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Gone Girl Review: Gone but not Forgotten
It was the novel that had people talking for months. It was a page-turner that readers could simply not put down. It was a phenomenon. The novel mixed dark and emotional complexity with an offbeat narrative from the perspective of a husband and wife and gave Gone Girl, the 2012 novel by Gillian Flynn, a powerful stance on modern marriage. The novel was not just successful with everyday readers, as master director, David Fincher, of such films as Fight Club, Seven, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo obviously saw an opportunity to take the reins and has successfully turned Gone Girl into a powerful, absorbing, and intricate marriage drama. The adaptation boasts the likes of Ben Affleck, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, and Neil Patrick Harris in a story about a couple whose relationship starts off as a kind of fairy tale, but is soon shattered when the wife, Amy Dunne, goes missing on their anniversary. So, it is up to the husband, Nick Dunne, and his sister, Margo, to find his missing wife.
With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of a media circus, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) sees the spotlight turned on him and his sister (Carrie Coon) when it’s suspected that Nick may not be innocent after all. So, with the media and two local detectives (Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit) piling pressure on Nick, he seeks out the help of a well-respected lawyer, Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) who’s the only man who reckons he can get Nick out of his dire situation.
Throughout the film, we find ourselves being absorbed in both sides of the story as the point of view shifts between the wife, Amy (Rosaumand Pike) and the husband. We learn, through this point-of-view shift, about Amy’s life before their marriage, including a bizarre relationship with mass weirdo Desi Collings (Neil Patrick Harris). However, Amy’s point of view is mainly used to show how the couple first met and give us an understanding that Nick and Amy were not the perfect couple many saw them to be. That right there is what the screenwriter, Gillian Flynn, wanted us to realize: that you may never know someone as well as you thought you do even when you are in a relationship with them. Readers of the book will know what I’m talking about when I say that there is a turning point about halfway through, and at that “point” Gone Girl starts to play less like a marriage drama, and becomes a deeply intense thriller which starts to toy with your emotions. The film is like a pendulum swinging both ways, as the plot delivers twist after twist until a climax that is slightly downbeat but still powerful and nightmarish.
When the intense ride of Gone Girl is over, it feels less like a two and a half hour movie, and more like a quick hour and a half. The plot never begins to dull or become padded, and that is, yes, due to the excellent screenplay, but more due to the deft touch of the director, David Fincher. His directing style just seems to improve with every movie he makes, but his real talent is making films that do not waste a frame or a word. It means Gone Girl feels compact and to the point and a plot that makes you feel that you’re in safe hands of a master director at the top of his game. Every scene advances the plot’s action, and Fincher’s unique color pallet of a slightly grimy yellow tint with a washed out blue makes the film seem like its sizzling and ready to explode at any point. This is in part thanks to the cinematographer, Jeff Cronenweth, who has worked with Fincher on most of his projects to date. Cronenweth uses close ups and the occasional wide angle shot to add atmosphere to scenes, which he does to perfection throughout the film’s run. All the elements behind the camera are enough to go and see Gone Girl, but it’s the performances in front which took me most by surprise.
Again, another thing Fincher is excellent at is casting the right actors and then, somehow, getting tour de force performances out of them. Who knew Rosamund Pike could play such a psychologically rooted, frightening, and bombastic performance which makes Glen Close’s bunny boiler from Fatal Attraction look like Mary Poppins? It’s her eyes that say it all. You can see that her character is in the scene, but there’s something else going on behind her eyes that suggest she isn’t the “Amazing Amy” her peers saw her to be, and this is something Pike pulls off eloquently. It’s strange that Pike has been mainly used in supporting roles in comedies and action films until now, like The World’s End, A Long Way Down, Die Another Day, and Jack Reacher, because it makes you wonder why someone didn’t catch on that she can really act. I mean she was always good in whatever she appeared in, but this performance as Amy is something that could, and should, earn her an Academy nomination. She has finally “broken out” as they say.
