By Adam Sturrock
Gone Girl (2014)
Director: David Fincher
Written/adapted: Gillian Flynn
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens, Carrie Coon, Neil Patrick Harris
Nick Dunne (Affleck) arrived at his home after a walk on the beach and was met by an unnerving scene; tables toppled, glass shattered, his wife, Amy, vanished. It was unexpected. To those around him looking in he was in the clutches of marital bliss – it was the day of their fifth anniversary and the disappearance sent a worrying ripple into the community. As events unravelled, the police, both officially and via the public media, scrutinized his every move. Questions swelled and a picture was pieced together by the scraps of the absent wife of her doting husband, implicating him for murder. As director, David Fincher and writer, Gillian Flynn propel us through this story, we question if our guides in this tale, both Nick and Amy, are as reliable as we may think in this superbly cast film.
While many books fail to properly translate to the screen, with Gillian’s guiding presence, it manages to buck the trend. The narrative is split in half between Nick’s turbulent present and then in brief but illuminating sequences, Amy’s side of the story via diary entries. What makes things interesting is that the way the film is written is such that you have to pick a side between the two accounts of their marriage; when comparing the two, little details on one side seem slightly bent on the other. Like the media crews and talk show anchors punctuating every scene, it feels like a prosecution of Nick Dunne in the courts in which we as an audience have to weigh up the “evidence” in order to truly understand what is going on.
Arguably, the reason as to why you should go and watch this film is solely due to the relatively unknown, Rosamund Pike. She darkly dazzles as the ice-cold femme fatale, Amy Eliott-Dunne, who ultimately steals the show in a performance that may receive nods during the award season. At her best she is deliciously horrifying, vulnerable, calculating, brutal; these are all descriptions because at no point do we really get to see the “true” Amy, only characters that she controls and that is what is truly scary – is she the victim or the puppeteer? Even though we barely see her, she keeps in around the plot and often pops in to stir things up. In particular, Amy’s little segues in the plot are brilliant in revealing the inner workings of their marriage.
When we first see the couple meeting for the first time at a hip New York party, their conversation banters and snaps along with Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross’s voluptuous score. After the party is over, they walk through the city arm in arm through the back alleys, icing sugar cascading upon them like sweetened snow and they share a kiss. It seems to be the picture of a fairy tale, almost too pristine an image to be true. Then the film rips back to reality, and that image seems to be jarringly bittersweet, a fragment of their marriage set in a dry, air conditioned room devoid of that idealistic romance. The recession hitted them, hard. Their dreams of making it big are cut short and they return, tails in between their legs, to a beige town in Missouri. For each event that happens to Nick Dunne during the current timeline, a little counter balance from the past is used to add dark context to the situation.
For those contrasts to be effectively executed, a large chunk of the film is owed to the editing by Kirk Baxter. Bravo.
The source material very much fitted its director, I couldn’t think of many others who would be better suited, arguably. David Fincher has a knack for portraying broken but sympathetic lead characters, such as Jessie Eisenburg’s Mark Zuckerburg or Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth Salander. This trend continues with Ben Affleck casted as the naive, manipulative journalist, Nick Dunne, whose apparent inability to deal with the vulture-esque media suggests that maybe behind closed doors, not everything is what they appear. At times Nick is all American charm; big smiles and affable but on a dime he can become this intimidating, controlling man-mountain who only appears behind closed doors where the cameras are off. Maybe something dark sits behind that smile but we are never too sure until the very end.
Comparisons between Ben, his character and Tyler Perry and his character, Tanner Bolt, have been made with the fickleness of news outlets at its most apparent with it’s love/hate coverage of the actors. Neither people, real and fake it seems, seem to have achieved total control of their own media perceptions.
And that is what a large part of the film satirizes: the media. The image of every character is paramount. For example, in a scene in which Nick campaigns for any information on his missing wife, he mistakenly smiles in front of her poster, and then the next day, he is accused of being a socio-path – an obvious murderer.
At times the film is absurdly, darkly funny. In an age at which news is at our fingertips, soundbites are more important than factual information. Every person seems to be the victim’s best friend. They paint Nick as a domestic abuser or a heartbroken beefcake. While Nick was living in hiding with his twin sister, (played by a fantastic Carrie Coon) a talkshow host brings about suggestions that they are in an incestual relationship. It becomes so absurd that one must laugh as knowingly, we see stuff just as funny and falsified on real life television. When the world’s media can be so overblown and over the top, maybe it isn’t that convenient to believe the truth over the commercialised “truth” plugged by the media.
While the film tries to tease us what actually happened, it suddenly throws us a curve ball slap bang in the middle of the movie, completely changing the dynamic. Rather than halting the pace of the narrative, though, it allows us to truly appreciate the scope of the events and adjust accordingly. This collision course, between Nick and the media seem to go along swimmingly all the way until the last 1/3, in which the plot starts to delve into absolute silliness. After so much tension and great character development, the latter half featuring Neil Patrick Harris as Desi Collings is unfortunately, weak, and the pre-ending while aiming to be shocking, comes across as gratuitous in my opinion.
But overall, the film is a knock-out. It almost pulls off its premise to a tee until the aforementioned last 1/3 but with such great performances it is a must see.
What did you guys think of the film? Let me know in the comment section below!