Gone Girl (2014)

Ben Affleck, books, crazy, David Fincher, review
(As I seem to be one of the only people on the planet not to have read Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel spoilers probably won’t be an issue. On the other hand, if you’re part of my team this may be verging on the dangerous ground.)

As I’ll no doubt have mentioned by now (after all, deep down I’m still annoyingly Indie at heart), I never finished reading Gone Girl. I can’t remember how far into the book I actually got but it was well before the ‘big twist’. I just couldn’t keep going with the writing and I thought it was painfully obvious where Gillian Flynn was going. Having learnt about the plot, it turns out my predictions were pretty accurate so I don’t really regret my decision to stop. Life’s too short for that shit. If my undergraduate dissertation had been as signposted as Flynn’s bestseller, my tutor would have fucking loved me. However, I have a certain amount of faith in David Fincher and if anyone could make me like this story it was likely to be him. All I needed to do was convince my friend to go with me. Thankfully I had a secret weapon up my sleeve: the promise of Affleck penis.

Gone Girllooks to dissect the institute of marriage in the form of a police investigation. The dual perspectives of married life, neither of which are exactly trustworthy, play out side-by-side in a very public arena. On the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) comes home to find his home in disarray and his wife (Rosamund Pike) nowhere to be seen. The police arrive and Nick is quickly swept up in the desperate search for his spouse.
As a wild media circus descends on the quiet Missouri town, Nick’s in-laws arrive and quickly distract themselves with TV appeals and search campaigns. Unlike Amy’s parents, Nick isn’t comfortable in front of the probing news cameras and, after some unfortunate appearances and untimely smiles, he finds himself in the dangerous position of main suspect. Lies are quickly brought to the forefront and a hidden past is revealed. But what really happened to Amy?
I saw the film over a week ago now and have struggled to put my reaction into words. Quite frankly, I don’t really give a shit. Gone Girl isn’t as clever or original as it thinks it is. It’s a generic piece of trash that goes batshit crazy in the final act in order to stand out. Reviews will tell you that the plot is thrilling and intense but, a few supporting characters aside, the whole thing just feels very pedestrian.
No matter how many good things I heard about Gone Girl I just couldn’t get excited about it. Nothing to do with David Fincher because, let’s be honest, on paper Gillian Flynn’s smash hit novel was the perfect book for the director to adapt and, I have to admit, he does a damn good job. By no means is it his best film but it’s still a well-made piece of cinema. No matter where you stand on the book, you can’t deny the film looks bloody good.
It’s incredibly sleek with its muted colours and use of light and dark throughout. Jeff Cronenweth, a long-time collaborator of Fincher, has done an outstanding job with the cinematography that perfectly compliments the mood of Flynn’s thriller. Just look at the contrast between the lighting and the action on screen towards the end of the film where spoiler spoilers spoiler.It’s a beautiful yet awful spectacle that will stay with you long after the credits roll.
Thanks to the work of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Gone Girlalso boasts a fantastic soundtrack. The pair’s score is haunting and provides the perfect accompaniment to the dramatic tension unfolding on screen. I refer you back to that key scene once again where the musical score just adds to the craziness taking place before your eyes. It’s fucking awesome.
Fincher and Flynn, who took up the task of turning her book into a screenplay, do a pretty good job with the plot. The emphasis on the first half of the film is on the media mob that are quick to sniff out a juicy story. Gone Girlbecomes a social commentary, albeit tied up within a ludicrous, trashy mystery. This is the most interesting aspect of the narrative and clearly speaks most to Fincher. A great deal of time is given over to the media reaction and Missi Pyle is excellent as the toxic host of a cable TV show.
This part of the film was so good that its almost a shame that we’ve to get back to the business of finishing Nick and Amy’s story. I’ve recently read a review that called for Fincher to re-purpose the plot and retell is from the perspective of the online and television coverage of the search. Now that is a film I’d happily sit through.
Gone Girlis, first and foremost, about perspectives and storytelling. The ways in which Nick and Amy present their marriage to themselves and the outside world; the way the media presents the pair; and the way Nick and co cope in the spotlight. One of the finest sequences in the film comes from Tyler Perry’s inscrutable lawyer, Tanner Bolt, as he coaches Nick on how to act during an upcoming interview.
Weirdly, Perry is a wonderful addition to the cast. He brings a great sense of arrogance and a touch of humour to this “patron saint of wife killers”. Every move he makes is superb and Bolt ends up being one of the biggest stars in the entire production. What a better movie it would have been had Bolt been the one married to Amy. Also deserving more more time in the spotlight are Carrie Coon as Nick’s twin sister Margo and Kim Dickens as Detective Rhonda Boney. Both provide a human and emotional counterpoint to Affleck and Pike’s cold couple.
To be honest, the reviews are correct and there is a lot to like about Gone Girl. In David Fincher’s hands the plot flourishes in places. However, no matter what happens I can’t deny that no amount of polishing can turn trash into anything other than trash. I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to get on board with Flynn’s story or her hastily written main characters. Take Amy: I’m all for Flynn’s desire to explore the darker side of femininity. It’s just not going to work with a character as exaggerated and hyperbolic as this. She is an extreme that is given no time to develop and there is no attempt, at least within the film, to explore the deeper problems on show here. For a film that starts us down an important path to social and media critique, the two main characters just feel forgettable and extremely overcooked.

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