Directed By: David Fincher
Written By: Gillian Flynn
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris
When you control perception you control reality. You become a submerged rudder that secretly steers opinion to your desired location, while society is unaware that their destination was predetermined by an outside source. David Fincher’s latest film Gone Girl emerges itself in the gratuitous glory of playing with this idea. Fincher has crafted a well-dressed B-movie that takes hitchcockian thrills and adds the right pinch of social commentary. Gone Girl is a mystery thriller in every sense of the word, but it doesn’t stop there—it is clearly after more.
Fincher is once again adapting an acclaim novel, but this time he gets an assist from screenwriter Gillian Flynn who is also responsible for penning the novel. The book loyalist out there can rest assured as it stays true to the source material, and more importantly knows what adjustments to make in order for it to work in the film format. On its face this appears to be a stereotypical story about a wife’s disappearance and how the husband becomes the de facto prime suspect. As it progresses we begin to see how first impression are not everything they are cracked up to be.
Ben Affleck plays that husband Nick Dunne in a role that is very allegorical of his own real life career. After his wife mysteriously disappears after an apparent home invasion, he becomes the centerpiece of a media circus. Where every move or gesture he makes is scrutinized to the nth degree as solid proof that he did or did not kill his wife. He goes from media darling to media goat to darling again in this whirlwind of foundationless public opinion.
Criticizing the role TV personalities like Nancy Grave play in these fiascos is by no means groundbreaking, and it is easy as an audience member to proclaim you will never get caught up in similar chaos. What makes Gone Girl different is how it unexpectedly makes you apart of this game without you even realizing. Without revealing too much you can suffice to say seeing does not always equal believing.
Events unfold through a fluid timeline with a number of flashbacks and flash-forwards. We see how Nick Dunne begins his fairytale like relationship with his now wife Amy. Then the layers are peeled back to reveal the rotten core underneath. Rosamund Pike plays opposite Affleck in a clear star making performance as she navigates each complicated side of Amazing Amy. She has a chameleon like personality that adjusts based upon her surroundings. Once you see her true colors we get to see Pike have a great deal of salacious fun with the character.
Growing up the inspiration of her mother’s famous novels deflated the opportunity of a normal childhood. Especially when the fictional Amazing Amy has a life the real Amy could only dream of having. Nick and Amy become two characters who exist in a purgatory of morality as both are aggressively unlikeable in their own unique way. Fincher appears to be attracted to stories with despicable characters, and here he has countless amounts of deplorable people to choose from. As you would expect Fincher gets a great performance out of everyone. Including a surprising turn from Tyler Perry as the lawyer you call to win the unwinnable cases.
There is no question that Fincher knows how to stylize his films, but with Gone Girl that style is far more subdued than the likes of Fight Club and Seven. In many ways the first third could have use some of his flair as it dragged on as your atypical police procedural. Interest begins to lessen until the first big twist occurs and it finds a new-found energy when it completely restructures everything you seen previously. As it enters its final third reality does becomes stretched nearly to the brink of breaking, however it is fully aware of its sleaziness and choses to reveal in it.
Throughout it does maintain that moody atmosphere that always makes you feel uneasy in your own skin. Much of that is due to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s slow yet urgent score—one that is a transparent look into the unraveling mindset of these characters. Using repetitive sounds, buzzing mummers, and some inventive use of electronic tones Reznor and Ross make you enter into your own version of paranoia. Where you question nearly everything you see before you.
Gone Girl is quite the unique experience as it is able to sharpen its edge with a cynical dark sense of humor. Where it suffers is when it escalates to the more over the top aspects. They seemingly come out of nowhere, and with so much plotting occurring it does feel emotionally hallow. Still, there is something to say about a movie that is in full command of its premise. One that divvies out new revelations with vigor as it anxiously awaits that look of confusion to morph into profound realization. Simply put Gone Girl is a movie that should not be missed.