Skip to content

Review: Gone Girl

October 6, 2014

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Gone Girl Poster

On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) comes home to find a coffee table mysteriously broken and his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) missing.  The police are notified, a missing person case is opened, and soon the whole town is out looking for her.

This is just the beginning of Gone Girl, and any exposition of their actual marriage is slowly revealed through flashbacks.  We only assume they had a happy union because that’s what what we’ve been conditioned to believe, but as always the truth goes deeper than these preconceived ideas.

Adapted from Gillian Flynn’s 2012 mystery novel that pretty much everyone could be seen reading a few years ago, Gone Girl is the latest from director David Fincher, and the twisting narrative fits in quite well with the rest of his already iconic filmography.

Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) is lead investigator on the case, uncovering clues that are sometimes quite obviously marked as such.  Then the story draws the attention of the media, starting with local news anchor Ellen Abbott (Missi Pyle), before gaining international fixation.  Both attractive and hardworking Americans, Nick and Amy seem like the perfect couple to court public attention and sympathy, and her life has already been recycled into the bestselling series of Amazing Amy children’s books, which her parents (David Clennon and Lisa Baines) shamelessly pedal at every turn.

But then Nick starts to be painted as the prime suspect, and is forced to hire notorious defence lawyer Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) to defend him.  “I did not kill my wife,” he flatly protests to the intrusive reporters, but tell that to the angry mob who sees only the face of the presumed dead victim and is looking for someone to blame.  This seems like too easy an answer though, especially considering that there are other things that just don’t check out.  Like Desi Collings (Neil Patrick Harris), Amy’s mentally unstable high school boyfriend turned stalker, who is back creeping around.

The first twist comes a little over an hour into the 148 minute running time, allowing the second half of Gone Girl to turn the tables and start to dissect everything that came before.  At this point, the film becomes a chilling study of a psychopath who is willing to do literally anything to remain being seen as the victim.  This is a cat and mouse thriller that becomes even more interesting when we realize who the real predator is, and one of these villains is the media, who can easily be swayed depending on who decides to step forward and play the victim.

Nick’s twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon) has his back and trust no matter what.  Noelle (Casey Wilson), a neighbour whom Amy befriended before her disappearance, is always going to side with her.  These same ideas of people taking sides could be seen as allegories of marriage.  Both sides have secrets, some much worse than others, but whether or not they can still be trusted in spite of them, all comes down to which one the media or those around them decide they like better on the surface.

The film works as a searing indictment of how the media points fingers and takes sides, turning one person into a hero at the expense of making someone else the obligatory villain, even without any credible evidence to back up either side.  Nick makes the mistake of cracking a smile at the first press conference, a move that rubs the media the wrong way, causing them to assume that a man smiling in this situation must have something to hide.  This is a world where even something as seemingly innocent as taking a selfie with a reporter can be seen by the public as a mark of guilt.

A few of the twists in Gillian Flynn’s novel and screenplay do approach melodrama, and certain plot points don’t hold up well to close scrutiny.  But the story works well when viewed through the lens of pitch black satire, scathingly cynical and even mocking of the idea that people can be spoon fed obvious lies and still choose to believe them as absolute truth.  David Fincher elevates the material with tight direction, and the film is so steeped in his trademark style, that it’s impossible to discuss Gone Girl without talking about how and where it fits in with the rest of his filmography.

The film doesn’t quite reach the stunning heights of his previous mysteries like Se7en or Zodiac.  This also isn’t the generation defining statement about the changing face of human interaction that The Social Network was four years ago, or the cultural touchstone that his 1999 masterpiece Fight Club continues to be after fifteen years, with a renegade spirit and rail against society attitude that still exhilarates.  But Gone Girl plays well alongside these classics as another captivating and slickly entertaining thriller from a filmmaker who continues to tackle ideas of truth and social expectations.

The performances also elevate the material.  Ben Affleck is excellent, turning in a carefully calculated performance that keeps us guessing about his character’s innocence and true intentions.  Rosamund Pike is equally good, delivering an affectively cold and chilling performance.  There is also another big name in the credits without whom Gone Girl wouldn’t have been possible, and that’s Reese Witherspoon.  The actress served as a producer and was a driving force behind bringing the bestseller to the screen, impressed by the strong and interestingly written female characters that the story offers.

From the steely grey cinematography and equally clinical framing, to the creeping music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross that ups the tension, Gone Girl holds us in constant suspense, as we piece together the carefully laid out clues of the meticulous and often ludicrous plot.  There is perverse entertainment to be found watching this mystery unfold, and Gone Girl is gripping throughout, providing more sickly twisted thrills channelled through the unique vision of David Fincher.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: