Hey! There are going to be a bunch of spoilers for the movie below. If you haven’t seen it or at least read the book – I haven’t done the latter – then go do either of those before reading this.
A happy marriage is rarely – if ever – at the center of a film. They are often at the end of a film (romantic comedies and drama’s) or they start strong only to unravel due to external or eternal. David Fincher’s Gone Girl, based on the novel by Gillian Flynn who also wrote the script, starts in the middle of what appears to be the latter trajectory.
The film starts with Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) meeting his sister Margo (Carrie Coon) at the bar they own. When he returns, his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) is missing with all signs pointing to a kidnapping. Nick, the police and the rest of the town come together to find out what happened to Amy and if at all possible, bring her back home. As the lead detectives, (Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit) Amy’s parents and the media investigate the case further, foul play becomes more clear and Nick becomes a suspect.
One of the many strength’s of Flynn’s script is the way it plays with our prejudices of the missing person narrative without directly flipping it on its head. The story changes perspectives between what is happening in the present seen through the eyes of Nick and the past through Amy’s perspective. The script is never clear what is honest and what is fabricated. Out of sympathy, we want to side with Amy but her journal entries share the unreliable qualities of Lolita.
The biggest issue holding the film back from the best of Fincher’s work like Zodiac and The Social Network is the way Flynn’s script imposes it’s societal critique on the film. Amy’s “Cool Girl,” speech is absolutely true and valid. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the film and feels more akin to Fight Club at its most clunky. Amy never plays this role that she claims to have portrayed so well in the beginning. The closest she gets to this wearing a loose shirt and drinking a Modelo at the party where she meets Nick. She is very much a Fincher “Cool Girl,” – relative to Fincher’s “Type-A,” beige-filtered aesthetic which is, per usual, pleasantly mundane. Pike isn’t to blame for the discrepency. She is excellent throughout the majority of the film as the cold, meticulous femme fatale – that has appropriatley been compared to Hitchcock’s female leads. She plays fear and control with equal conviction. Affleck is very good as the former writer, forced to move from New York, back to his hometown. While Pike and Affleck serve their leads well, the stand-outs are in the supporting cast with Dickens and Coon giving the best performances as the audience surrogates. Missi Pyle also shines as the Nancy Grace surrogate Ellen Abbott.
That critique is the films true message as opposed to the institution of marriage and the role in which we place our idea spouse that get more direct treatment. Aside from Pile, Tyler Perry provides the best outlet as celebrity attorney Tanner Bolt. The scene in which he coaches Nick before a TV interview is a humorous highlight in an otherwise darkly serious film that is perfectly complimented by Trent Reznor’s score. One of the key strengths in the media and societal satire here is that the script allows the audience to chose where to laugh. There were equal moments where the sold-out theater I was in laughed while I sat silent and vice versa.
That speaks to the strength of the film overall in that Fincher and Flynn have crafted an extremely dark thriller for everyone that succeeds as societal satire even as it stumbles through making all its points.
*** 1/2 / *****