Ben Affleck is someone though who has shown his acting chops in the past, from films like The Town, Argo, and Good Will Hunting. Here, in Gone Girl, he plays a guy who wants to be liked by the public, but is a man secretly on edge and rotting deep inside from a specific “something.” Affleck plays Nick Dunne to a T, making his character seem like an everyday guy, but at the same time, a guy you can’t seem to trust one hundred percent, forcing us to ask: did he kill his wife? I wouldn’t be surprised if he is nominated this year as well, considering his past successes with the Academy.
First timer Carrie Coon is also worth a mention as she plays Nick’s sister, Margo, with tremendous believability; as someone who’s caught in the middle of it all but is willing to stick by her brother whatever the situation. Coon is mainly the voice of reason throughout the film, who is asking the questions, us, the audience, are thinking. Her chemistry with Affleck is also an element that gives the warmth to the very “chilly” storyline. I wouldn’t be surprised if she starts to appear in a few top tier movies in the coming years.
Also, another couple of actors who could appear in more mainstream films in coming years is the two detectives in the film, played by Kim Dickens, and Patrick Fugit. They have a chemistry together that makes their characters feel a little more fleshed out than the usual cardboard cut out detectives in other, more mainstream thrillers. Both do well in roles that are, for the most part, underused, but hold their own against a stellar cast, and also have a few lighter/humorous exchanges with Nick Dunne, as he tries to work around every question they fire at him.
Tyler Perry in addition, is solid in the film as Nick’s lawyer, Tanner Bolt, as he adds an occasional stance to proceedings, but is somebody who is mainly there for plot purposes, but he still makes you feel like he is a real lawyer who is used to dealing with “big” cases, so it is a good pick from Fincher as he gives you something extra than all the other, “darker” characters.
Another character who is there for plot purposes, but gives a surprisingly dynamic performance, is Neil Patrick Harris as Amy’s former boyfriend, Desi Collings. Let’s just say Harris isn’t playing one of his comedy roles in this one. Collings is an unnerving character, as we, the audience, are not quite sure what his motivation is, but one thing we are sure of, is that Harris certainly shares one of the more “out there” scenes in the film. Harris is an inspired piece of casting from Fincher, as it was clear he wanted to cast against type to avoid any obvious hints that Collings may or may not be the one who killed Amy.
The score, written by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is something that elevates the film’s atmosphere and suspense with ambient and dreamlike sounds that wash over the film’s scenes with a nightmarish glaze which is something we have come to expect from a David Fincher movie.
A strong mention must go to the screenplay though. As Gillian Flynn, who knew the story inside and out to start off with, has given us a faithful adaption of her book, that I’m sure many other screenwriters would have had trouble adapting, because of its shifting narrative, something in fact Fincher thought would have nearly been impossible to do (as he stated in an interview recently). The film isn’t all dark though, Flynn does have a sense of humour and we get a sense of this with little doses sprinkled here and there which give the story much needed comic relief from the intense plot. However, her highest achievement is that she doesn’t waste a single line of dialogue, meaning the plot is sharp, contained, and never drags.
Gone Girl is a self aware thriller that never piles on too much exposition, but reveals who these characters are through their actions or lack thereof. Flynn, I’m sure will have a career waiting for her in the film business as well as the book industry, even though there were only a few small niggles with the film’s script, for instance, one of the character arcs (it would give too much away if I mentioned who) seems to halt halfway through the film, which only allows one of the characters to truly “change.” There are also a few small plot holes, but I won’t mention them because it would give away some of the plot. However, these don’t stop the film from being a nail biting ride through a nightmarish marriage that could put anybody off thinking of tying the knot, and that is something Fincher would be proud of. He has said in the past, he doesn’t want to make films that just entertain, he wants them to “scar.”
Everything about Gone Girl is memorable: the score, the acting, the directing, and the writing. I’m sure readers of the novel will leave the theatre satisfied at this adaptation, as the main themes and moral question are still intact in the film version: how can you grew so far apart, even though you are so close to each other?
Gone Girl will soon be a film of the past, but as they say, this one will be gone but not forgotten. Go and see Gone Girl if you want to be memesmerized by a superior thriller that will make you think about it long, long afterwards.