You get a call from your neighbour that your cat has somehow got out. You come home, collect the cat and deposit it back in the house, however something isn’t right. The door is open, there’s a mess in the lounge and your wife is gone. Gone Girl is reviewed after the jump.
When Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) finds his living room in disarray and his house empty, he immediately calls the police. His wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) is nowhere to be found and Nick is concerned. An investigation is commenced and as night falls, a full-scale missing persons campaign is launched. As the investigation progresses we learn more about the picture perfect couple and their suburban lifestyle. Extracts from Amy’s diary, coupled with flashbacks paints a vivid picture of their complex marriage. The more the police (and the audience) learn, the less Nick looks like the husband of the victim, and more he looks like a potential perp.
What Gone Girl does so well is examine the masks we wear for other people. We all do it to varying degrees, we are a certain person at work, a slightly different person with our family and a variation of that person with our partner. Amy and Nick’s masks are more extreme than most – they are each pretending to be the person they think the other wants, while concealing much of their true selves. This sort of deceit can only go on for so long before the façade just falls to pieces. Whether you can buy where Nick and Amy’s story goes is questionable, but it certainly is interesting.
As the husband of the missing woman, Nick quickly comes under suspicion. The media loves drama and this story has it by the truckload. How the beast that is the media acts can be changed by a misplaced smile or a stammered speech is both scary and fascinating to see. Throw in a hotshot lawyer Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry), and you’ve got yourself an interesting game. Here the idea of the mask comes into play again and in this instance Tanner is teaching Nick the right mask to wear to charm the beast and the people. I loved this look at the media and it’s hunger for a good story; it makes you think twice about who you see on TV and what they’re saying. What mask is that person wearing and why?
While Pike and Affleck both gave good performances, it was the supporting characters that elevated Gone Girl for me. Nick’s sister Margo (Carrie Coon) was the most important character in this film. She was the audience – the person that had the normal reactions to all the crazy shit going on. Without her the film would have been far less accessible and even colder. Coon’s performance was outstanding and her shared scenes with Affleck were my favourite moments of the film. Kim Dickens as the detective and Tyler Perry as the lawyer were also extremely well-cast. Perry was particularly important in adding some much-needed charm and warmth to the icy film.
Gone Girl is not a showy film. Perhaps Fincher muted his usual technical flair to match the grayness of suburbia, but it was a noticeably toned down, less slick-looking film than his usual effort. This is not so much a criticism as an observation, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed. Even the score from Reznor and Rose was used more sparingly than usual, with only one scene particularly memorable for the way the score intensified the action on-screen. This is a Fincher film but it lacked a little of that Fincher magic.
[If you consider a comment on how much the film is like the book to be a spoiler, skip the next paragraph]
This is a cold film. It’s been adapted extremely faithfully by Flynn from her original text, with the presence of a little extra humour to break up the darkness the only noticeable change from the novel. Perhaps here in lies my biggest problem with the film. I had issues with where the story went in the book and it goes to the same places in the film. My ability to enjoy the film was certainly hampered by my inability to buy into certain events and developments. Would I have had these same issues if I saw the film cold? It’s impossible for me to say.
A film about masks and the parts we play, Gone Girl will leave you chilled.
By Sam McCosh
Director: David Fincher
Writer(s): Gillian Flynn (screenplay & novel)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Tyler Perry
Runtime: 149 minutes
Release date(s): Australia & New Zealand: October 2 2014; USA: October 3 2014