Gone Girl is a film about the horrors of marriage and the fronts we all put on to the outside world, when secretly and behind closed doors we are hiding dark, sometimes twisted realities.
Within the first ten minutes of the story, Amy (Rosamund Pike) goes missing, leaving husband Nick (Ben Affleck) to be thrown into a police/media circus. We as audience become voyeurs, seeing through the eyes of the news team’s cameras, and also the real truths behind the scenes.
What at first seems to be a story of loss following a genuine tale of a romantic and loving relationship soon unravels into a saga of bitterness, resentment, financial oblivion and deep seeded neurosis. Nick and Amy, as it happens, were all but ready to kill each other prior to the disappearance. But now with her missing suddenly Nick is a suspect and Amy is this perfect angel, lorded over by an overbearing and brutish husband.
To talk any more about the plot would be to reveal things you shouldn’t know before watching the movie. Sufficed to say there are several twists in the tale to keep you engaged throughout the 150 minute running time.
But to me the plot is secondary to the social commentary. It plays on the voracious media hungry world we have become; that we love to digest endless coverage of heartbreaking events. And that though we pretend to be disgusted, we are as enthralled by clueless TV presenters casting judgements on a person’s innocence/guilt to further their own careers as they are. Again it’s all a front, pretending to care about truth when really it’s all about entertainment.
For Affleck life after the disappearance is all about keeping things shut away. He literally spends most of his time hiding out; terrified that either the world will attack him for already believing the worst about him, or that he might accidentally give them cause to by saying the wrong thing. Case in point is when he gives an entirely misjudged smile at a press conference given to ask for information about Amy’s whereabouts. The media descend on the smile and you can almost feel the hashtag #Nicksmile exploding around the world as total strangers throw guilty verdicts at him.
What’s truly impressive in Gone Girl are the female leads. Rosamund Pike as Amy is a force of nature. Shifting much like Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad from timid, fragile snowflake one moment to insane, angry and predatory the next. The wonderful thing about her character is that it’s often hard to tell which is the reality and which is the front.
Also particularly impressive is Kim Dickens as Detective Boney. Her strength in a male dominated police force is to be the only person never too quick to judge. She is the voice of reason; the one who simply observes and collects evidence without letting it sway her either way. Because of this she is perhaps the only character worthy of any real respect, and her presence always serves to convince you that justice will surely prevail.
The score by now longtime collaborators Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is haunting and exceptionally well though out. The scenes between Nick and Amy are coated in a warped jolly musical narration that sounds like a twisted 1950s housewife commercial. And when things truly go bad the musicality is replaced by wince inducing analog synths, throbbing and pulsating through your ears and chest to reveal the uncomfortable, harrowing truth.
I have a huge amount of respect for David Fincher. The majority of his films (Gone Girl included) are movies to analyse, to interpret and to debate. I have no doubt that Fincher will be the guy students still study in 50-100 years time as a perfect example of technical proficiency and striving to wring truth from art.
That said, and although Gone Girl is hugely enjoyable, it didn’t, for me, represent the best of what Fincher can produce. Perhaps it was the sometimes stale linear feel to the story, or the emotional disconnect I felt with the two leads. But coming away from the cinema I recognised how exceptionally well made the film was, without feeling personally wowed by it.
The line I came up with as a knee jerk reaction only moments after the credits rolled was ‘I was never bored, but I was never excited either’. I think that’s the conclusion I’ll stick with.