Getting to the movies isn’t really realistic anymore now I’m a dad. I’ve let my Cineworld subscription lapse. That’s not to say there aren’t films I want to see right now: Interstellar, The Imitation Game, Gone Girl.
Of those, Interstellar is the only ‘better see it in the theatre’ movie, but I was anxious to see Gone Girl because I knew it’s a mystery drama and I didn’t want the mystery solved before I saw it, the solution blurted out by someone on the train. This is unusual for me, because I usually don’t give a damn about spoilers. Hell, if I get the chance to read the screenplay before I see the movie, I do. The Searchers, The Manchurian Candidate (the 1962 one), the last three Star Wars films—I read them before I saw them.
But I chanced upon this article (can’t find it now, sorry) which explained that Fincher and co. felt the need to do some nimble adaptation gymnastics because they believed that if you knew The Twist!!! (as the 8.5 million people who made the book a bestseller did, at least) there would be no point in seeing the film at all. Really? This twist, once known, would render the film worthless? That must be some special twist, and I wanted Fincher to deliver it to me the way he wanted.
Our pal, Lorna, is an inveterate cinema-goer, and I asked her if she’d seen it. Surprising, she hadn’t, and—lo and behold!—she didn’t seem that keen to because, yes, she’s read the book and already knew The Twist. “I didn’t see it coming,” she said, the platonic ideal of all plot twists. I told her about the article and how the filmmakers had worked overtime to throw a bone to those poor audience members who’d read the novel, presumably being dragged to the movie house by their illiterate friends, but I didn’t get the impression it appeared on her todo list.
As it became clear that I couldn’t catch the film, I made it 8.5 million and one and bought the book. And read it. I’ll now give you some thoughts without, hopefully, spoiling anything. But…
The thing is, I think it was already spoiled, to nearly the same extent that it would had been if someone had just flatly told me the secret. I couldn’t read the pre-Twist section all innocent and malleable, because of the simple fact that I knew The Twist was coming, and that it was a humdinger that could ruin movies. Accordingly, I couldn’t help but try to guess it, and I’m afraid I did.
That’s not to say I’m some Poirot genius. I guessed a lot of things, suspected everybody, believed nobody, and the Twist just turned out to be one of the bazillion things I’d considered. Thankfully, (spoiler alert!) it’s not a last-page thing, there’s still plenty of story to get through after it happens (and I saw none of that coming) so even if someone gives the main game away, it’s still worth reading, still a page-turner.
But was I really supposed to read the pre-Twist chapters in such a state of forensic scepticism? Wasn’t knowing there was a Twist at all just as bad as knowing what it was? Maybe not quite as bad, but the affect, that I wasn’t caught unawares, was pretty much the same.
This is why I find secret plot twists tiresome. Not big plot twists, secret ones, Hollywood ones, non-disclosure agreement ones.* Have them, enjoy them, but a well told story doesn’t require ignorance, otherwise you’d never see a movie more than once. I know from tickling my daughter: the first, surprise, tickle’s fun, but better is the next, the one she’s waiting for.
And now I’m interested in seeing the film without any of the needless anxiety. Instead, I’m looking forward to seeing how they land the punch. That alone will keep me on the edge of my seat. Basically, I’m glad I know.
*George Lucas has apparently frozen Darth Vader body, David Prowse, out of all official promotion and hasn’t spoken to him since 1983 because he gave away too much of Return of the Jedi’s plot in an interview. That must be why the film bombed at the box office and Lucas is broke.