Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris
Genre: Drama/ Thriller
On his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunn (Affleck) returns home to find that his wife, Amy Dunn (Pike) has disappeared. As a child, Amy’s parents wrote fictional books featuring a character based on her called ‘Amazing Amy’. Due to her already existing popularity, Amy’s disappearance sparks a media frenzy and her marriage to Nick comes under bigger and deeper scrutiny from both the media, the police and even the general public. The increased scrutiny reveals increasing dark secrets and revelations about Nick and Amy’s marriage and leads to raising the question of whether Nick was involved in Amy’s disappearance.
Trust David Fincher to bring out a film that is almost impossible to review without revealing spoilers! Even though I seem to be the last person to review it so the temptation is to use spoilers just to back up my points of view which do actually seem quite unique compared to the universal praise Gone Girl seems to be receiving. Well I will avoid that temptation of revealing spoilers, but I can safely say that though Gone Girl is a very forgettable and hardly an edge of the seat thriller, it is an incredibly bonkers and preposterously entertaining film. In fact I was quite comfortable in my seat, but due to the 149 minute running time had a sore bum and itchy, sweaty back.
Gone Girl does deserve praise, but not quite to the level it seems to be consistently getting. I am genuinely surprised by just how many people have written (admittedly very eloquently) about how much substance there is to Gone Girl. Maybe that is because it is Fincher; if he directed Tramsformers everyone would probably love it. Maybe it is because it is a mainstream blockbuster but an 18 certificate. Who Knows? I do not want to criticise this seemingly common consensus, but I just completely disagree with it. Then some argued that Gone Girl is misogynistic in its depiction of women and some have claimed it divides viewers into either being ‘Team Nick’ or ‘Team Amy’. Well firstly they contradict each other, so someone has to be wrong, and secondly the latter is quite insulting to film viewer’s intelligence.
Many have claimed that Gone Girl is a deep examination of all the 21st century pressures on marriage, and in what is essentially a film of two halves, the first half may have a slightly light hearted analysis of marriage (albeit a very cynical one) but it is used as a narrative device and has very little substance to it. Admittedly the first half plays out as a very intriguing thriller, but the slow pace is perhaps a little too slow. However, all of this half-hearted marriage dissection is only used as a platform for the preposterous nonsense that happens in the film’s second half.
Maybe how shocking or thought provoking Gone Girl’s depiction of marriage and relationships seems depends on the viewers own thoughts, and as someone who has quite cynical views on the subject I just found Gone Girl to be all surface and no substance. The little elements that may be interpreted as an allegory for the 21st century media and its approach seemed more like cheap gimmicks to drive the plot along, which with an unnecessarily long running time of 149 minutes the film could have perhaps done with a few more! Despite what some people say, 149 minutes is too long, for complex, serious thrillers that can be justified (2013s excellent Prisoners for example), but Gone Girl is way too silly to be classed in that category. It is also deeply frustrating that once again I cannot back up my argument without revealing spoilers, but I hope people that have seen Gone Girl (and that is a fair few) understand what I mean.
When I describe Gone Girl using words such as silly and preposterous I do not necessarily mean them in a derogatory sense; it is a film that is very entertaining, often laugh out loud funny in fact, and David Fincher is no mug and in my view was very much aware of this when making Gone Girl. He has undoubtedly made some great films, but in what is his funniest film by a country mile, maybe just wanted to have a bit of fun when making Gone Girl. It is a film that seems very much aware of itself, with the laughter being very much intentional and with the film; Gone Girl is a mixture of b movie and 90s erotic thriller all captured with an admittedly quite static camera by Fincher who seems to resist the temptation of making another Panic Room, but the angles of the shots are all unashamedly slick and stylish. Also Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score is suitably moody and atmospheric and Jeff Cronenworth’s cinematography adds an unnerving sheen of perfect cleanliness to every scene.
Many have claimed Gone Girl is a perfect balance of blockbuster thrills and serious thought provoking substance, but for me there was no substance at all. Once the film was over the only thing that stuck in my mind was the effort it took to watch it at times, and it was effort that wasn’t wholly rewarded. Also, in adapting her own novel (which I cannot comment on) Gillian Flynn seems to be very much in on the jokes, with the humour in the script seeming to be very much intentional, and all the funnier for it.
One thing Fincher always does is get the best out of his actors, and just how engaging Gone Girl is depends a lot on the performances. Bad or less than convincing performances would make the already slightly preposterous material seem truly laughable. It is in some ways unfortunate for Rosamund Pike that going into detail as to how and why her performance is so exceptional in Gone Girl once again treads very much into spoiler territory, but she is without a doubt exceptional and makes the preposterous narrative and clichéd dialogue far more convincing that it probably has any right to be. If she doesn’t get nominated in every award ceremony during Oscar season it would be a travesty. Ben Affleck’s Nick is a stoic and deeply naive smug sod, but in essentially playing himself, Affleck is perfect. It is just as well Pike and Affleck are so good, as per usual in mainstream cinema we are given two bourgeois protagonists who are conveniently writers (why are they always writers?!?) who are quite frankly spoilt and live in huge houses, and despite arguing about apparent money problems still always have all the possessions anyone could ever want.
The supporting cast are also excellent and essential to why Gone Girl is so entertaining; As the two only truly likeable characters Carrie Coon as Nick’s twin sister and Kim Dickens as the detective in charge of the investigation are excellent, while Tyler Perry gets a majority of the funny lines and is hilarious as a hot shot lawyer defending Nick. However Neil Patrick Harris is slightly miscast and his role would have perhaps benefitted from an actor with more natural screen presence for the type of role he has.
As the film reaches its conclusions, it gets increasingly ridiculous and increasingly flawed that it really is impossible to take the whole thing seriously. The final 20 minutes also take way too long and only seem to reiterate a point the film has already made. The fact is that this is a downright outrageous plot that quite frankly has been done a thousand times before, and Gone Girl would have without a doubt benefited from being 30 minutes shorter.
Despite being way too long and completely lacking in substance, Gone Girl is basically a rom-com David Fincher style. It’s audacious and laughable plot is saved by complete self awareness from Fincher and Flynn and the note perfect lead performances. A silly, forgettable and fun film, but nothing more!