Gone Girl (2014)


This will be a spoiler review, so don’t read it if you haven’t seen the film or read the book. I recently read the novel by Gillian Flynn this summer and I absolutely loved it. I haven’t been that captivated by a book in a few years. It has an interesting, twisty plot, but it also delves into the complexities of relationships, particularly of marriages/couples. David Fincher is my second favorite director, so when I heard that he would be the one adapting this amazing book I was incredible excited. Gone Girl was my most anticipated film of this fall/winter.
Gone Girl is focused on a missing wife case in which the husband is under suspicion. It sounds like a classic crime case that is on the nightly news quite frequently. But Gone Girl has plenty of twists and turns that set it apart from anything else about half way through the film and the book. I really enjoy the plot, but there are a few things that were faulty about it on screen that the book handles much better (I’ll just say right now, the book is better, but that’s not too surprising). It’s hard for me to review the film without comparing it to the book. For the first 20 minutes of the film I found it hard to settle into. I kept thinking about the major twist to come and just wasn’t immediately drawn into the film’s world.

Ben Affleck (showcasing his cocky grin) as Nick Dunne.
Ben Affleck (showcasing his cocky grin) as Nick Dunne.

I’ll get to the good parts (and there are quite a few of them) before I get into my issues with the film. Ben Affleck and Neil Patrick Harris are both quite good. I don’t think Ben’s part is too hard, he just kind of stands around looking either shocked or like a d-bag (as Star Lord would say). In one or two scenes in which he is in conflict with Rosamund Pick he is quite good and able to stand his ground. But otherwise there isn’t anything really special about his performance. NPH is very good as the creepy Desi Collings. It’s good to see him in a different kind of role and he’s really good at it. Not amazing, but above average. Carrie Coon is good as Nick’s sister, Margo. But I couldn’t help wishing someone like Katherine Moennig had been in the role instead, she would have knocked that role out of the park. Oh well.

Rosamund is definitely amazing from her first penetrating stare to her last.
Rosamund is definitely amazing from her first penetrating stare to her last.

David Fincher has made a star out of quite a few actors now. Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rooney Mara. Now Rosamund Pike can be added to that list. She is far and away the most gripping, terrifying, captivating, enthralling part of Gone Girl. I could probably come up with many more positive adjectives to describe her. From the first moment she stares through the screen at the audience she is breathtaking. Beautiful and just as mysterious as Nick Dunne says she is. I too want to sift through her brains and find out who this girl with the penetrating stare is. And by her last eerie look at the screen I know all too well who Amy is and it terrifies, but also strangely seduces me. Rosamund sells the big twist of the film and is the main reason it works at all. The scene in which she runs away is thrilling, one of the only times in the film I felt a thrill of excitement. That and her bloody, gruesome scene with Desi. Rosamund is a very convincing Amy.
The only fault with Amy, that has absolutely nothing to do with Rosamund, is she is extremely unsympathetic. She’s not overly sympathetic in the novel, but she is more understandable. Here she is painted more as a villain. A psychotic bitch who lost her marbles because her husband cheated on her and shattered her illusory perfect world. I think that there is a little more to Amy and it’s a shame that she is treated like a scorned wife whom audiences have scene time and time again.
Part of the problem for me is the film is too biased towards Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck). But the audience also isn’t inside his head enough. It’s a conundrum. Everything Nick says is taken for fact and a lot of his more unsavory personality traits are overlooked. Other than his fling with a college student he really does seem like your typical cute, funny guy who the world has dealt a bad hand. The book does a much better job of balancing Nick and Amy’s perspectives, which is part of why the novel is so special. I understand the story needed to be streamlined for a 2 ½ hour long movie. But something vital is lost in the transition.

Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike as Nick and Amy Dunne.
Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike as Nick and Amy Dunne.

This can also be said for the critical examination of marriage and relationships in our modern world. In the film, the reason Nick and Amy’s marriage crumbles is kind of quickly brushed aside. The film basically just tells us two things 1) The recession took a toll on the couple. Financial woes are a common cause of arguments, thus Amy and Nick started to disagree and fight. 2) They were pretending to be their ideal selves throughout the first couple of years. Then after a while the masks came off and Nick and Amy didn’t like each other so much. The first point is a very simplistic, quick way of explaining things. Convenient for a film. The second point is part of what I found so interesting about the book and I wish somehow they had explored it more in the film. Even just one extra scene. The whole film is mostly just plot, plot, plot. Which is good because it gives it great momentum. But at the same time it is glossing over the novel’s critique of society and how people fool not only each other, but also themselves. That key point is what made me so excited for the film and it is also what disappoints me the most about it. I hoped David Fincher was going to somehow lay bare this issue and kind of ask the audience to look at what they do to each other, but also how deception hurts each individual self. Something enthralling and shocking, akin to the shattering of Brad Pitt’s world and soul in Seven. But instead all the audience gets is a pretty interesting thriller that can all be chalked up to one crazy bitch and her psychotic, control freak tendencies and the ho hum guy who stays with her. I feel like David Fincher really missed the opportunity to put his mark on this story and to elevate it. He could have done that by tweaking the ending, but instead it sticks close to the book (the book’s one major weakness).
This whole film kind of felt like David Fincher was just phoning it in. He’s great at what he does, but in this case that just isn’t good enough. There are a couple stand out scenes that screamed to me “This is David Fincher at work!” But otherwise his technique here is very subtle. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it means Gone Girl is nowhere on par with Fight Club or Seven or even The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo(which I love). I will say that although the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is very subtle, it is quite effective and one of the more enjoyable aspects of the film. It’s like a creepy lullaby. Which is spot on for the story.
Wow, I didn’t think I would write quite so much, but this film really hit a nerve with me. It is a good film, but considering the talent associated with it, I think it could have been better. But at least a new star is born in Rosamund Pike 8/10

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