I was going to announce the availability of the next Nick Forte novel today, but events intervened and it’s not ready. I’ll get to it. In the meantime, I did watch a movie...
The Beloved Spouse and I watched Gone Girl over the weekend. Based on what I’d heard, I didn’t think it was going to appeal to me much, but I had no idea how little, or what a reaction I’d have.
Full disclosure: I have not read the book; I am writing only of the film. How different they are I can’t say, but Gillian Flynn adapted the screenplay from her novel, so I’m guessing the parts she thought most important were in there.
What struck me throughout was how such a phenomenal success—both in print and on film—broke two allegedly sacrosanct elements of a popular story. First—and the one that wore most heavily on the viewing, as it lasted forever—was the dearth of characters to give a shit about. Nick’s a douche who comes off as the warm and fuzzy member of the family, as Amy is a complete psycho evil bitch. Tyler Perry does a great job as the lawyer, but the character is a smarmy lizard. The media people—well, they were the media; ‘nuff said about that. The only two characters with appreciable screen time one could warm up to at all were Nick’s sister Margo, and the local police detective who first caught the case. Not that it had to be a morality play, but damn. Even if there’s no one to root for, give me someone to care about.
The other thing missing was an ending. (Spoiler alert.) All we’re left with is the promise of 18 more years of this sick beyond dysfunctional bullshit. Those who know me are well aware I am not an advocate of sunshine and rainbows Hollywood endings, but Jesus Chris, people. I deserved more from the two-and-a-half hours I invested than this.
What struck me most on reflection is how much the story reminded me of something that could have been inspired by Donald Maass’s book, How to Write the Breakout Novel. I read the book twice—I’m certainly not against novelists breaking out, especially me—and threw it away, as its primary focus struck me as teaching me to write books I wouldn’t read. (The book was also literally falling apart, not a tribute to its poublisher.) What I remember most is Maass’s constant reminders to “raise the stakes,” which, based on breakouts and bestsellers I’d been reading, meant beyond plausibility. Gone Girl definitely has the “beyond plausibility” aspect under control. Amy’s scheme is worthy of the most Rube Goldberg-ian “traditional mystery” plot, so much so I stopped caring halfway through and resigned myself to hoping for a clever twist at the end. Which never came. (No, it wasn’t that slick. Mostly it was a reverse Presumed Innocent.)
What Gone Girl is, essentially, is the anti-Mad Max: Fury Road. Where men’s rights activists’ heads explode over how strong the Charlize Theron character is, they must get together and jack off until their arms cramp to watch Amy, who personifies everything they’d like people to think a woman is. I’m going to say I just don’t get how Gone Girl became so popular. I have ideas, but, if I’m right, that leads me to conclusions about people I’d rather not have.