Directed by: David Fincher
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, and Patrick Fugit
The Plot: When an unemployed men’s magazine writer’s (Ben Affleck) wife (Rosamund Pike) goes missing under wildly suspicious circumstances he arouses the skepticism of her friends and family. Once the story breaks in the public forum, the eyes of an entire country are all over this guy, scanning for cracks in his veneer.
The Film: Tough film to review this Gone Girl. I didn’t plan on starting this movie write-up with a Yoda sentence, but there she is anyway. As anyone who has read Gillian Flynn’s novel can attest to – trying to get your friends and workmates to read the book, or in this case, see the film, has to be done delicately. It would be a major disservice to anyone not privy to the details of this story to have anything spoiled for them. So other than saying that Gone Girl is a movie about a missing wife – which, even though it sounds woefully insufficient, at least gives the potential mark enough ambiguity as to arouse suspicion and desire – it’s best to leave it at that and hope that they trust your judgment.
Fear not dear reader. I will not spoil your film in this review. I may dote on Mr. David Fincher a bit while making every attempt to convince you that this is a movie worthy of the price of babysitting fees and travel time this weekend. A movie most deserving of a night out. But as for any details concerning plot…? Those I keep to myself.
We really can’t ignore the bestseller status of Flynn’s book – so David Fincher doesn’t. He claims the bestselleriness (pronounced: BEST-CELERY-NESS) of the novel and embraces it fully. This is a work that, for the bulk of the earlier act, certainly doesn’t feel like a trademark Fincher flick. Sure, you can detect his smirk in the film’s crooked sense of humor considering the subject matter, but Gone Girl feels like Fincher’s most commercial work to date. Which doesn’t mean it isn’t subversive or smart. He’s just camouflaging his Finchery under the guise of pop-fiction.
When we first meet Nick Dunne he’s walking into his small-town bar – creatively named, by the character, The Bar – packing the board game Mastermind under his arm. If you’re looking for another board game that screams guiltysonofabitch as loudly, or as proudly, as Hasbro’s Mastermind, I dare say you won’t find it. A few minutes later in the film, after his wife has gone missing, there’s a scene where Nick Dunne is driving his father to an elderly care center with Blue Oyster Cult’s cowbell anthem Don’t Fear The Reaper jamming on his car stereo.
These may seem like obvious, if not blatant, programming grains for germinating seditious thoughts inside the audience’s heads, but David Fincher is rarely this on the nose in his movies. Here he’s basically admonishing us to forget the art of nuance, this is the world of the serial thriller – the torrid climate of the supermarket paperback.
David Fincher proudly wears Gone Girl’s thriller vestments – he seems to revel in the freedom they allow him as a movie tactician.
This might be the first film in David’s catalog where the director gets to step back and relax behind the camera – ignoring the technical gymnastics of movies like Panic Room and Fight Club – and just shoot his film pro bono. Which adds its own level of distortion to the story. As things go from mildly mysterious to wildly twisted the camera simply refuses to take any stance other than the perspective of the casual observer. During the more warped areas of the film this technical indifference feels frigid and unsympathetic. It’s only through Trent Reznor’s outstanding soundtrack for the film that the suburban landscape of Gone Girl finds it heart and teeth.
And homeboy… do we have some teeth.
There’s an unforgettable scene (the scene everybody at work is going to be talking in hushed tones about for the next few weeks) in the film where Trent Reznor mechanically plucks what sounds like a bass guitar’s E string deep-fried in acid. The result being that you can literally feel the grisly scenery being driven into your stomach. There’s another moment in the film where Nick and Amy have an argument on their staircase, but Reznor’s score creates a much different mood than what we’re seeing on screen. Instead of supporting the barriers of melancholy and tragedy the music gives the circumstance a genuine regal quality. Some much needed gravity. This is, after all, a marriage we’re watching. Even if it’s fictional and doomed, it still has significance.
If we can look past the obligatory watercooler moments in the movie (IE: Affleck vigorously jack-hammering Rosamund Pike to a reading table in the narrow alcove of a book store) David Fincher’s making plenty of statements about the tabloidization of American life and the court of public opinion. Gone Girl is a film totally about perception and image. Sure it treats love less as affection and more as an infection, but this is a movie where image means absolutely everything.
Affleck and Pike make a stunning couple together. Smart, well-to-do, and handsome – what Mix-a-Lot deemed swass – the two power through New York cocktail parties like linebackers, leaving a wake of secret admirers and schadenfreude dilettantes behind them. However, Affleck and Pike on their own? Much less dynamic. Nick does have the ability to learn and recognize that with his wife missing he’s in a situation where everything you do, every emotion you display, every word you say – every person you snap a selfie with – it’s all going to get pixelated and blown into improbable proportions on the television sets across America.
There are cameras everywhere in this movie, set strategically like digital bear traps. From smart phones to peeping surveillance cameras to cable news cameras planted in machine-gun-nest formation around press conferences. All of them ready to distill a person down into a ready-to-eat personality. All ready to give the home audience what it desperately needs more than anything else – the right to interpret motive and assign guilt in strangers.
The brilliance of this film is, we in the audience are the home audience.
Much has been said, and much has been maligned, about Gillian Flynn’s ending to the story. Though I would argue that the film had a much better scene to end on three minutes before the literal ending, the scene that Fincher chooses to close on doesn’t forget that, at it’s root, Gone Girl is a movie about the holy court of public opinion and what life is like under a microscope. In that respect, Fincher’s film totally sticks its landing.
It turns out that in the end, there is no more merciless fate than becoming the person the public needs you to be.
The Verdict: Gone Girl is a film to curl up with the one you love on a comfy couch splitting a couple mugs of warm, generously spiked, imported cocoa. Just prep yourselves for the urge to check your drinks for anti-freeze tampering at some point in this story. This movie is absolutely fantastic. My wife and I have been talking about it all week. Make every effort to see it soon – before some jackass spoils it for you.