GONE GIRL Review

Having read the Gillian Flynn "airport novel" before heading into David Fincher's adaptation I knew what to expect. Having started reading Flynn's novel only a month ago and knowing who was playing who I knew what to picture in my head. There was never any debate in my mind how perfect for this role Ben Affleck was (or any of the casting for that matter). Having seen the trailers before opening the pages I knew what tone to imply and what aesthetic to place these characters in. As with any Fincher film, it is a world of precision and it couldn't have been more in tune with the demented psyches that populate the characters this world. What is fascinating is how easily this could have been something else, something that was picked up by Lifetime as a made for TV movie and is given a more prestigious, thought-provoking, heavier translation by Fincher because that is the point-the point being this isn't just another Lifetime original for us to latch on to as entertainment. These are lives, painfully honest explanations of how even exceptional individuals can become clich├ęs. This is not only the story of a wife, a once high profile New York socialite who married a salt of the earth Missouri boy came to disappear on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, but of how the media reacts to these simple, concrete facts they can play with. How they can twist, manipulate and exploit any one detail they want turning the entire personality of a man or any subject it sets its eyes on into a one note killer. Further, it is the analysis of relationships gone wrong. When the person you thought you married grows up to be someone you didn't think they'd be and you don't necessarily like who that person is. It isn't so much a discussion of the white suburbanite household or marriages that slip into boredom because they become routine, but more it is the discussion of how well we know ourselves and the things we truly want, even if we know we'll never have the gall to take them. What would happen if we did though? What would happen if we were so self-consumed with not only ourselves but how other people perceive us that we did whatever it took to keep that image and ambition intact? That is what Fincher's adaptation of Gone Girl explores and despite the fact I knew what to expect going in, it surpassed every expectation.

Officer Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) and Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) investigate
the disappearance of "Amazing Amy."
We meet Nick Dunne (Affleck) on the morning of July 5th, he takes his trash can down to the end of his driveway and looks across his barren neighborhood. It is nice, very pretty yet bland at the same time. This is due only to the fact there are countless neighborhoods that look identical to it throughout the country bringing to light an observation, but one we're not sure we know what it's meant to represent. There are many observations throughout Gone Girl, as mentioned above, but that they come in the smallest of forms such as this (is it as simple as implying this could happen anywhere or is it something more complex where we are seeing the first layer of fraud to Nick's facade?) exemplify how in tune Fincher is with his story and even further, the hesitation of Nick as he looks across the replicated construction plans and well-landscaped yards show how adept Fincher is at telling a story visually. We watch as Nick goes through his morning routine, ending up at the thought to be witty-named "The Bar" he and his sister Margo (Carrie Coon) run together. After only a moment here, and an introduction to Coon's character that will endear her to the audience for the remainder of the film, Nick gets a call from his neighbor across the street. Upon arriving he sees the cat outside, the door left open, his wife nowhere to be found and their living room in shambles. Instinctively he calls the police and detectives Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) show up not long after. It is not until they later reach the police station to ask Nick a few questions that both he and the police are surprised to realize he hasn't reached out to his wife's parents (David Clennon and Lisa Banes). The inclusion of Mr. and Mrs. Elliot officially begins the ball rolling on a missing persons case leading to volunteer efforts and press conferences. Press conferences where Nick flashes a smile because he's told to and is later ripped apart for its apparent smugness. We follow the case, its twists of occurring on their anniversary that lend to a tradition of a treasure hunt that feels all the more ominous and the turns of having to turn to high profile husband killer lawyer Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) when the inevitable occurs and the focus of his wife's disappearance and probable murder is turned on Nick.      

Amy Elliot Dunne (Rosamund Pike) was always destined to be the girl every other little girl aspired to be. She was immortalized as "Amazing Amy" in the children's books her parents wrote. In many ways they were a bar set too high for a young girl who didn't necessarily want to be all her parents imagined. If Amy quit playing cello Amazing Amy would become a world class cellist in the next book. In a broader sense it was/is a vicious pattern in which to dictate the expectations of their child and it would be impossible for these backwards, almost demented ways to not rub off on their child. As an audience though, Fincher and Flynn (who adapted her own novel for the screen) only allow us to know Amy through a series of flashbacks. While Nick, his actions and his perspective dictate the present it is in these flashbacks that we hear Amy's voice and how she became a woman too smart, too real and uninhibited to settle for just any man. She wanted a man who could compete with her, match her on an intelligence level and call her on her bullshit, but at the same time also kind of like her bullshit. As a way to understand that this is more than just a police procedural, a case of whodunit for the audience to piece together the clues of we slowly get to take a peek inside the malignant mind of those who so easily can become the victim without a second thought. In Amy we have a deeply critical, deeply narcissistic personality who almost can't deal with the fact that who her husband (and even she) was when they got married were not themselves, but projections of themselves they wanted the other to be impressed by. It is once they became themselves, once Amy realizes Nick is fine with being the good ol' Missouri boy after they are forced to move from their trendy New York apartment to the suburbs in order to look after Nick's dying mother that the resentment begins. It is in these details, these realizations that Fincher flourishes as he bookends the film with shots of Amy's cranium. Symbolizing questions of what is really going on inside her mind while the middle, the filling is intended to bring to light more investigation not only into why the perception of Nick the media paints is predictable, but also why we allow ourselves to become trapped if we don't truly know the people we say we love.

Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and Amy Elliot (Rosamund Pike) share a special connection in Gone Girl.
As a piece of art, this is high pulp. As a list of observations no doubt many of us have made not necessarily about romantic relationships, but people in general this is extremely insightful. As another excuse for Fincher to explore the dark, deep-seeded sewers of humanity while exponentially growing the drama by only revealing new pieces of information this film lets the director loose with his A-game. Fincher is a master of setting up drama and intrigue by being able to expertly stage a conversation (just watch the opening sequence of The Social Network) while at the same time cutting to the core of who these people are, what their true motivations and thought processes must be while never making it obvious. He is subtle, but he desperately wants you to know there is more to it. He is reserved while laughing behind the lens at how far his tongue is stuck in his cheek. There are a surprising number of laughs here, from the grim insights into a troubled marriage that more can relate to than they'd like to admit to the familial relations or lack thereof we can all understand and casually laugh at. There is clear, blunt humor in the almost joy news outlets take in jumping on cases such as the one here and sensationalizing them for ratings. Fincher knows he is satirizing the hypocritical climate of those who snuggle up with ice cream to watch the reliable 48 Hours episode for easy entertainment, but who could easily be the shows next subject given the wrong circumstances. He realizes with Nick and Amy he is holding them accountable for who they are and who they presented themselves to be to those they were endeavoring to seduce. In bringing all of this to the surface he has delivered a film that not only penetrates what we thought or what we expected given the genre it operates in, but a much weightier film that is only possible through the intuition of a director as talented as Fincher and a cast as in tune with their characters and their intended exteriors as Affleck and Pike are here. To put it simply, everything is elevated-from the kind of story that is being told, the Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross score, the gorgeous cinematography to even Tyler Perry who, when given the proper tools, can be truly effective. Gone Girl is a dark, disturbing tale we find both engrossing and jarringly entertaining and a film I won't be able to shake for a long while.