Do you know a manipulator, someone clever enough and ballsy enough to transmute any situation to his or her advantage? If you do, you probably hate them. I can't blame you, for they are typically nothing but trouble and their luck never seems to run out. But you have to admit, it's damn fun to watch them do their magic. Through my oldest friend, the movies, I know two exceptionally gifted manipulative masterminds you simply must meet. Or perhaps revisit if you've met them before. C'mon, it's the middle of summer and it's too hot outside to do much of anything, so treat yourself to a couple movies indoors with these interesting folks.
The first is a lad by the name of Ferris Bueller (Bueller?) and the second is the amazing Amy Elliott-Dunne. They may not seem much alike, aside from the fact they both live in the American Midwest, but once you've seen their stories back-to-back, you'll see they really are two sides of the same coin.
Now, I must give you the chance to run screaming from the spoilers ahead. They are relatively minor, in my opinion, but still... Run screaming if you so desire.
FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF
Ferris Bueller was introduced to the world in 1986 by the undisputed master of the teen comedy, John Hughes. In "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", the eponymous Ferris (Matthew Broderick) is a high school senior, a month away from graduation, who plays hooky for one last hoorah with his beautiful girlfriend, junior Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara), and his hypochondriac best friend, Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck), before school is out and adulthood ruins their lives. Ferris deftly convinces his concerned, adoring parents he is too sick for school, breaking the fourth wall to explain to the audience how to fake a stomach cramp without winding up in a doctor's office. After his parents leave for work, he calls up Cameron, conning him into a list of activities the hypochondriac would rather avoid, such as taking his father's 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder out for a spin.
Ferris's parents aren't the only ones who buy his purported illness, hook, line and sinker. Nearly the entire school believes him not only sick, but on the verge of death, and is very hopeful for his speedy recovery. In fact, most of the Chicago area is, with even the local police department pulling for him. But not everyone is convinced. The incompetent Dean of Students, Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), sees Ferris's "righteous dude" reputation as a threat to his reign and will do anything to catch him truant. Ferris's sister, Jeannie (Jennifer Grey), is also wise to her brother's act and is agonizingly jealous that he gets away with so much. All the water towers in the world could have "Save Ferris" painted on them and it wouldn't stop her from trying to get him busted. Of course, Ferris is far too clever (and too lucky) to get caught.
In thriller-master David Fincher's 2014 film, "Gone Girl", we meet Amy Elliott-Dunne (Rosamund Pike), Ferris's dark mirror image.
Her husband, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), returns home one morning to find signs of a violent struggle in his living room, but no trace of his wife. Nick calls the police as anyone would and Amy is soon declared a missing person. As hours turn to days without any leads on her whereabouts, the police begin to suspect Nick of foul play. And in a state that still has the death penalty, Nick must rush to prove his innocence before he is arrested for his wife's murder.
Just as Ferris is not as sick as he allows everyone to believe, Amy is ***SPOILER*** not as dead as she allows everyone (including her devastated parents and the national media) to believe, though it could be argued she is a little 'sick'. Like Ferris, Amy has a certain popularity as a larger than life individual, in her case due to her parents having published fictionalized accounts of her childhood as a series of kids books. Like Ferris, it seems everyone is pulling for her, with signs reading "Find Amazing Amy" replacing "Save Ferris". Like Ferris, Amy describes her methods in detail to the audience, giving vengeful wives everywhere all the help they need in plotting their spouses' downfall. Like Ferris, Amy hasn't fooled everyone and those who suspect her will do anything to prove she's not what she seems to be. And like Ferris, Amy is too clever (and too lucky) to get caught by those that are on to her game.
There are important differences, of course, but that only adds to the fun. Ferris cons people in order to enjoy life with his friends before his days as a reckless teenager are up, while Amy has no real friends and her calendar looks...a little different. These movies may seem nothing alike at first glance, but take a closer look. Watch them one after another in either order and you'll see just what I mean.