This was originally published at The Edge SUSU on February 10th.
Gone Girl, is David Fincher’s latest directorial offering, based on the hugely successful novel by Gillian Flynn. It tells the story of Nick and Amy Dunne (Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike), and their difficult marriage. When, on their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing, Nick becomes the prime suspect and the focus of much media attention. As evidence piles up against Nick, and the story of the couples marriage becomes more and more complicated, everything becomes thrown into question. That’s about as much as is fair to give away. One can see why Fincher would be attracted to the material; with dark subject matter and complex, disturbed characters, it’s practically purpose built for him.
One third mystery, one third thriller, one third absurdest satire, the film does juggle a lot of competing elements. The changeover in tone during the final stretch may be jarring for those who are unprepared, but for viewers who are more open to it, it really is quite a genius move. Still the middle act is where the film is at its best, tense, layered and piling on startling revelation after revelation. In fact, if the whole thing measured up to the quality of the high points, Gone Girl could well have been the film of the year. In terms of that troublesome ending, it probably won’t explode with the fireworks of your desired conclusion, but it hammers home the thematic concerns of the rest of the film and shows a commitment on the part of both Flynn and Fincher to sticking to their guns.
On the subject of Fincher, he once again proves himself to be a director who never puts a foot wrong when it comes to technique. Working at a more restrained level than we’re accustomed to seeing, the film is still undeniably covered in the his creative fingerprints. From those signature green hues, to the brilliant focus shifts, to the meticulous attention to detail, he evidences all of his strengths in subtle, smart ways, without showing off or calling attention to himself. He simply knows what he’s doing. What’s on display here is expert craftsmanship, without any self-indulgence.
Ninety percent of the cast pull off great performances. Affleck subverts his regular nice-guy persona by playing a character with a more despicable edge than usual. He’s also resoundingly convincing as the vilified, put-upon man, who is hounded on in the public spotlight. Meanwhile Rosamund Pike who, whilst never giving a bad performance before, has never quite popped, finally shows exactly what she’s capable of. When she’s on screen, you don’t see an actress – you see Amy Dunne, and given how extreme a personality Amy is, that’s really saying something.
If there’s a weak link it’s Neil Patrick Harris as Amy’s obsessive ex, Desi. Whenever he’s on screen it just feels uncomfortable and not in the intended way. You get less of a creepy, leering, stalker kind of vibe and instead just end up questioning if he’s walked in from a different film. He is clearly badly miscast. Usually Fincher’s risky casting decisions pay off, but here it just doesn’t quite mesh. By pushing mainstream cinema to its darkest edges (one bedroom scene is deeply disturbing) whilst still remaining accessible and entertaining, Gone Girl emerges as a gripping and intelligent thriller likely to provoke a strong response.
Gone Girl (2014), directed by David Fincher, is distributed in UK cinemas by Twentieth Century Fox, Certificate 18.