(dir. David Fincher)
|20th Century Fox|
“Everyone told us and told us, 'marriage is hard work.’”
Gone Girl is a razor blade of a film. It is a sharp and attractive matrimony of surface and subtext. It is in fact a marriage of the directorial traits that have defined David Fincher’s career. The films that make up the first half of Fincher’s career are known for their grime, an almost overwhelming sense of filthiness. They are rusted tangles of barb wire, sharp ideas and unreliable characters. His later films contain a kind of surface cleanness and precision, but they perhaps cut deeper and are somewhat crueler because that grime is still there, just under the surface of what seems to be fully displayed.
On the morning of their 5th wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne’s wife, Amy, disappears. As clues are revealed that make it seem like Nick is the one responsible, the realities and unrealities of their marriage are laid open. It’s a film full of twists and audience members who have not read the novel should try their hardest to avoid being spoiled. The following review is spoiler-free.
The film is a largely faithful adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s brilliantly characterized and plotted novel. Flynn’s screenwriting debut is marked with a strong confidence and un-indulgent handle on her own story. Even at two and half hours the film is briskly paced, and does a fine job of maintaining suspense and measuring the use of voice-overs. There were moments, however, where I wished the film would explore a few internal corners of the characters’ minds in greater detail, particularly in the flashbacks showcasing Nick and Amy’s marriage. While the central mystery and twists are surely the most discussed aspect of the film, the places where the writing truly shines are in the moments of darkly biting humor. The same sharp wit and occasionally satirical commentary on the relationship between men and women, marriage, and the media that exist in the novel are translated incredibly well in the film.
Fincher possess the film with a clinical coldness, offering all the warmth of an operating room. The scenes that take place in domestic spaces are incredibly interesting in their lighting and staging. Early in the film one of the police officers remarks, “a lot of pretty things,” upon entering Nick and Amy’s house. And Fincher takes us through most of the rooms of the house, showcasing the pretty things and deliberate arrangements, while also showing us it is a house devoid of warmth. It is a set piece for a happy marriage. It is subtext like this and in the dialogue-less shots of watchful faces that truly show Fincher’s mastery of the craft. The entire film has the weight of a secret, as if the audience is getting a glimpse into headspaces and private affairs they should never have access too. Because of this, the feeling of dirtiness is inescapable, despite the cleanliness of the images. Like his previous two films, Fincher’s direction is aided by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ haunting score that offers more shades of emotion than their previous soundtracks.
Gone Girl’s characters are less parabolic than in Fincher’s previous entries and in some ways the film feels like a companion piece to Zodiac, in its lack of absolutes. Ben Affleck delivers a solid turn as Nick Dunne, giving him the right of amount of aloofness and a personality that could best be described as disagreeably affable. While I’d hesitate to say it’s his best performance, the role is a strong showcase of his talents when given the right role. Carrie Coon delivers a stellar performance in the supporting role of Nick’s twin sister, Margo. While she doesn’t have the showiest role, she does in fact ground the film and provide a much needed tether of honesty. Hopefully her role will be remembered when awards season rolls around this winter. Rosamund Pike is truly stunning in her role of Amy Dunne. She takes a wonderfully complex character and completely breathes carefully controlled life into her. She is simply mesmerizing to watch on screen and, in my opinion, a very strong contender for the year’s best actress.
Gone Girl is one the year’s smartest films, and its most unabashedly sleaziest. It’s an uncompromising look at beautiful, ugly people, and Fincher, who is well-versed in playing with his audiences, knows we won’t turn away. After all we can’t resist watching what people will do to each other, given the opportunity.