Another master piece or reinforcing female stereotypes?
I just needed to know one thing about this movie after which I decided to watch it: It’s a David Fincher film and I was sold. Fincher has directed such masterpieces like Seven, Fighclub, Zodiac and The girl with dragon tattoo. His movies demand a certain level of cognitive and attentional capacities to fully grasp the film. But his stories are so engaging that we put that extra efforts ourselves to understand the film-i call this the ‘pull factor’ of films.
This is in contrast with films like Nolan’s Interstellar. This movie was no doubt much more complicated than Fincher’s movies. But many audience like me did not connect with the space-cowboy-father or his daughter. We did not emotionally invest in them to bring ourselves to put more efforts to fully understand the movie. Instead we need to ‘push’ ourselves to getting involved in the movie experience. Fincher’s greatness lies in keeping this fine balance of being cerebral and emotional.
So did this film deliver? Oh yes it did. It had the vintage Fincher’s attention demanding screenplay. It had vivid and fully fleshed out characters in whom we fully invest and feel empathy for. With each passing scene our sympathies with different characters waver. With in the 2 hour duration, we harbour conflicting emotions over the main characters. By the end of the film, we end up having strong but ambiguous opinions about them. The editing is crisp, without a single boring or redundant scene. The music is gripping with out overwhelming the imagery.
The story is about a missing wife and how it effects the husband and others related to him. We are quickly left with several unanswered questions about the motivations and responsibility of the husband for the disappearance. In the next two hours we are provided tidbits of information gradually which we use to modify and re-modify our opinions about the characters. Acting by Ben Affleck as husband and Rosamund Pike as the wife was top notch, for me Carrie coon as the husband’s twin sister was the stand out performance. Also Neil Patrick Harris’s character as Desi was a pleasant surprise.
But i have some peeves with the story itself. Though the film is adapted from a novel of the same name, in Fincher’s hands the dark nature of the story gets accentuated. For me the central theme of the film is news channels’ over zealousness in fixing responsibility for a crime on some one with out any evidence. This trail by media causes severe trauma and hardship to the accused. However, in trying to expose the wrongdoings of TV media, Fincher uses his media-films to perpetuate some stereotypes against women. I think this could have been avoided by making some changes to the script.
Here are some of the stereotypes the film projects:
- Wifes are crazy bitches, you do not and cannot know what they are thinking and their actions are unpredictable
- They are master manipulators who can play with the emotions of ‘gullible’ men
- Married men have affairs only when wifes are- again crazy bitches. So basically the film is resorting to victim blaming. If only wifes are docile, give ‘unconditional’ regard and satisfy every need of husband, men will have no reason to cheat
- Do not marry a woman who is more richer and successful than you. This stereotype sees power relations between wife and husband as a zero sum game. This fosters a ‘fear of success’ in women because of which women lower their ambitions and opt for traditional feminine roles. And men do not encourage their wives to be more successful than them. These lead to women being less successful in professional life which again reinforces the stereotype that women are incompetent.
- The media personality who jumps to conclusions without any evidence is also played by a women news anchor. In fact many women were shown wanting to rip the husband’s eyes out, they are shown acting out of emotion rather than basing actions on reason and evidence.
- As Fox news props up a handful of welfare fraudsters to blame the whole welfare system, this fictional story when directed with such elan, can bring skepticism to any rape, abuse or other women related news.
Not withstanding these criticisms, it is a great film in technical aspects and successfully exposes media’s hypocrisy. It seems the character of the woman police officer was designed to bring a balance to the story. She is shown to be more analytical than her male assistant who judges the husband prematurely.
In the end, if your are a feminist or have strong opinion about films’ influence over people’s mindset, you may not feel comfortable with some of the scenes. But if you watch the movie as just another story, you will enjoy the movie as Fincher takes you on yet another exciting journey in to the minds of his characters.