‘Gone Girl’ Review: A Guilty Pleasure Without Any of The Guilt
Gone Girl is another standout thriller from David Fincher, falling somewhere between Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Zodiac in terms of quality.
Personally, I love going into a movie blind. If there is an upcoming film on my radar, I will avoid trailers and reviews like the plague. In the case of Gone Girl, I did the opposite. Frantically attempting to finish the book before this weekend, I ignored hygiene, school, and my writing responsibilities for this blog (I would like to formally apologize for my last few articles). Flynn’s book is seriously that good. It flies by with a breezy writing style that is both captivating and mysterious. I am happy to report that Fincher and Flynn (who also wrote the screenplay) have faithfully captured the essence of this edge-of-your-seat mystery that made the book such a captivating read.
Similar to Fincher’s The Social Network, the film opens with a variety of establishing shots of the sleepy Midwestern town of North Carthage, Missouri. On the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) arrives home to find his house in disarray and his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), missing. Nick alerts the police and the mystery begins to unfold. Amy’s disappearance quickly becomes national news due to her semi-celebrity as the basis of beloved children’s book character, “Amazing Amy.” Under the scrupulous eye of the scandal-obsessed media, Nick quickly becomes the prime suspect in the investigation. As evidence begins to mount against Nick, the audience is left to question whether he is truly the resentful husband chronicled in Amy’s Dairy, or if there is something larger and much more sinister at work.
That synopsis is purposefully vague, and any sort of spoilers should be avoided at all cost. The story is split between the investigation of Amy’s disappearance and the history of Amy and Nick’s relationship, told though flashbacks narrated in Amy’s diary. Their relationship, like any relationship, is a story of love and hardship. They go from successful New York writers, to an unemployed couple forced to relocate to Nick’s Missouri hometown. Throughout the investigation, we are given glimpses into the couple’s past, which serves to misdirect the audience as to Amy’s true fate. Fincher and Flynn unravel the first half of the movie using this structure to great avail. Even having read the book, I still felt myself being pulled every which way as the mystery unfolded.
The strength of the film’s central mystery aside, Fincher and Flynn use the conceit of this pulpy thriller to examine voyeurism in our technological age. The truth is constantly obscured by the “spin” taken by media outlets, and every character’s actions are influenced by how they will eventually appear to the public at large. Nick’s battle becomes less about his quest for the truth, and more about appearing to be truthful in general. Gone Girl expertly examines how we as a society warp and shape the truth into what is most convenient and profitable, only to disregard the lives that are literally destroyed in the process.
The effectiveness of Gone Girl’s misdirection and societal examinations are a product of the impeccable casting and performances of its central actors. Affleck is fantastic as the stoic Nick Dunne, proving once again that he is one of the most talented people in Hollywood. Both Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry turn in great performances as a creepy ex-stalker and power hungry defense attorney, respectfully. However, it is Pike’s Amy who steals the show. She completely and convincingly portrays the loveable and sinister sides of Amy without breaking a sweat. Amy Dunne is a character that audiences won’t soon forget.
The beauty of Gone Girl is that it is essentially trash cinema. It has the plot of a Lifetime original movie, and lovingly adheres to many of the genre’s tropes. But in the hands of Fincher and his diverse and spotless cast, Gone Girl elevates far and above its genre trappings. This can be said for a large amount of Fincher’s filmography. From the masculine-fueled fever dream of Fight Club, to the noir-horror mystery of Seven, Fincher contently delivers thoughtful societal examinations in the guise of pulpy trash entertainment. He essentially makes guilty pleasure movies without any of the guilt. In this regard, Gone Girl finds a perfect place in Fincher’s sure to be lasting impact in the history of cinema.