‘Gone Girl’ powers up with formidable women taking lead

NEW YORK (MCT) — There was one line Ben Affleck didn’t want to deliver in the new movie “Gone Girl,” according to director David Fincher:

“I’m so sick and tired of being picked apart by women.”

In the scene a woman is, in fact, filleting Affleck’s character, weary husband Nick Dunne — a devilish Nancy Grace knockoff (Missi Pyle) is implying on her TV show that Nick has murdered his perfect, blonde, missing wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike).

“I think that was the only take we shot,” Fincher said. “Ben thought it was a little on the nose. He felt, ‘Am I just being teed up to be a misogynist?'”

'Gone Girl' Rated: R for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity and language Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry Director: David Fincher Running time: 145 minutes

‘Gone Girl’
Rated: R for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity and language
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry
Director: David Fincher
Running time: 145 minutes

Affleck’s apprehension about the line is understandable — as everyone from “Girls” creator Lena Dunham to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can attest, the rules about how men and women relate to and talk about each other are changing, and upending generations of accepted behavior has a way of making people flinchy.

“Gone Girl” is apt to inspire a slew of spirited date night debates, as the surprisingly subversive popcorn movie, adapted by Gillian Flynn from her best-selling novel of the same name, slides down a razor’s edge of sexual politics.

Many critics have already reviewed the highly anticipated movie, finding in it the seemingly contradictory qualities of chauvinism and feminism.

“To me so much of the movie is about marriage, but it’s also about gender,” Flynn said. “The different discriminations we take to each other. I think it plays a nice game with the audience, because obviously (Amy’s potential killer) has to be the guy, it’s always the guy. But that would be too easy so it can’t be the guy… We’re playing with the tropes that we’re all supposed to know.”

“Gone Girl” is stocked with complicated, demanding, intelligent women. Keen-eyed detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) is investigating Amy’s disappearance; Nick’s wise-alecky twin sister, Go (Carrie Coon), is both his staunchest supporter and toughest interrogator; Amy herself is a Gordian knot of a character whom Nick and the audience struggle together to disentangle.

“All these women could not have been men,” Pike said, of the film’s many female characters. “And I think that is quite rare. These women have very strong female brain chemistry, which adds value to the story.”

The movie is the child of two creative parents, Fincher and Flynn, who share a knack for embedding potentially inflammatory ideas about gender in entertaining stories.

The most radical idea in “Gone Girl” belongs to Flynn, a former Entertainment Weekly writer who has penned two other novels with dark female characters, “Sharp Objects” and “Dark Places.” “Gone Girl” became a zeitgeist-capturing must-read in 2012, and sold more than 2 million copies.

Flynn’s $60 million idea — to borrow a figure from the film’s budget — is the concept of the “cool girl.” She’s a beer commercial ideal of a woman who likes football, poker and threesomes, whose figure and handbag are equally and impossibly compact.

“The cool girl piece is this idea of how we’re supposed to conduct ourselves in the world which nobody talks about,” Coon said. “The whole movie is set out to prove how he’s not that bad a guy, basically undermining her entire purpose in the film. … The women in my life are not like that. The women in my life are deeply complicated beings with a lot of wants and desires and thwarted dreams… God bless Gillian for giving us some real … women to play.”

When Nick and Amy meet in a flashback sequence in “Gone Girl,” Amy has internalized the cool girl archetype and is scanning the room at a party to find her cool guy.

Go is Coon’s first film role — nominated for a Tony Award for her performance as Honey in the 2013 revival of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and currently appearing in the HBO series “The Leftovers,” the Ohio native recorded her audition on an iPad.

It is both Fincher and Flynn’s opinion that Coon and Dickens’ characters had to be female, or the story really would have been misogynist.

“Nick gets vetted by the two sides, the woman who knows him better than himself, his twin sister, and the woman who’s finding out about him and still has a hunch that something’s hinky,” Fincher said. “They have to be women. You need someone to say, ‘Look, he’s not the brightest bulb in the tree…”

While mostly praising the movie’s execution, film critics have been grappling with its gender dynamics. Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson called “Gone Girl” a “resonant success,” but compared Amy to “a parody of the most persistent of MRAs’ (Mens Rights Activists’) fears.” New York Magazine’s David Edelstein called the film “gripping,” but worried about the “male gaze,” saying, “and this particular male — the director of ‘Se7en’ and ‘The Social Network’ — doesn’t have much faith in appearances, particularly women’s.”

Amid the hubbub, Twentieth Century Fox is marketing “Gone Girl” as a date night film — in one TV spot the studio excerpted a line of Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers calling it, “The date-night movie of the decade,” but left out the rest of Travers’ sentence, “for couples who dream of destroying one another.”

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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