David Fincher’s Gone Girl is the best Hollywood movie of the year so far, not because I will it to be, but because it is so good at what it does. It drips with fear and plays, relentlessly, with our emotions and understandings of deep domestic paranoia. It never lets up. It is written with confidence. It knows perfectly well how to use its players. Its music, by long time Fincher collaborators Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, is effectively ominous. And its pace, which slithers along without haste, dictates the course of events, which, in turn, dictates how we feel about them. This is not Fincher’s best film, but it is his most viscerally unnerving.
And it crept up on me like a thief in the dead of night. I had heard about this film, but I knew nothing of it. Its trailers would flash across my TV screen; before I had time to digest its plot, it was over. Then my mum mentioned that she had just finished reading the novel and was surprised to learn that a movie adaptation was already in progress. Indeed, seldom does a novel enjoy cinematic success within two years of its release. I walked into the cinema still knowing nothing of the story.
If you find yourself in the same situation as me, my advice to you would be to retain what little knowledge you have of Gone Girl. Do not seek out the plot, or its revelations, because what makes this movie so spectacularly successful is its mischievous meanderings. Also, do not read further. The plot, which segments itself between husband and wife, skips to the past and the present without concern. There are bountiful twists and turns, and when you think the movie might be over, it continues breathing with aggressive fervour through more twists and turns.
Written by author Gillian Flynn, this is a story of husband and wife, Nick and Amy Dunne (Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike), who are victims of the economy and each other. Amy, additionally, is a victim of herself. She comes from a family of writers; her parents have co-written and published a series of children’s books loosely based on the childhood of their daughter. “Amazing Amy”, the series’ title, is like a well-oiled instruction manual for Amy, as her parents create everything in the fictional character that the real girl either strived to be or failed to be. It is the underlying hope every parent has for their child. Amy, as Gone Girl will learn, has been deeply affected by this.
On the morning of Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary, Amy disappears. Their chic Missouri suburban home is wrecked and traces of blood can be found in the kitchen. This sparks a statewide search and rescue effort, with volunteers from all over pledging to lend their support to the country’s most treasured novelty lady.
The case is led by Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) who, unlike most thriller detectives, is about as clean cut and fair as the case requires her to be. Usually movie detectives are brash, as in Brad Pitt in Se7en, or too wise for their years, like Morgan Freeman, also in Se7en. But Rhonda is well balanced. Eventually we begin to like her.
She starts to suspect Nick of foul play, especially as incriminating evidence surfaces and personal issues no longer hide under the blanket of secrecy. From here on Gone Girl becomes a chess game, with Nick and Amy plotting move after move, waiting patiently, sometimes anxiously, for checkmate. But it is not so simple. Fincher, assured and precise, approaches Gone Girl sometimes as a stage play, sometimes as high drama, sometimes as documentary, always with a sneaky eye for dark comedy and grungy textures. Gone Girl is beautiful, yes, but it is also horrifying, partly because it observes the self destruction of this marriage without taking sides.
In the roles, Affleck and Pike are outstanding. Pike, particularly, underlines her dialogue with standoffish benevolence. It’s never easy to determine if her words are genuine or make believe. At first I was unsure if she was cast correctly, but as the movie progressed, no one else could’ve played Amy. And always, always, something is never quite right about the connection between her and Nick. It is the uneasy feeling that underpins the entire film.
The music by Reznor and Ross must also be commended. In much the same way that Hans Zimmer’s score invoked dread in The Dark Knight, so too does the music here, especially in a scene that involves a security camera, a wine-stained night gown and a woman screaming for her life against a French window.
Gone Girl grows and grows, and gets more pleasantly complicated as more characters enter the fray. Tyler Perry plays Tanner Bolt, the wily and resourceful lawyer. Desi Collings (Neil Patrick Harris), Amy’s ex-boyfriend, has all the wealth but lacks the company to share it with. And Carrie Coon plays Margo Dunne, Nick’s twin sister, possibly the movie’s most heartbreaking character. What a situation all these people find themselves in. And what a movie they inhabit. What a movie.
Best Moment | Pretty much every scene at Desi’s lake house.
Worst Moment | Nope.