It seemed like this film would never arrive in cinemas. The promos and posters kept rolling out endlessly, and with this level of hype, it felt like a long time to wait. But here it finally is, and it’s a doozy. Directed by the one and only David Fincher and based on the book by Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl (2014) is a bleak portrait of a marriage that, on the surface, appears normal – however, underneath the surface, conflicts and manipulations run rife. Ben Affleck plays Nick Dunne, husband to Amy Elliott-Dunne (Rosamund Pike). One day, Nick returns home to find his wife missing, with signs of a struggle in the living room. The more this disappearance is investigated, the more Nick’s innocence is questioned, and the more the mystery deepens.
Warning: potential spoilers in this review!
What a story. I haven’t read the book, but now I fully intend to. The story of Gone Girl develops in a very compelling way – starting in a fairly nondescript day when Nick goes to visit his sister at the bar that he owns. We learn about the magnetic beginnings to Amy and Nick’s relationship, and this is contrasted with their strained relationship at the present time. This type of introduction was perfect because it gives the viewer little bits of enticing information at the beginning, and then allows for the viewers’ minds to be sufficiently blown later on. Themes of isolation in partnership, domestic violence, gender politics, economic struggles, and the media’s response to crimes are front and centre in this film. But the story of Amy, the femme fatale-type wife who has secrets, is the most fascinating element. The issue of belief is also significant – whose story do you believe? When it comes to domestic violence and conflictual partnerships, and when there are multiple perspectives on a situation, who do you believe?
Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike absolutely command this film. Which is funny, because for me, both actors have always seemed like what I would call ‘paper bag’ actors – actors where their presence is usually secondary to other performances and could probably have easily been replaced with someone else. I honestly haven’t been too much of a fan of Rosamund Pike before this (really unsure as to why!), but this film has turned me. She is pretty amazing as the mysterious Amy, who is driven by a cold, calculating rage. Pike constructs multiple, layered identities for Amy – the sociable and affable exterior, and the femme fatale interior, and the permeating self-worth issues that have an influence on both. She almost appears too perfect, but that’s a part of the Amy mystery. Meanwhile, Ben Affleck is impressive as Nick, with his own set of layers which seem less mysterious compared to Amy, but are no less significant to the overall film. Affleck excels with the film’s fast paced dialogue and in his portrayal of a desperate husband who may or may not have secrets of his own.
With regard to the secondary characters, Tyler Perry is great as famous defense attorney Tanner Bolt. I was surprised that Perry’s use of deadpan humour was actually appropriate for the tone of the film and didn’t take away from the darker moments. Neil Patrick Harris puts in a creepily dramatic and generally awkward performance as Amy’s wealthy ex-boyfriend Desi Collings, although I may have felt uncomfortable watching him because I’m not used to seeing him in a role like this. The chick from the Blurred Lines video clip is in this film for five minutes total and is quite forgettable. My favourite of the secondary characters, though, is Nick’s sister Margo Dunne, played by Carrie Coon with marvellously cynical humour. Her character is one of the more interesting ones, and I would have loved for her to have more screen time.
One of my favourite elements of any David Fincher film is the sound – both the film score, and sound design. It seems like Fincher has a real knack for making sure that his films sound so impressive, and Gone Girl is no exception. The score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who previously worked with Fincher in The Social Network (2010) and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), is genuinely amazing and sets the tone perfectly. A distressing combination of relaxing melodies and jangling, discordant noises keeps the viewer on edge for essentially the entire film. At times, the music lulls the viewer into a false sense of security before their ears are assaulted by a mishmash of noise. I thought this was so effective at building the atmosphere of the film. At other times, the music thumps as if to emulate an accelerated heartbeat. There is some unsettling subliminal noise throughout that has an impact on our stress levels as well.
As I have come to expect from any Fincher film, the cinematography is fantastic. There are some shots throughout that are completely awesome and ignited the neurons of my cinematography nerd brain, particularly after the ‘big reveal’ towards the middle. Each shot of this film is framed so perfectly with a lot of visual quirks and symbolism. I believe the film would have a lot of good rewatch value in terms of its cinematography alone. Absolutely masterful work by Jeff Cronenweth.
However, whilst watching this, I didn’t really get the feeling that this was a ‘Fincher film’. I feel like his films have a distinct feeling that sets him very widely apart from other directors – and I’m unable to pinpoint specifically what that feeling is. It might be a certain griminess that all of his films have in common. But throughout Gone Girl, I didn’t get that Fincher-sense, even though I did very much enjoy it. The facade of this film is so shiny and cold that I was unable to connect the director with this work. It wasn’t until a certain grotesque scene at Desi Collings’ house towards the end of the film that my Fincher senses started tingling. I don’t think this is a bad thing though; it’s just different to what I expected from him.
I did have a bit of an issue with the suspension of disbelief in Gone Girl. Some questions: Could Nick really connect the dots of Amy’s intentions so easily? Could Nick’s sister really believe this immediately when she is presented as super cynical? Could it all really click into place that easily? The logical inconsistencies that viewers may take note of throughout this film are attempted to be voiced towards the end of the film, yet are essentially brushed aside. Perhaps we’re being encouraged to raise the limits of our suspension of disbelief in this case. My final complaint is that the ending is fairly awkward. However when the rest of the film is as strong as it is, I could almost forgive it.
Gone Girl is pretty mindblowing. It’s one of those films where people in their office building kitchens get together and talk excitedly about it, about the creepy and manipulative characters, and about the ‘big reveal’ that some may have guessed, and that may have taken others by surprise. The ambiguity of the ending, and the hidden intentions of our husband and wife pair, ensure that this is a film you’ll want to discuss with people to share your opinion on what it all means, or to find out alternate ways of viewing the story. Above all, this is another Fincher film that succeeds on a number of levels – mainly creatively. But the sublime performance by Rosamund Pike and the chemistry that she shares with Ben Affleck, not to mention the unanswered questions that the story poses, makes Gone Girl supremely watchable. This is well worth seeing at the cinema.
It is worth paying for a ticket?: Yes!
Watch the trailer here.