Release Date: October 2nd, 2014 (UK); October 3rd, 2014 (US)
Genre: Drama; Mystery; Thriller
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike
Somebody encourage Rosamund Pike to clear her schedule for early next year. By many accounts — relative superficiality considered — the awards rounds that take place in January and February can manifest as quite the gruelling undertaking, particularly for those nominated without much hope. I bet the endeavour is worth it though, all the glamming up and invariably rigorous speech preparation, when your name bellows around LA’s Dolby Theatre and that egregious Academy countdown begins.
Should she get there (and she should) Miss Pike will be an Oscar newbie come February 22nd. It’s early, granted, but the performance(s) she delivers in Gone Girl will take some beating. Gillian Flynn’s spotless adaptation of her own novel to screen might also take some beating. Heck, David Fincher may well find himself in another directorial gong joust. Gone Girl is not fun and games, just games. It’s downbeat and harsh and at times painfully glum. It’s intelligent and gripping and oddly satirical. It’s very, very good.
On his fifth wedding anniversary Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) returns home to find a toppled table and smashed glass all over the floor, but not his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike). Upon subsequently reporting her missing, the bar owner plummets into a media frenzy fuelled by accusation, exoneration and consequence. Exactly what has happened to Amazing Amy?
Fincher refers to his back catalogue for inspiration, a method ultimately met with total vindication. Gone Girl refuses to settle on one genre platform and instead deftly mingles around a number of areas from which the director has previously thrived. The taut tension felt in Panic Room returns with a vengeance in tandem alongside Zodiac’s murky mystery. Much of what unfolds during the two and a half hour runtime does so in a mellow-ish manner; solemn, yet clawing away underneath the surface. We don’t really know what to believe or who to trust and Fincher works hard to emphasise that point. Historical diary entries penned by Amy are interspersed between the present, where husband Nick is battling the elements. Revelations come unstuck and we become part of the evolving saga, our minds constantly mobilising.
The director does this brilliantly, teasing us with character faults that we simply cannot ignore and that resultantly challenge our moral head space when nastiness arises. A coating of mystique, irrespective of its level, remains throughout all three acts — each of which vary in agency. What begins as a simmering thriller re-emerges as a social commentary on cultural norms, before climaxing in a fit of peculiarity and deceit. (Fincher himself has used the term “absurdist” to describe part of the story, and he is obviously spot on).
A lack of narrative jarring ought to be admired too, as each element works cohesively with the one before ensuring that there is no lull in proceedings. Don’t bring a watch, you won’t need to check the time. Perhaps the most interesting train of thought is the film’s exploration of a self-created image; this idea that we generate an idyllic version of ourselves to parade in front of others, when we’re in public. What happens, then, after five years of marriage? Script writer Gillian Flynn has an answer, and you get the sense that her adaptation to the big screen has come at an optimal time — the novel was only released in 2012, therefore the themes remain wholly tangible.
Another of those themes is one that seems to go hand in hand with personal façade: an exploration into the role of media. Specifically, media grossness. We watch the aftermath of Nick’s press conference where he outlines the brief details behind his wife’s disappearance, and the fallout is quite cruel. People become puppets via talk show hosts and public photographs and, to an extent, the film becomes less about finding Amy than it does Nick attempting to revitalise his own tarnished image. Ben Affleck paints Nick as a flounderer to a degree, but still as someone you’d fancy getting along with. The engulfing news storm is a usurping force of nature that strives to internalise the character’s prerogative, so much so that we doubt him relentlessly.
Navigating Rosamund Pike’s role as the eponymous gone girl is akin to traversing a recently laid mine field, and that is to the credit of Fincher and company. The actress is truly marvellous, a sentiment echoed in passing by Tyler Perry’s charismatic fixer Tanner Bolt: “Aww, she is good.” She is. Perry himself is one part of a diverse cast sustained by precision and efficiency, but it is the interaction between Affleck and Pike that engages most. Conversations between the pair relived through Amy’s diary entries are somewhat disoriented by a peculiar, haunting ambience. It is a haze struck up masterfully by the combined efforts of cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth and music men Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, all three well versed in Fincher lore. Cronenweth’s visual sheen resembles the pristine surface and texture of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and, backed up by a disquieting score, relays a melancholic haze.
