Film Review: Gone Girl

“Everyone told us and told us, marriage is hard work”. 

Gone Girl is the one film that will embed itself permanently in your psyche. A bold statement, to say the least, but it is the only statement that comes close to describing the frightening physiological paradigm created by suspense maestro Divid Fincher. Emotionally charged, disturbed and at times simply terrifying, Fincher’s analysis of what can go wrong with contemporary marriage is the ultimate battle of the sexes and search for answers; whether right, wrong, or completely unexpected.

An adaption of the widely sought-after 2012 novel by Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl paints a bloody portrait of battle between husband and wife Nick and Amy Dunne (Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike) that asks the question asked by many who’ve had a relationship fall apart before their eyes: how much do you really know about your partner?

Contrary to its appearance courtesy of the narratively manipulating and heavily contrived editing and fragmented storytelling, the real issues in Nick and Amy’s marriage begin long before either of them even meet. Amy, who is introduced as the atypical yet very real trust-fund baby, lives most of her life steps behind her fictional alter-ego “Amazing Amy”, a character in a children’s series authored by her parents, Rand and Marybeth Elliot (David Clennon and Lisa Banes). Nick (Affleck) may very well portray himself as the perfect man.  A writer for a men’s magazine, Nick finds himself at a yuppie party in the lower-east side of Manhattan before bumping into Amy, where he charms his way into her heart by confessing how he thought quinoa was a type of fish. The two depart the party where Nick leads Amy behind a bakery, the air glistening with sugar flakes, until the moment he kisses the specs of refined white power off her lips, the two perfect lovers fall in love.

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But like everything that seems too good too be true, their magic doesn’t last. Both suffering in their relationship from the failed American economy and Nick’s ailing mother, Nick must pick-up his picturesque wife and life in urban New York City, and relocate to his Mid-Western hometown of North Carthage, Missouri. With the passing of Nick’s mother and his father’s admittance to the local nursing home for treatment of his Alzheimer’s, the couple is burdened with financial woes, prompting Nick and his quick-mouthed twin sister Margo (the fantastic Carrie Coon) to open a bar, perfectly named ‘The Bar’. Coming home to Amy for their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick drives into his perfect “McMansion” home and ideal wife, only to find the cat on the driveway, a wide opened front door, and Amy no-where in sight.

While many will spoil so much of what the film has to offer, it is best you go into it with a completely untainted opinion regardless if you’ve read the novel or not. Fincher and Flynn offer a completely revitalized reincarnation of Flynn’s novel with many layers, twists and turns, and most of all questions.

Fincher has given himself quite the reputation as a noble successor to Hitchcock, mastering the art of Hitchcockian thrillers and suspense. From Fight Club, to his highly stylized American interpretation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Fincher has become the most consistent American director working today. Staying true to his ominous and truly septic vision, faithfully collaborating with editor Kirk Baxter, cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth and music with Oscar winners Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor, Fincher is a meticulously relevant cinematic auteur who knows how to deliver in a tonal, visual, and deep subliminal forum that has quickly become his signature. Trying to ignore big set pieces, he goes to the most basic scenes in all films: two people seated in a room having a conversation. Fincher’s greatest cinematic tool is his focus on information, buried in the revelations between characters and their conflicts expressed in their dialogue. Exposition is his greatest asset, with drama driven by audience reaction to a character’s divulgence of new information—and Gone Girl is a testament to this.

While Gone Girl becomes the most sadistic cinematic version of he-said/she-said outside the walls of a courtroom, the film is pillared perfectly by its cast as well as its crew. Ben Affleck’s interpretation of Nick Dunne draws fine lines of empathy and calmness, as well as unhappiness and deception for his wife and the people in his mundane, quickly shattering life. Nick’s character, charming throughout the first act of the film, like any other man, shares his concerns about marital life, self-image, and the mistakes he makes as a man and as a husband. Affleck has never been better; yet, the next Caped Crusader isn’t the true runaway star of Gone Girl. 

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Pike, who has always given her best supporting big names like Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher, Carey Mulligan in An Education and Pierce Brosnan as 007 in Die Another Day, gives the performance of her lifetime as Amy Dunne. Amy is tormented, bored, and pushed to the threshold of her marriage and her dignity. While the narrative is presented through Nick, Amy herself and a journal she had conveniently written prior to the anniversary, show glimpses of a very scary, brooding monster housewife. Together with her husband, Amy is the ideal spouse. Once alone and given her space, Pike’s submergence into the role brings chills to the very core of your spine in her portrayal of a wife who is capable of everything a woman thinks, but would never dare do. If Pike does not get award attention for her role as Amy this year, I don’t know what will.

Keep a keen eye out for expected strong performances from actors you normally wouldn’t expect, including Tyler Perry, who plays Tanner Bolt, a hotshot defense lawyer who represents Nick at his darkest times. Dickens, who surprises with her best role as a twangy-western Sherlock-type detective operating on rationality and emotion rather than gut-feelings and hunches. As well as phenomenal performances by Fugit, Scoot McNairy, Missi Pyle, and most of all, a worthy Supporting Actress turn by Carrie Coon, who plays Nick’s sister and voice of reason and compassion during his heavy hours. Coon’s force on screen always matches the intensity of the story as well as ticking-time bomb of confusion that is Nick Dunne.

Gone Girl is Fincher’s crowning achievement. Notorious for being nit-picky and precise with his lens and expectations for his actors, Fincher’s films, as much as they are highly stylized accounts of chilling nightmares, are also solidly entertaining and deeply thrilling. From The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, to the procedural Zodiac, and the generational favourite The Social Network, Fincher provides audiences with an equal amount of narrative pleasure, visceral enjoyment, and tremendous thought.

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Gone Girl may be founded on the possibility of murder, but thrives on bloodless drama between man and woman. Some of the films best scenes involve Nick interacting with so many strong characters including; the local police responsible with solving the case of Amy’s disappearance, Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and Officer Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit)–which also gives the film the majority of its dark comedy and relatively light-hearted moments that are equally sadistic and twisted. Investigating Amy’s possible murder, using anniversary clues that Amy set-up for Nick leading up to the big day, the two exchange information and effective dialogue that shows the two sides of the law; the obvious answers and even the ones that asks more questions.

In the past, I have always had a difficult time expressing my deep affection and love for films that haunt me well after the end credits roll. While I feel that this is one film where the less that is spoken the better, it is a film that I will gladly talk about, ponder on, and remember for many years to come. While the title suggests that the girl of our dreams may not be present, the only thing gone about Fincher’s latest spectacle of Westernized homogeneity within couples and lovers is our trust for strangers.

Gone Girl is a film that will be far from gone from my memory. Fleeting, not from the depths of my cinematic appetite, but into the dark corners of my love for the art form, it brings confidence that every once in a very long while, there are films that prove better than the literary source material it is derived from. This is one of those films. Relishing in the notion that some people are not exactly who they claim to be, my favourite film of the year is an observational take on modern day society, marriage and media. It is nothing short of a perverse masterpiece.

Night Film Reviews: 10 Out of 10 Stars.

Best movie of the year or completely not what you expected? Is Gone Girl too hard to understand or not enough whodunit? Was Affleck that good? Pike? Coon? Is the film going towards Oscar Gold come next year? Leave all your thoughts, comments, and questions below. 

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