I will start off with this; you should watch the movie first before reading any review. Trust me; the film is one of the most spectacular things I’ve seen this year. I will try as hard as I can to steer away from spoilers but talking about much of what I got from this movie comes at the expense of hinting at shocking plot points. If you want to experience this movie best, go in with only the basic idea of what Gone Girl is about and prepare for the gripping ride that follows. You have been warned.
Gone Girl is a story about the once happily married couple Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike) who have now grown to resent each other. On the day of their 5 year anniversary, Amy goes missing and Nick becomes the top suspect. What follows is a series of details and sequences that grotesquely deconstruct this perfect American, suburban couple.
Director David Fincher is often at his best to me when he is exploring how things very often don’t have a simple answer. Zodiac and Se7en both explore a complex, mysterious crime and the questionable, messy challenges it takes to come to an ultimately bitter and unsatisfying conclusion, the mystery of his movies has something to say about life itself. In The Social Network (his best movie in my opinion), he shows the true loneliness and isolation that comes with building an empire in the 21st century. Gone Girl mixes two of these things together, it’s a twisty, complex mystery with an unsettling, bitter conclusion and it’s a brilliant, critique on the 21st century in how it handles relationships.
Gone Girl is a cold, dark almost Gilliam-esque take on what is for all intents and purposes a terrible marriage. Amy and Nick met each other with the hopes of finding a love that breaks all boundaries and would never fall apart. Over time, both of them have shown there big flaws. Nick is a lazy, cheating hack who views women as lesser and consumes all the money of his wife. Amy is an insecure, cold, ever watching sociopath who is willing to manipulate and destroy people to make herself seem like a better person to others. While one of them becomes more obviously evil in the 2nd half, neither of them are good people and in many ways they both represent the extremes that men hate about women and women hate about men.
I call this Gilliam-esque because it takes something that is very human and he expresses it by exaggerating it to almost satirical levels. If you go into this movie looking for plot holes, then I think you’re looking at this movie wrong. Of course what is happening could never happen in real life and of course the self-centered anger of the two main characters are going to be raised to the hugest extreme, but that is the point. Nick’s hatred of being nagged and his huge selfishness are going to be transformed into trying to defeat the evil, fatal schemes of his wife and hiding from the media that bombards every part of his life. Amy’s fear of no attention and obsessive behavior will lead her to do horrific, violent things and escape to the corners of the earth. All of the things that boil under the surfaces of most marriages are dissected and raised to their highest point in this mystery. The minor things that build up and destroy a marriage are amplified to life or death situations. If Nick can’t remember something sweet that happened with him and Amy a long time ago, him and twin sister Margo could face going to prison. If Amy can’t forgive Nick, he will die and she will be stuck to a relationship that is way worse. If you look at the simple, basic structure of what is happening and you take out the weird twists, you are looking at a serious, realistic thing that happens at one point or another in a lot of marriages, two tired people who are sick of the other and are searching for a way to achieve that spark again. Nick talks out this crazy stuff with his marriage with his friends and family while Amy tries to leave and go someplace different for a while to evaluate her life.
A lot of people aren’t going to like the ending to the movie. It may come off to some viewers as a very dry, cold, quiet ending to a very loud and intense movie but I think that’s why this movie works so well. It’s this huge, over the top satire yet it still finds a way to come back to being this story of these two very well written characters and the struggles they go through in there now, horrible marriage. By the end, the only thing that keeps their marriage alive is financial and social stability for Nick, Amy’s inability to be satisfied and a direct plan that should revitalize their marriage for just a bit longer. They aren’t in the same position they were at the start but they are still deeply flawed, angry, selfish people. Nothing they have done has solved anything with their marriage and they are bound to fight each other and resent each other till their last breath. For all the messed up stuff that has happened, they end the movie reverting back to the same usual, urban discontent.
Technically, this movie is the sort of thing I’ve come to expect from director David Fincher. The movie is paced very well and for a two hour and 25 minute film, it is something that I could watch again right now with ease. The cinematography is moody, stylish and unsettling as we’ve come to expect from Fincher. Visually, I don’t think the movie is as good as Zodiac, The Social Network or even The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but it is a movie that fits perfectly into his strange world. Undoubtedly, my favorite aspect of the movie is the music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Every movie by Fincher has an amazing soundtrack whether it is the haunting use of Hurdy Gurdy Man in Zodiac or the calm, dreamlike melancholy of Reznor and Ross’s also incredible soundtrack for The Social Network. Yet, I think Gone Girl might be my favorite to come from them to date. It’s everything you want from a soundtrack, it’s intense, it’s beautiful, it plays perfectly to what’s happening on screen, it’s exciting, it’s terrifying and it’s extremely absorbing. Much like the movie, it has moments of warmth invaded by a feeling of suspicion and lack of privacy. This movie was going to be greatly directed because it’s Fincher and by no means does this disappoint.
The movie has a great cast all around and it’s helped by some well written characters. I’ve already gone into full discussion about how complex and well-crafted Amy and Nick are but the deal is sealed by great performances from Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. Ben Affleck kills it playing this sort of misogynistic, douchebag character who is still very likable and sympathetic. Equally, Rosamund Pike plays Amy very coldly and psychotic with glimpses of humanity thrown in there. My favorite performance in the entire movie surprisingly came from Carrie Coon as Nick’s twin sister Margo. Margo almost comes off to me as author Gillian Flynn’s way of entering into her own story. She stands by her brother and agrees with him on Amy being a wreck…but she’ll call him out on the terrible aspects about him, you could call her the films happy median between Amy and Nick and she’s definitely the most relatable character in this movie. Carrie Coon plays Margo very down to earth and her balance between comedy and serious drama made her extremely likable. Many critics have already spoke about how good Tyler Perry is as Nick’s lawyer and they’re right, he has some of the funniest lines in the movie and he does a very, good job delivering them. Which while we’re on the topic, this is a way better look at marriage than Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor.
While I did consider giving this my first 5 star of the year, I can’t fall completely head over heels for the movie. I would argue that the movie has a couple of supporting characters that could’ve been written with more dimensions. Amy’s ex-boyfriend Desi (Neil Patrick Harris) isn’t noticeably bad in any way so much as his character serves more as a device for the story arc of Amy. I would’ve liked to see more of Nick’s father as I’ve heard he carries a much more important role in the book. Mostly, my problems are ones that come with watching a movie for the first time. Now that I know the complete story, I look forward to watching it again with more of a focus on the themes behind the relationship at its core.
Man oh man, now this is a way to start the fall Oscar season. Gone Girl is an ambitiously constructed satire about the darker themes living within a marriage. You’ll be entertained throughout and you’re going to be left with thought provoking messages that will absorb you. The film creates an incredible, complex relationship between two people who rarely are in the same room together.
Release Date: 4/4/2014
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry and Carrie Coon
Directed by: David Fincher
Screenplay by: Gillian Flynn
Based on the novel by: Gillian Flynn