‘Gone Girl’ is captivating. It is a great many things, in fact, among them arguably misogynistic and potentially stylized to a fault. There is a lot that could easily be argued as being wrong with ‘Gone Girl.’ Say what you will, and I hope you will, but undeniably, ‘Gone Girl’ is the all-you-can-eat buffet of food for thought.
Author Gillian Flynn published the novel ‘Gone Girl’ in 2012. It was a page-turning mystery thriller that gripped the nation, making the New York Times Hardcover Fiction Bestseller list for eight weeks; I could hardly attend a family get-together without my aunts’ eyes lighting up when they saw their bookworm niece before asking breathlessly, “Have you read ‘Gone Girl’?” I answered that I had regrettably not, and still have not. We’re just going to have to look at director David Fincher’s ‘Gone Girl’ adaptation as a stand-alone work here. Book versus film comparison can easily slope into tediousness anyway.
Things start very well in director David Fincher’s adaptation of ‘Gone Girl.’ The opening credits flash before our eyes like the pulsing of an anxious character’s heartbeat. The text is overlain on dreary, still shots of Missouri. Where are the people?
The first character we see is Nick Dunne, played by the ingeniously casted Ben Affleck. When Nick discovers an overturned and shattered table in his living room after calling unsuccessfully for his wife Amy (the exceptional Rosamund Pike), he calls the police. His relative composure throughout all of this is alarming to both the cops and audience members. Everyone on and off-screen attempts to discern whether Amy was abducted or killed by her husband. The tension is heightened by flashbacks that unfold details about Nick and Amy’s relationship pre-disappearance. Diary voiceovers supplied by Amy give the audience some insight into what was going through her mind from the moment she met Nick up to her mysterious vanishing.
It’s gripping. Opinions of the police and audience members swing back and forth along a pendulum propelled by new information and character observation. Flynn penned the screenplay and did a beautiful job of swirling facts with intuition; I can tell you that the twists and turns present in the film elicited audible shock from the audience when I went to see it. ‘Gone Girl’ is a fun movie to see amidst the company of equally-invested viewers. Hit up the theatre.
Thematically, above all, the story grapples with questions of knowing others. How well do we know our partners? What is a performance? Conscious or otherwise? Whether or not the characters’ pasts are fleshed out more fully in the novel, Fincher’s directing and Flynn’s screenplay deliberately create distance not only between husband and wife, but also between audience and characters. Everything is deliciously foggy.
David Fincher was the mastermind behind ‘Fight Club’ and 2010’s dark horse, ‘The Social Network.’ I would say ‘Gone Girl’ is most similar to the latter. Just as in the surprisingly resonant movie about Facebook, ‘Gone Girl’ moves slowly, tentatively, like a fish daring to nibble at edges of bait. In both films, the pacing and ugliness accelerates with each new development, building to highly emotional and memorable climaxes. So good you’ll want seconds.
Does the style suffocate the characters? No. The enigmatic nature of the story and characters is folded within ambient music, rainy-morning-colored filters and lingering backlit shots. The grim style complements the thematic content well, feeling notably reminiscent of Hitchcock’s moodiest works. Amy herself is a beautiful blonde with identity problems É needless to say a trademark Hitchcock cameo would not seem out of place.
As for the misogyny I mentioned early on, it is potentially there. Regardless of what the book did, the film tips the scales in favor of Nick a bit too much. I despise few things more than spoiler spillage, though, so I won’t go into detail about this, but I implore you to go see the movie, then come find me and share with me your reading of the film. I have yet to make up my mind. This film won’t let me alone. And how great is that?