Gone Girl director David Fincher has always been a filmmaker who likes to plant dark thoughts in his audiences’ mind. Films that stay with you long after the credits have rolled and you’re back home realising the sheer impact a film can have. So teaming him with a best selling novel, the kind of which makes you check your watch and think; just one more chapter, thanks to its dark and warped ways seems like a match made in heaven. So can Fincher and writer Gillian Flynn make a marriage of disturbing brilliance or should the divorce lawyers be called immediately?
Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) have what seems on the surface to be an idyllic marriage. But when Amy goes missing it soon begins to transpire that their course of love is travelling a nasty path. As evidence of a violent struggle in the house emerges Nick becomes the prime suspect for both the police, led by pragmatic Detective Boney (Kim Dickens), and the media who seem to be leading a witch hunt against Nick all of their own. Only twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon) stands by her brother but when Amy’s diary is discovered even she has her doubts.
Gone Girl is typically and wonderfully a David Fincher film. This is marriage under the microscope from the man who put Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in a box. This is relationship counseling by one of cinemas most meticulous and dark minds, he doesn’t just dissect Amy and Nick but rather, like a gleeful school boy given his first frog to slice open, picks them apart vital organ by vital organ. And we’re invited to simply bask in his glorious and macabre sense of couples therapy.
Because Gone Girl is a date movie for the Adams Family. Or perhaps a date movie for a society who revels when we see relationships first flourish and then implode under the scrutiny of the public eye. And just in case you thought that Fincher wasn’t firmly laughing along with us he injects, with the aid of Flynn’s – who also wrote the script – brilliantly comedic screenplay, a sense of humour like no other filmmaker since Stanley Kubrick has managed to muster. This is not slap-stick or even satire, it’s zeitgeist. It’s funny because it’s so messed-up and honest you either have to laugh or have a nervous breakdown.
If you have read the book then Gone Girl delivers on levels the novel only touched on. If you haven’t you’re in for a treat, a story that picks you up and whisks you away to a familiar but deeply unsettling idea of ‘perfect’. Like David Lynch’s opening shot of Blue Velvet there is something that worms beneath Gone Girl’s perfect veneer from the moment it fades in.
It’s the kind of film that if the late, great Alfred Hitchcock were alive today he’d be demanding a cameo in. Because there are parallels to films like Vertigo and Rear Window here. Not least of all the bottle blonde beauty of Pike’s Amy but also the perception of people’s lives from the outside. Throw in a seemingly charming protagonist who is watching the world turn and face him before devouring him and you’ll be hard pressed to find a film that gets inside your head to such levels in recent years. Because these aren’t just twisted characters, these are corkscrews wrapped in barbed wire, you don’t just revel in their company, you are outright infatuated by them.
Part of the magic of Gone Girl is in the casting. At one point during the film Ben Affleck points out that at first the press liked him, then they hated him and now they like him again. This isn’t art imitating life for the come-back-kid Affleck, this is Fincher holding up a cracked mirror to Affleck’s media persona and letting us make our own conclusions. He’s brilliant as Nick, often understated and quiet when you think most would be panicking, but that’s Nick, as Margo points out when he’s emotional he clams-up. Affleck never feels the need to go big, instead keeps Nick brilliantly grounded which only arouses all the more suspicion from both us and the people investigating his story. Carrie Coon brings a wonderfully dry and sarcastic tone to the piece as Nick’s sister, it’s often her reactions that act as guidance to how we are already feeling, a constant raise of the eyebrow in shock draws a smile of agreement. But the standout performer and one that should herald her as a serious Hollywood heavyweight is Rosamund Pike. As Amy she is mesmeric. Early on, via flashbacks, she’s demur yet just a little naughty, the very definition of the ‘perfect wife’. But as the story unfolds and Amy’s mask slips so Pike is allowed to unleash something both seductive and ultimately terrifying, she’s the kind of strong female character who makes femme fatales look like cuddly cat-ladies. It’s a stunning performance and one that requires a balancing act of so many sides to a character without ever letting one become bigger than the others. Freud would have a field day with her, but she’d probably either eat him for breakfast or convince him she was the perfect example of a model citizen.
Dark, seething and at times brutally funny Gone Girl makes for a marriage brewed in hell and projected in cinematic heaven.