Gone Girl (2014)
You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s …
Calculated, meticulous and completely engaging, director David Fincher, Fight Club (1999), tackles American writer Gillian Flynn’s electrifying novel of the same name in Gone Girl, once again showcasing his remarkable skills at constructing a genuinely chilling and faithful adaptation. Gone Girl however, isn’t just another one of Fincher’s snap-tight thrillers, as this multi-layered satire gives an insightful commentary on tabloid journalism and the economic struggles of marriage, whilst exploring the fickle nature of public opinion and human perception — what we know and what we ‘think’ we know about ourselves and our loved ones. Anchored by stellar, custom-fit performances from Ben Affleck, Argo (2012), Rosamund Pike, Die Another Day (2002), and even Tyler Perry, Alex Cross (2012) — yes, the guy responsible for all those Madea films — whilst bursting with striking imagery, complementing the first-rate narrative, Gone Girl is the very definition of a ‘page turner.’
Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and his beautiful wife, Amy Dunne — a stunning Rosamund Pike — appear to have the perfect marriage, that is, until Nick comes home — the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary — to find the front door open, the glass coffee table in the living room destroyed and Amy, gone. Once Nick reports his wife missing, pressure mounts from the police and the media to find answers, and dark secrets of the Dunne’s ‘reportedly’ blissful union begin to surface, including an old boyfriend from Amy’s past, Desi Collings (Neil Patrick Harris). But it’s Nick’s lies, deceit and behavior, surrounding the search, that causes his famous defense attorney, Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry), to work even harder as guilty suspicions are fueled into a national frenzy by the media, and everyone begins to wonder: did Nick Dunne kill his wife?
With a riveting screenplay by Gillian Flynn herself, Gone Girl starts off rather slow but begins to twist and turn into a wild web of revelations after its midway point, finding the right balance between provocative and playful, and unfolding in a way that is almost Hitchcockian, in both style and substance, all while insulting the police and the media; two groups who deserve to be held under the microscope. Gillian’s biggest triumph however, is painting a precisely observed portrait of a relationship gone sour, highlighting secrets, trickery and dishonesty — rendered as psychological warfare — amid the pair’s fabricated ‘blissful’ façade, in turn generating the industry’s most high-profile anti-relationship flick.
Director, David Fincher — who is notorious for being a relatively challenging director to work with as he often requires countless takes for a single shot to align perfectly with his vision — hasn’t lost his A-game with the mystery element of Gone Girl, as exposition is his greatest asset. Driven by Fincher’s dark and tense tone, Gone Girl is masterful storytelling for the seasoned director, as Fincher fashions intricate yet memorable settings, laced with his own trademark visuals, all aiding the picture’s bleak revelations — almost every scene is crucial to the explanation of the story and has been painstakingly defined to be as impressionistic as possible. The picture’s highlight stands as a horribly disturbing scene that will, no doubt, make viewers gasp as it plays out, and just like any good thriller, Fincher does a solid job of leaving us inwardly distraught as a result. The picture’s distorted maze of lies and speculation is also emulated within its score, composed by Oscar winners, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, The Social Network (2010). With cascading musical motifs, Reznor and Ross have yet again composed a soundtrack that is just as compelling as Flynn’s story itself, whilst the ominous cinematography by Fincher regular Jeff Cronenweth, Fight Club (1999), is sophisticated and refined.
Headlining this stellar cast is Ben Affleck — who’s ironically been getting a fair bit of media attention lately, due to his upcoming role as Batman in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — as Nick Dunne, giving a faultless performance, showcasing his ability to successfully draw that fine line between empathy and calmness, as well as unhappiness and dishonesty, displayed toward his wife and the people in his mundane, quickly shattering life. Affleck is also rather charming throughout the picture, particularly as he shares his concerns about marital life, self-image, and the mistakes he has made as a man and a husband. Affleck’s co-star, Rosamund Pike is electrifying as Amy Dunne, a compelling and alluring woman, who has had to perform since childhood, following in the footsteps of a fictional children’s book character her parents created in her shadow, Amazing Amy. Tormented, bored, and pushed to the threshold of her marriage and dignity, Pike’s expose of this twisted woman is simply outstanding. While the film’s narrative is chiefly presented though Nick’s eyes, Amy herself has a journal which she has conveniently written — prior to her disappearance — and is shown reading — and writing — notes throughout the picture, giving us glimpses of the scary, brooding sociopath, lying beneath her glamorous exterior. Additionally, Pike’s submergence into the role is enough to send chills down the very core of one’s spine, and is a performance that will surely be recognized with an Oscar nod come awards season.
Supporting cast are equally as strong, with Neil Patrick Harris — from television’s How I Meet Your Mother (2005) — playing against typecast as a creepy stalker from Amy’s past, and Tyler Perry excelling — injecting some tasteful humor into proceedings — as Nick’s well-known, hot-shot lawyer. Likewise, Carrie Coon, One in a Million (2012), feels perfectly cast as Nick’s ‘tell it like it is’ twin sister, Margo Dunne, who seems to be the only person supporting Nick throughout his ordeal. In true Fincher style, detectives and police officers play a prominent role in the film and are seen countless times during the course of the investigation, with Kim Dickens, The Blind Side (2009), convincingly taking the lead as Detective Rhonda Boney, while an amusing appearance by One Tree Hill (2003) star Lee Norris, as a police officer, should please long-time fans of the television show.
Despite all of the film’s bells and whistles as far as acting, direction, cinematography and score go, Gone Girl isn’t without its minor flaws; the picture is overly long — mainly in its earlier portion — even if the lengthy run-time is somewhat essential in order to cover the novel’s primary material, whereas a couple of misplaced punch lines might snap viewers out of Fincher’s trance. Furthermore, the trashy unconventional nature of the narrative might not be suited to everyone’s tastes — there are even a few guilty laughs to be had — but that’s just being nit-picky. At the end of the day, Gone Girl might not be Fincher’s best, but the picture is a beautiful achievement in cohesive cinema, as every element of the filmmaking process works in perfect in unison with the other, ultimately creating a gripping, discomforting and cynical modern-day whodunit.
4 / 5 – Recommended
Reviewed by Mr. Movie
Gone Girl is released through 20th Century Fox Australia