the few directors who has had all of his films seen by me. I trusted the Finch–I’m sure he’d hate that–and it was returned with gold. Black gold. Brooding, bubbling Fincher mystery.
Now, I’ve probably over-stuffed the weird turkey. It is a film that doesn’t test mores–as in MOR-ays–as much as pees in your moral pants and lets you sit in it. Not David Lynch weird, David Fincher weird. “What’s going on?” not “What the f*** is going on?” The world is normal, physics is intact, society is as you painfully remember it. What you aren’t sure of is who these people really are. The mystery we are unravelling has been obscured and left in the faces of our players. There are physical clues, but the film requires our own personalities to interpret their meaning. Unlike Conan Doyle, novelist and screenwriter Gillian Flynn, is playing a much darker game. Presumably that’s what attracted Fincher so soon after The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) and Zodiac (2007), films with rather similar profiles.
The best part is that when the penny drops, things aren’t over. Which is why the “spoiler” won’t really spoil the movie. Because the rest of the film ensures that you can come back and assess anew. What were they thinking? What have they done to each other?
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