Watching Gone Girl, I realised two things; first, I had not forgiven the cast of Die Another Day of which Rosamund Pike featured as Miranda Frost. That film was unbelievably horrible with its ice castles and diamond encrusted weapons of mass destruction. I was watching Pierce Brosnan strut around aimlessly in November Man, and I thought to myself “well that figures, he was in Die Another Day” so no surprises there. He’s still in my bad books. However, Pike playing Amy here is truly remarkable; so much so she has earned full redemption in my eyes.
Secondly, David Fincher is a brilliant director. That point seems quite obvious considering he has had his hand in a number of fantastic films but I don’t know why but it just hit me. Aside from Zodiac, I always felt I admired rather than actually liked and engrossed myself in his films. In Gone Girl he serves us a feature most audiences will be rooted in on different levels. It sometimes felt like you were watching 2 films with 6 different acts. Mark Kermode described Fincher as a director who treated his films like a crime scene and that is quite evident here, or at least for the first half. It’s like we are in the same boat with Fincher too yet to paint a clear picture and the importance of every detail cannot be established but at the same time cannot be disregarded, we just know to take note and put sticker against every detail.
Gone Girl is the adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel. It starts as a somewhat straight forward thriller of a man who might have murdered his wife. This man is Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and as the story pushes on and apparent details begin to surface we begin to doubt his innocence in the whole matter as Fincher throws in some shots marked with a furrowed brow. His wife, Amy (Pike), has disappeared on their anniversary of all days and everyone thinks he had a hand in it. We learn through Amy’s diary, which she voices aided with flashbacks, how they met through to the rosy days until the recession serving as the catalyst for seeds of discontent in the marriage and further details revealed to us only go to further our suspicion of Nick as Amy ostensibly wins our sympathy. Amy is also a bit of a celeb as her mom fictionalized her in the Amazing Amy children’s book series. Her disappearance comes with that modern sense of celebrity entitlement from the public as a media circus envelopes the disappearance. There is a presser to announce the disappearance and Nick’s every move is scrutinized by the media and the public. There’s moment in the press conference were someone, maybe a journo callously shouts “louder” as he speaks. We perhaps felt we were settling into the “did he dunnit” thriller but it is at this point that Fincher begins to infuse some amounts of cynicism and when you begin adjust to the cynicism, it further transitions seamlessly into a preposterous black comedy with very little subtlety.
By the end of the film, Fincher is just laughing at the couple’s situation and the pretence that comes with marriage in general. The laughs are somewhat subdued at first and you will be forgiven for looking round to make sure you weren’t out of line like I did but by the end we are in full farce mode as the film unravels to end in what I would call the punch line of Fincher’s twisted piece.There is also the dynamic between man and woman or maybe even Fincher and women. Nick’s character has a twin sister (Carrie Coon) who almost serves as his conscience then there is the detective who is also a woman fuelling our distrust of Nick and then we have Missi Pyle on TV pushing hate and exerting waves of pressure on Nick via the medium of mass media. They all appear annoyingly overbearing and naggy and needless to say, Nick has some disdain for most of them and I, for the most part, echoed his sentiment towards them. The misogynist card is alleged to have been played and indeed some of these allegations were levelled against the book. A thousand and one think pieces have been written but people are just fretting and taking the joke too seriously.
Fincher gives prominence to the right supporting characters at the right time with Kim Dickens as the detective and Carrie Coon fitting in well with aura of suspicion and distrust and Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris taking prominence when the film puts on its wacky and twisted mask. Perry’s defence lawyer character plays like the celeb attorney for the big time case playing out in the public and is exactly the kind of guy you’d expect to have a hundred thousand dollar retainer. Parallels have been drawn to the O.J. case with Rob Kardashian and Jonnie Cochran. NPH is Barney Stinson with the creepy turned up to 11 and fits in well with wittily dark films tone. Affleck is good as the guy bearing all the hate and seemingly fueling our skeptics about him but Rosamund Pike Undoubtedly owns the film as far as the performances go. The film is constrained by the shadow hanging over Affleck but she unravels the story through her diary and flashbacks. Her character is very nuanced and layered but saying too much may take away from the film. She truly is terrific. She watched a number performances including Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct to prep for this role but to her credit, she comes up with something very original and a possible benchmark for future performances.
The film is not without its stunning imagery and DP work with the sugar storm scene most notable but it is on the whole very brooding, dark and chilling in parts. The film points to many questions and then does well to answer them but that doesn’t steal away from how amusingly dark and egregious this tale is. It takes numerous preposterous turns but by then we are just laughing with the director at how ridiculous things have become. The film is always ahead of you so I’m not spoiling it by highlighting the tonal shifts. I hope this isn’t Fincher’s opinion on most of the topics on hand but hey, he is entitled to it and he has us thinking the same way too. In the end, just consider your feelings in the opening and final shots – says a lot about how much the film has rubbed off on you.