MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Gone Girl’ Disturbs, Compels and Astonishes


Film: Gone Girl
Starring: Rosamund Pike, Ben Affleck
Directed by: David Fincher

Boy meets girl, they fall in love, get married and live happily ever after. That’s what we have been taught through cinema ofttimes. We are usually shown the couple overcoming the myriad of trials and tribulations that weigh on marriage like–forgive the pun–a ball and chain. In Gone Girl, based upon the bestselling novel by Gillian Flynn, David Fincher (the auteur of darkness with films like Se7en and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) paints the popular union between two people like a rabid dog that has broken from the shackles of conventionality. The jet-black satire, existential dread, and overbearing need to see into others’ lives are heightened with a sharp-tongued wit into one of the most compelling films of 2014 with Gone Girl.

After Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) comes home to find his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), missing on their fifth anniversary, a multi-layered mystery is thrown into motion about her whereabouts. Officers Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) lead the case, prying into Nick and Amy’s personal life. As revelations about the troubled marriage start to unfold, Nick becomes the subject of a media circus. Fighting against time, the public eye, and police suspicion, Nick must fight to find his wife for better or worse.

David Fincher is put into a precarious position with the source material he chose to adapt. Does he showcase the book as the reactively vulgar narrative that it is or does he throw his own spin onto this mystery? In one of the most literal page-to-screen adaptations to date, Fincher rounds up one of the greatest ensemble casts of the year to delve deep into what a married couple thinks of each other. He pries at the inner thoughts spouses may have as they nitpick every facet of their respective partner, spinning a dark tale that is equal parts emotionally raw and morally disturbing. Like with every Fincher film, this dark tale is propelled onto the screen in the most visually palpable way.

Ben Affleck, in one of his greatest performances of his career, steps out from behind the camera in service of another directorial vision. Affleck plays Nick like the everyday handsome but dopey charmer that he is. He channels the greatest of noir characters to play the conflicted man with nowhere to hide under public scrutiny but with the most to lose. Rosamund Pike is another story though. For years, this actress has been shifted off into the generic wife character or damsel-in-distress in films like Hector and the Search for Happiness and Jack Reacher. Here though, she is able to shine in a role that will garner her immense awards attention come this winter. Amy, presented in flashbacks and voiceovers, is the supportive wife who will do anything for her husband, burdened by her overbearing parents who have exploited her childhood in service of a famous children’s book series they authored. Pike’s screen presence is towering, forcing the viewer into her marriage like an instigator that doesn’t know which side to take.

For 149 minutes, the viewer is subjected to a fast-paced tour de force that attacks the senses, mind, heart, body, and soul. Gone Girl doesn’t just turn, twist, and contort its way through the narrative, it throws everything plus the kitchen sink into a second half that goes further and further down the rabbit hole of depravity akin to the best from Alfred Hitchcock. To say that you may be exhausted after the final credits roll is an understatement. As you walk back into your hopefully normal life, you wonder if this level of escapism from reality is really what you want when you have your bad days. If anything, Gone Girl showcases how normalcy in life may be your best and safest bet.

Bolstered by another masterful score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (who also collaborated with Fincher on The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Gone Girl has an immaculate way of making you feel like everything is okay and then hit you over the head with some kind of marred dramatic bludgeon. For the first time in a while, Reznor and Ross’ score takes a backseat to the narrative. Laced with a sense of dread, the score will make you feel like something sinister is around the corner without overtly showcasing to you what that force may be. 

With comedic relief from Tyler Perry (yeah, he’s in this too) and Carrie Coon (seriously, watch HBO’s The Leftovers for more context on her acting prowess), Gone Girl spends a fair amount of the dialogue spitting comedic venom, sort of making fun of itself for how absurd it gets. In the light of heavy dramatic gravity, Fincher makes a reason for the viewer to laugh. This kind of relief keeps the viewers at the ground level, reminding them that this is all fiction coming from some pulpy novel read by a book club consisting of lonely housewives. Where the source material flourishes is in its twist and turns, as the characters have the heightened emotions of adolescents on the cusp of puberty. Fincher’s film solves that, making these characters less alien feeling and more understandable.

Gone Girl may not be Fincher’s most visually enticing film he has ever made but the masterwork here is making a film so brutally compelling out of a source material that’s absurd, trashy, unbelievable and incredibly pulpy. Treating the viewer as an onlooker to the situation and only giving away small morsels of information at a time, gives Gone Girl the chance it needed to launch a full-on dramatic assault.


Review written by Sam Cohen

Sam Cohen

Sam Cohen is that guy you can't have a conversation with without bringing up Michael Mann. He is also incapable of separating himself from his teenage angst (looking at you, Yellowcard). Read on as he tries to formulate words about movies!
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