Gone Girl (R) ****
This one has been out for some time, but it is still getting much discussion so we include it this week. This is a film for adults but maybe not newly marrieds, since it portrays marriage as a confused state of selfishness, narcissism and murderous intent. Amy (Rosamund Pike) and Nick (Ben Affleck), married for five years, have been forced to move to Missouri where Nick’s mother dies and their marriage dies a little bit more with her. Amy is tired of being married to an apparently unambitious Nick, and he is simply itchy enough to take up with a young student in his writing course. The film is a mystery for about half of its long length, then turns into something else for its second half and its controversial ending.
Basically, the ending is controversial because it refuses to definitively answer the question: Should either or both of these horrible people receive justice or karma for their offensiveness—Nick for his almost mindless sink into sloth and sin with the decline of his fortunes and Amy for murder and a plot so convoluted that guilt just has to be a by-product?
Amy constructs a plot to assure that Nick is charged with her murder. Though it is somewhat of a preposterous idea, since she intends to live through it, we get close enough to it all happening as she plans it that it seems feasible. Then Neil Patrick Harris as Desi, a long-ago boyfriend of Amy’s, enters the picture and his slavish devotion to Amy makes the descent into creepiness complete. By this time, most of the audience has tried to take sides but finally decided to hate Amy and Nick equally.
Potentially a symbol of feminism, Amy opens her character enough to allow us to see that she is a particularly vicious psychopath with loyalty only to herself. Nick is simply too stupid to get himself out of his fix, even with the help of his twin sister, Go, played with great effectiveness by Carrie Coon. She, like the rest of us, can only stand by and watch the tragedy unwind slowly and inevitably.
I will not give away the ending except to say that anyone who has seen the two hours of this film and thinks Amy and Nick can patch things up really needs help. A bloody, vicious, brutal, unforgiving film, this is not for the young or the young at heart.
The Interview (R) ***
The oddest thing about this by now infamous film is that it is horrible but it’s not bad. This is because the scriptwriters, Dan Sterling and Seth Rogen, cleverly set up the film so that you can hate it, but you have to grudgingly laugh. They use North Korea as a punching bag, perfect for a villainous country because of its leaders’ rhetoric through the years, their hatred of America and, most of all, their total lack of a sense of humor. It is always more fun to take the measure of such a country than it is to do the same thing to your friends.
The second brilliant stroke was to make their hero, garbage talk show host Dave Skylark (James Franco), so incredibly stupid that it is hard to blame him for anything that goes on and his foolishness becomes oddly charming. Third, unlike most of Seth Rogen’s films, this is not a stoner film. There is drug use, but it’s more serious stuff with a greater comic effect, not the inane, overdone pot.
Briefly, the plot allows Rogen as Aaron Rapaport and Franco to go to North Korea to interview Kim Jung Un, ostensibly a fan of Skylark’s inane tabloid TV show. The luscious Lizzy Caplan (of “The Masters of Sex” on TV), as CIA Agent Lacey, asks the boys to “take out” Un and provides them with a secret poison. Skylark refuses the poison, wanting maximum show biz value for himself and his show by assassinating him in a more open, visible way—“Give the people what they want!” Have I mentioned that this whole film is a sendup of tacky tabloid TV shows? Aaron doesn’t like the whole idea, as he has ambitions to produce for “60 Minutes” and he knows that assassination coverage of any sort would eliminate him from that dream.
Long shots of the agent’s cleavage during an interview are to be expected in a film like this, and the film indulges itself for several shots. We are never too far from raunch.
Aaron and Dave make it to Pyongyang where the secret poison gets compromised by Dave’s stupidity. A second sample is sent by drone and rocket to the boys in Pyongyang, where the warning, “Secure the package!” leads to ridiculous and extreme measures.
While the package is being secured, Un gives Dave a tour of his home, including a gift for Dave given to one of the Kims. “It’s from Stalin,” says Un.
“In my country,” Dave explains, “We say ‘Stallone.’”
We also discover that Un has a secret passion for margaritas and Katy Perry, and is rumored to be gay. That is definitively proved wrong in a later orgy involving Un, Dave and a bevy of Korean Victoria’s Secret model types. Aaron gets to know Sook, his sultry People’s Army PR lady, very well in a funny sex scene in which he is limited by his wearing the second poison sample on his hand. His attempts to take the bra off Sook without using his hands are particularly funny and frustrating. The madcap pace picks up and the film races to a conclusion, including Katy Perry references again.
The question has been raised: “Was the North Korean pressure on Sony only an attempt to publicize a bad movie?” No, the movie is not bad enough to be successfully publicized that way. Will the publicity help the film? Yes, but not as much as a full-theatre release would have. Will I laugh? Probably, if you can get past the anti-Korean element of the satire and Franco’s stupidity. Is this one for kids? Definitely not unless profanity, toilet humor and sexual humor of the crudest sort are OK with you. Was it worth the hullabaloo and the delay? Probably not, but it is a diverting bit of satire that may have more legs than suspected.