After recently seeing mediocre films like The Drop, A Walk Among the Tombstones, and Maze Runner, we finally enter the land of great movies. I’m going to try to write about this film without getting into spoiler territory, which is… extremely hard. It’s a film that functions on it’s structure and reveals that will change your perceptions of characters. To discuss plot points in detail would be robbing you of a great ride. In short, Gone Girl is undoubtedly among the elite films of the year. If you’re familiar with David Fincher then you know what you’re getting into. For my money he’s a top 5 director working today, interested in a clinical type of filmmaking, and he uses that style to traverse dark human territory. The result is often unique and dark punk thriller films.
Gone Girl is a pulpy B movie esque weaponized thriller that will put knots in your stomach and raise questions about gender roles, marriage and the media while also having you laugh your ass off. If you have a black hole sense of humor like myself. The plot revolves around Ben Affleck in a career best performance as Nick Dunne. His wife Amy, played by a legendary Rosamund Pike, goes missing and then the roller coaster begins as we enter a slow burning thriller about deception and lies. Who killed Amy Dunne? This is a film about the pitfalls of marriage and the dark underbelly of it. Novelist and screenwriter Gillian Flynn brings these issues to the forefront with a satirical murder mystery full of revenge, obsession, and the incompatibility of males and females.
Fincher’s technical prowess is what drives the film. He’s THE clinical filmmaker, and the heir to Stanley Kubrick in terms of technical precision. What his films differences come down to is the material. At his worst moments in his filmography (not many) I find as a director he’s less interested in story and more interested in the placement of actors and the colors in his frames. Undoubtedly he’s among the best we have working today. So how is the material here?
I’ve rarely seen such dark, perverse material handled with such classy filmmaking. Brian De Palma and Alfred Hitchcock are the big ones that come to mind. Fincher’s blend is kinky, haunting, and darkly funny. A cinematic bastard child of Lolita, Psycho and A Clockwork Orange. It should be said that the material isn’t as hefty and prestigious as Zodiac (his opus), The Social Network (masterpiece), or as thrilling and incisive as Se7en (masterpiece), but I’d put it right with the massively overlooked The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and cult phenom Fight Club.
The B movie esque Gone Girl is on the opposite end of the spectrum from The Social Network, but it’s very much a companion piece. It’s the dark perverse little brother that never got the attention The Social Network did growing up. Both are films that take a magnifying glass to relationships, and that’s the biggest thorough line and most prominent subject matter in all of Fincher’s filmography. Along with The Social Network, this is among the best character work in any of his films. We dive into the fucked up minds of Nick Dunne and Amy Dunne because of the film’s use of voice over and russian nesting doll structure. By the end you’ll feel like you’re stuck in their marriage with them.
The women in Fincher’s films often try to establish a normal life, but it never works out. Societies darkness consumes them. They’re an outlier. Gone Girl takes this to the max and furthers this idea more than any of his other films. I can’t dissect it without getting into spoilers, but Amy Dunne is as piercingly great as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. In those two aspects this is the most Finchery David Fincher movie ever. A noir murder mystery full of darkness with a winking eye. His dark muted color palette and methodical framing creates a maze like form to accent the noirish story at play.
The fact that Gone Girl reaches such immense dark and powerful heights while also maintaing razor sharp satire, is a testament to Fincher’s direction and the goddess performance from Rosamund Pike. Pike plays a femme fatale for the ages and there is no way she’s not nominated for an Oscar. She ranges from sexy to insane to darkly funny. Fincher’s technical control makes even the less interesting moments in the material feel important.
I’d liken the films structure to a giant roller coaster. The first act is a slow climb and we head up a steep mysterious creaky hill not knowing what’s on the other side. Then we drop at 60 mph and take sharp twists, turns and go upside down through a dark absurdist nightmare. Finally you’ll look back and laugh at the satirical dark ride you’ve just had. All throughout your stomach will be in knots. There will be characters you want to punch in the face. It’s at times ridiculous and perhaps even over the top, but oh boy Fincher is having so much fun creating a mash of noir/erotica with an evil grin on his face.
I can guarantee you won’t like most of the characters, which is maybe a fault to the film, yet also admirable that there’s such a commitment to the absurdity. We’re not meant to like them but for me it took away from my attachment to any decisions they made. It felt a bit grinding at points to be honest but it’s a small consolation to a greater thematic good. As I’ve said, the material isn’t really “prestigious.” Fincher isn’t as interested in thematic depth here as he is in just messing with your senses and having pulpy fun.
With that said, you’ll find yourself discussing the inevitability of marriage, gender roles, and the media. The media is absolutely laughable and put on blast by Fincher and Flynn. Rarely do we see such a sharp satirical depiction of our news fueled mindless celebrity obsessed culture. In regards to the films dissection of marriage and it’s pitfalls, I felt Enemy offered a more vulnerable and honest look, but Gone Girl is a more polished and unnerving film.
This is the same clinical and mathematical Fincher form as usual, but the content makes it fresh in his filmography. Cronenworth’s cinematography isn’t as stunning as Fincher’s other films because it’s mostly browns and blacks in houses he’s working with here. Still, there’s a strong atmosphere throughout and a few images with Amy are among the best in Fincher’s entire oeuvre. Tonally I felt Fincher could’ve toyed with it more to make some of the material really pop like A Clockwork Orange, but there’s only one Kubrick.
My only notable problem script wise is that the material is a reflection of celebrity culture rather than a smart takedown of it. Most of the depth is said on the surface, yet there’s plenty on the surface to discuss. The fun here is found in it’s ride into unnerving absrudity. It’s pretty much the perfect Halloween date movie. This is more unnerving and disturbing than anything you’ll see all year. My thoughts on the ending are somewhat mixed. The third act fizzles out like a firework that’s defected. It ends with a bit of a whimper, but thematically there’s a strong bite.
Less an examination on marriage and more of a De Palma valentine. It plays like a strategic fun house that gets kinkier and more deliciously trashy as we plunge deeper and deeper into its heart. Secrets are unearthed and this is where Fincher, Affleck and especially Pike shine. OK but really, ROSAMUND PIKE IS A MASTERPIECE.
To put on a happy face we fill familiar archetypes within culture to manipulate each other. Zodiac and Se7en explored how a killer being out in the darkness affects us as we stay at home with our normal lives. Gone Girl asks even scarier questions. You know what’s scarier than knowing a killer may be outside? Knowing that you may be living with or even love one. How well do we really know the people that live with us? Can we truly ever know them? Gone Girl isn’t afraid to ask.
Grade: A- Pulp roller coaster and noirotica plus a truly amazing performance from Rosamund Pike. It’s Fincher cooking pure evil pulpy fun and it’s fuckin delicious.