The fallout from taking my partner to see Gone Girl wasn’t that she would be inspired to destroy me by writing a fictional redux of our marriage (I’m doing fine with that myself), or that I had to rid our home of boxcutters lest I find myself wearing a so-called Columbian necktie. No, the fallout came in the form of a heated mid-movie discussion about milk.
You see, The Contessa is a member of the natural and organics foods trade and is consequently susceptible to stimuli that I am not. For example, during a scene in which Ben Affleck’s twin sister, Margo (played with admirable chin-ability by Carrie Coon), is having breakfast, my wife happened to notice that the brand of organic milk in the frame was Clover, our local Sonoma County brand.
Now, as a champion of all notions Sonoma County, I might have cheered had I noticed. Not so, the Contessa, who was incensed that a film purportedly taking place in Missouri would have a regionally-produced dairy product from Northern California, which she was emphatic was distributed in the “Show Me State.” Took her right out of the movie. I didn’t really notice, but later, to prove her wrong (or right, as it turned out to be), I called the Town and Country Whole Foods in Missouri and lo and behold, they indeed do not carry Clover brand organic milk. Why would they? They have their own local organic dairy industry and perhaps even their own version of Clo the Cow — Mo the Cow, perhaps? Get it? “Mo” like the abbreviation of Missouri, “MO?” (In back of every great brand marketer is a husband who thinks he can make up clever names for cartoon animals.)
Our Gone Girl experience reminded me of a documentary I once saw about autism spectrum disorders wherein a subject’s eyes were tracked while he watched a film. Whereas neurotypical people are inclined to follow the expressions of the actors thus gleaning emotional information about the characters, this particular subject’s eyes were instead drawn to the configuration of the on-set lighting. I’m not sure what this is supposed to say about autism (I mean, it could have been a really boring film with terrible acting and exquisite lighting design) or, for that matter, my wife, but I’m more than satisfied that as individuals we’re doomed to have relative, subjective experiences. We see what we want to see. Gone Girl, like any film, is really just a Rorschach test at 24 frames per second. What’s scary to one is dairy to another.
I tried to reach Clo the Cow — or at least her PR department — for comment. They didn’t reply. I suspect Clo’s handlers didn’t want to draw any additional attention to their product’s placement in the blood-soaked thriller. That said, Clover’s cameo is just the latest in a long line of milky murders.
For my money, the assassination of Senator Jordan in the original Manchurian Candidate is the creme de la creme of bullets and bovine byproducts. The bullet first pierces a carton the Senator is holding so we see a gush of milk instead of blood (a nice touch by director John Frankenheimer).
The effect is replicated in the Scandi-Noir adaptation of Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters, in which a milk carton takes a bullet for a corporate headhunter and part-time art thief.
Also, there’s a Sean Penn reference I won’t make for reasons of respect and SEO.
The milk in Gone Girl doesn’t take any bullets. In fact, it isn’t even moved, it’s just a bit of set dressing on a Hollywood soundstage doubling for a Missouri apartment.
After all, it’s just, as Clo would say, a “Mooovie.”