Back in July 2014 I starting keeping a movie log, which I meant to start at the beginning of 2014 but some New Year’s Resolutions take longer to get going than others. In the last six months I watched 47 movies I hadn’t seen before. For 2015 I decided that since I’m keeping a movie log, I should have a movie blog.
I tend to watch movies in twos, kind of like how I enjoy my french fries and cups of coffee among other things, and usually they will share a period, genre, theme, actor, director, writer, or so on. It’s just kind of how my brain works sometimes, makes it easier to compare and contrast and accentuate the positives of each.
For example: this weekend I watched Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) and later while visiting friends I spontaneously suggested we watch Clerks (1994) when they opened up Netflix and saw it in their recommendations. Each of those classic 90s comedies leave you with so many liners that stick after watching. They also feature classic 90s hit or miss misogyny at levels and frequencies that wouldn’t make it on screen today or at least would be met with some internet rage. Other than that they couldn’t be more different and through smart dialog, nuance, and a throughly unapologetic tone, after seeing Clerks you at least have an added significance to the number 37 – among other usually mundane things.
But I think I’ll spend more time on the kinds of movies I like to save for the nighttime. Usually movies featuring more depth or gravity or visual amazingness, so first up we have Gone Girl (2014) and Force Majeure (2014).
My first experience with a David Fincher film must have been Fight Club (1999) with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, but I remember Se7en (1995), also starring Brad Pitt with Morgan Freeman, being relevant in terms of movies that stuck with me. So maybe it was his penchant for casting dynamic duos but through The Social Network (2010) and now with Gone Girl, it’s Fincher’s continued command of style and arresting atmosphere that bring me back for repeat viewings.
Somehow I was able to approach Gone Girl relatively blind. I had a general idea that the plot centered around a missing wife, only that her disappearance isn’t so straightforward. I also knew that Tyler Perry shocked some people and add me to that list – props to Tyler Perry. Props to the homie Neil Patrick Harris too, who does a nice supporting turn in a very fitting role for his personality.
But the most fitting for her depth, variety, and eerily strong control on the entire film was the casting of Rosamund Pike as Amy. Ben Affleck also fits as a dopey but capable and ultimately scrambled husband in Nick. Though by the end you come to the realization that Pike (and Amy) are unstoppable and have been wielding some deep and invisible power all along, made all the more grave and engaging by Fincher’s use of trademark lighting an score techniques. Seriously, the lively bars and restaurants in which his characters introduce themselves to the audience in The Social Network and Gone Girl feature such appropriate noise for their surroundings: it’s so busy in the background sometimes that you really must focus to catch the dialog, and similarly dim so that you must focus to catch their expressions. As they change throughout the film, the character’s expressions, especially Amy’s extreme physical evolutions, take on an importance all their own in understanding what they really think or how they really feel about their marriage in that moment, because nothing either of them says can be taken at face value.
Nick never seems to be quick enough to know (or strong enough to ask) what his wife is thinking, what’s on her mind. He finds himself staring, struggling to decipher her expression. The answer is: he has no idea, never has, and is probably better off not knowing, no matter how much he wants to smash her skull when staring at it. And it’s thrilling to realize just how out of his league he is.
The Swedish Force Majeure (2014), on the other hand, features a wife in Ebba asking the same of her husband Tomas because what’s on his mind is all that’s on her mind and his silence means so much more for her family than the Dunnes.
More specifically she needs to know what on Earth was going through his mind when a force majeure (French for a “great force”) literally descends upon their lunch in the form of an avalanche which elicits a peculiar reaction from Tomas.
In the aftermath Ebba’s confidence and trust in Tomas is shaken and their once seemingly normal albeit mundane marriage and family hangs in the balance. Even their children wear their worries on their bratty sleeves, though children always seem be the only ones able to say how they truly feel.
The adults become so miserable fretting over what happened: Tomas denies and Ebba demands, he’s quiet and she won’t take his silence, that their force rubs off on others. They have a dinner that they can’t even agree was good or bad, and chat with an old friend of Tomas’ and his young girl which only make matters worse for everyone.
Both wives in each film are less afraid and more unwilling to let their marriage be destroyed, run off course, or stray away from the promise of happily ever after – unless by their own design.
The husbands in each are either unwitting or unable to control their own agency. Nick’s critical moment built over 13 years, like sand growing grain by grain that’s suddenly a mountain, while Tomas’ critical moment was dropped on him in a blinding flash of white snow. Nick is incapable of being quiet and thinking things through, while Tomas is incapable of thinking or responding at all after his instincts have betrayed him.
Though each film crafts their marital strain in different ways, both films have a lot to say about the importance of expressions to a marriage. If words are just that and a picture says a thousand words, then staring at one’s spouse trying to figure out what they’re thinking must be worth a million.
If that’s true then they are also saying that so much depends on a reaction, and communication only gets harder as you grow older with a significant other. Understanding what’s on their mind or if they’re happy isn’t something you just know anymore, it becomes something you have to ask (or don’t), and everything becomes more delicate. Adding children sometimes helps create a truly unbreakable bond, or at least gives you more to do or talk about – but a sometimes a divorce might be better.