I loved this movie. Whether it’s the best movie of 2014 so far or not is still up for debate, but honestly I can’t see any way it’s not going to end up as one of my favorites. There’s no way. This movie was everything I wanted from Fincher’s next film and more; lots of suspense, messed up psychological themes, dark atmosphere, and some interesting gender and media angles. All this is done with a pulpy melodramatic tone that I ate right up.
Nick and Amy Dunne (Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike) are a seemingly perfect couple, married blissfully for five years. When Amy turns up missing on their anniversary, the police, the media, Nick, and everyone he knows, start examining their marriage inside and out. It’s not surprising to find that it was not as sunny as originally believed. Soon, Nick is a suspect in his own wife’s disappearance, and though he swears he didn’t do it, all the evidence, mainly consisting of Amy’s own diary, points right to him.
The most immediately apparent virtue of this movie is its conflicting viewpoints. We basically get two versions of the marriage in question, Nick and Amy’s, and both of them are drastically different depending on which part of the movie we’re at. We never know who to believe, who is lying, or who is just plain crazy (and trust me, it gets pretty crazy). This keeps us on our toes all throughout the films’ running time, and Fincher piles on plot twist after plot twist so while the film is long, it is never boring. It’ll definitely be interesting to see it again at some point, though I have a feeling it will still stand up even after knowing the plot twists, because of the extremely messed up psychology of the two main characters.
Gone Girl pulls some stuff on you regarding the two main characters that’s kind of like True Detective; you start out thinking that one of the characters is the messed up one, but then as they are revealed more and more you realize the other one is actually way crazier. There isn’t so much character development here as character revelation; the characters don’t change, but our perceptions of them change based on new information on them being handed out. A great example of this is how Amy seems to be a totally different person once you get to a certain point in her diary, and how a certain character’s introduction into Nick’s life make him looks a hell of a lot guiltier.
A common criticism of the film is that it is not subtle at all, and while that is technically true, I don’t think that’s really an issue. The film still gives you plenty to think about, even if the themes it’s dealing with aren’t exactly challenging to uncover. There are really two topics at hand in Gone Girl: marriage and the media. Both of them place nearly impossible demands on both Amy and Nick, and really everybody. It’s impossible to live up to an ideal of perfection, especially when this ideal can not be defined very well by the person demanding it. Both Amy and Nick feel as if they are giving it all they’ve got in their marriage, but they still fall short of what the other expects of them. This has dreadfully violent consequences, consequences so extreme that many have pegged the movie as unrealistic. Yes, the actions of the characters may be unbelievably extreme, the feelings that motivate them are very relatable: inadequacy, insecurity, fear, and disappointment. As Nick and Amy are the subjects of this study, things do fall along gender lines and complicate things quite a bit. They are both supposed to act like husband and wife, and it’s interesting to move this into the 21st century rather than outdated 1950s stereotypes of domesticity. It shows how far we’ve come and also how far we still need to go. Fincher and Flynn play into this with the media angle as well, with Nick being blamed for Amy’s disappearance mostly because he’s not acting the husband part right by their standards.
One thing almost everybody is sure to come away from this movie talking about are the performances, which are considerable. Fincher always manages to get performances from actors you might not expect, and Gone Girl is probably the best example of his ability to do this. While the average cinema-goer may not be familiar with Rosamund Pike, I’ve been favorably impressed with her over the years and very pleased that she has finally been given such a big role. I can’t say I was surprised with the work she’s done here, I always knew she was good, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t impressed. What she does well applies to most of the rest of the cast as well but to a lesser extent; she has to play a character who is almost always acting. Affleck was also an ingenious casting choice, and he does well with the part. As Amy is a more extreme character it’s inevitable that Pike outshines him, but nevertheless this may be his best performance yet. I haven’t had a chance to talk about the rest of the cast but they are all fantastic: Carrie Coon as Nick’s twin sister Margo, Neil Patrick Harris as an obsessive ex of Amy’s, Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit as the cops assigned to Amy’s case, and last but certainly not least, Tyler Perry as Nick’s lawyer (yes, even Tyler Perry!).
Gone Girl is a very good movie, it manages to be both thought provoking and engrossing. While Fincher still retains his own unique style, Gone Girl is probably the most Hitchcockian film he’s ever done. The icy blond, the innocent man wrongly accused, the crucial reveal coming in the middle as in Vertigo (there’s even a part where NPH asks Pike to die her hair blonde again!), and the psychological depravity all harken back to the master of suspense. The updating of the gender dynamics and media issues make the film feel very current, and Fincher’s control of atmosphere and color scheme are as good as any film he’s done. I don’t think it rises quite to the top of his filmography for me, but it’s pretty damn close. It’s a great film; go see it.
“I feel like something to be jettisoned if necessary. I feel like I could disappear.”
Long story short: 4/4 stars
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