It’s worth pointing out the satirical infusion brought forth by the film’s final act, at a time when proceedings really begin to marshal around the absurd. Though we spend moments throughout the film tickled by characters’ comical reactions (an early police interrogation, for example) as proceedings start to unravel what might have seemed amusing an hour ago morphs into a manifestation of discomfort. Events on screen are obtusely elevated, of course, but at a base level there lurks a degree of potential reality.
Brought to fruition by a supremely talented cast also including the likes of Neil Patrick Harris and Carrie Coon, and guided magnificently by a director whose work has finally struck an impenetrable balance, is a film not afraid to break the mould; one that defiantly stands beside the courage of its own convictions.
Evidence hardly ever amounts to clarity during Gone Girl, but Gone Girl most certainly is evidence that David Fincher is on the top of his game.
Images credit: IMP Awards, Collider
Images copyright (©): 20th Century Fox
20 thoughts on “Gone Girl (2014)”
Love your review of this one. ‘Discomfort’ describes that last act incredibly well – it left me with a horrible sense that deception, in one form or another, would continue even after the movie’s close.
I didn’t mention the cinematography in my own review but it is beautiful and perfectly cultivates that ‘haunting ambience’ you talk about. And I agree, I would like to see Rosamund Pike get a nomination for this – as you say her performance will take some beating as we move towards award season.
It’s really odd, you almost feel part of the inescapable situation that the characters find themselves trapped in towards the end.
The cinematography is almost televisual, but in a good way – the look gives off this sense that what we’re watching is more grounded or relatable in a weird way. I couldn’t fault her at all. She’s tremendous.
Thanks Natalie! Glad the film is going over so well with so many. I’ve just bought the book!
I hope Pike will get an Oscar nod for her amazing performance, she truly was phenomenal in her breakout role to mainstream audiences. I’ve seen her supporting performances before and I think she’s very talented, but this role truly showed her range.
Completely agree Ruth, she’s always impressed me in smaller roles but here she is faultless. Fully deserving of an Oscar nod (perhaps even a win).
Sounds great Adam – I am particularly looking forward to the two lead performances here. I’ve read five or six reviews of this in the last couple of days and all are very positive. Good stuff!
The performances alone are worth the price of admission and more, especially Rosamund Pike. I’d go as far as saying that she’s better here than Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine. (Granted, the roles are totally different). Hope you enjoy Stu!
Not quite five stars for me but still a heck of a lot of fun. The ending got a bit too ridiculous but Pike especially was fantastic and it’s great to see a movie that doesn’t water itself down to appeal to a younger audience. Top review.
I take your point in regards to the ending, but by that point I’d been completely sucked in by the performances – so much so that any ridiculousness (which, you’re right, exists) didn’t matter. Indeed, it’s a film that works because of the mature themes it explores and totally justifies the 18 certificate. Cheers mate!
A great time at the movies, which is all I really wanted from Fincher. Good review.
Indeed, if a tad tense! Haha, cheers Dan.
I’d say your review of Gone Girl is as good as any review you’ve ever done man. This was an extraordinarily thorough examination of a extraordinarily thorough crime-mystery. I have in the past been a little turned off by Fincher’s inability to shoot anything under two hours long but that’s obviously not a deal-breaker 🙂 His stories often do really justify that kind of length. Zodiac I feel was one that bordered on the excessive since the mysterious yarn just seemed to keep getting spooled out with no end in sight; here, Gone Girl had a definitive climactic build that — as some people have noticed was utterly ridiculous — and it also had great, even pacing.
The more I think about this movie man, the more I am starting to worry about Boyhood’s status as my favorite (and technically most impressive) film of the year.
You’re too kind Tom! Really appreciate that. 🙂 It’s such a layered film with so many different threads fed into the narrative. Must admit, at over two and a half hours I was a bit daunted going in too but Fincher definitely justifies the run time. And you’re right, it is totally bonkers but even the most ridiculous stories are palatable if they’re well written.
I’ve not seen Boyhood yet! Ah! Can’t wait to catch that one on blu-ray.
Yes, yes, yes to all of this! I thought Gone Girl was fantastic, and I’m thrilled to find that you felt the same! Excellent review here. I see that you and I both shall be rooting for Pike come awards season. Fingers crossed!!
I really hope Pike wins because she is totally brilliant here. What a film! So tense and so meticulously executed. There’s hardly a frame out of place, which is Fincher in a nutshell really. Glad you echo my positivity. We’re definitely on the cool side in regards to this one. Thanks Cara! 🙂
Oh, we’re ALWAYS on the cool side, my friend. 😉