Gone Girl (2014)

Gone GirlWhen — on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary — Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) returns to his marital Missourian home to find the front door open and his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) missing, he doesn’t think too much of it. He calls the police, of course, and co-operates fully with their subsequent investigation, but shows very little sign that anything is out of the ordinary. From the sofa at his sister Margo’s (Carrie Coon) house he watches as the media latch on to the story and refuse to let go. Soon, everyone in town seems to think that he’s responsible for his wife’s disappearance, including Detective Rhonda Boney’s (Kim Dickens) partner Jim (Patrick Fugit), and before long the entire country seems to be demanding his arrest and — this being Missouri — execution. When traces of Amy’s blood are found at the crime scene, and incriminating evidence is found in her poorly hidden diary, Nick has no option but to hire a defence attorney — none other than celebrity lawyer Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry).

Needless to say, things are not quite as simple as they initially seem. This is David Fincher, after all, director of Se7en, Fight Club and Zodiac, and it’s safe to assume that his involvement guarantees a certain level of not only narrative but subtextual complexity. A return to form following his uncharacteristically unremarkable remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the film dispenses with the gimmicky title sequence and other franchise-building concessions to focus on the thing that Fincher does best: stand-alone stories with a sting in the tail. This isn’t your traditional murder mystery, not least because of the uncertainty surrounding whether anyone was actually murdered, nor is it a simple subversion of the trope. Gone Girl isn’t about Amy’s disappearance, at least not initially, but about the way that the world reacts to it. Are murders inherently mysterious? Or is that mystery inferred by society?

Nick — beautifully played by a perfectly cast Affleck — doesn’t seem particularly piqued by the possibility. (This is Affleck, after all.) His lack of concern incenses the media, but compared to his new set of circumstances his response doesn’t seem unusual at all. Not only has Nick seemingly lost his wife, but he’s become a news story, a local celebrity and a murder suspect at the same time — subject to absurd and almost obscene levels of scrutiny as he’s simultaneously put on trial by the police, the public and the press. Fincher isn’t just interested in justice, however, and spends as much time exploring Nick’s marriage as he does Amy’s alleged murder. Was he a good husband? What is a good husband? Is there really such a thing? Ultimately, Nick is just a normal human being trying to live a normal life, but it soon becomes clear that the narcissistic, news-guzzling, narrative-obsessed society in which he lives isn’t about to let something as mundane as that happen.

What they really want is a victim, and when Nick fails to conform to their requirements they villainise him instead. Amy, meanwhile, introduced in flashback through passages from her journal, doesn’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations (though Pike, it must be said, wastes no time in exceeding them anyway). Whether her husband killed her or not doesn’t seem to matter; society has the heroine it wants and will go to great lengths to keep her innocent and unimpeachable. That’s what makes the last act so interesting, not simply because it finally pits both legal justice and social order against one another, creating one of the most absurd scenarios presented on screen this year, but because it challenges these very gender stereotypes. The introduction of Tanner Bolt is the catalyst for the former, and when on his advice Nick prioritises public image over perceived innocence the film changes tone completely, but Amy is not to be underestimated. Gone Girl is, perhaps unexpectedly, the funniest film of Fincher’s career, and if the first half sets itself up as a taut thriller the second half delivers a darkly comic satire. Each as accomplished at the other, but both running out of steam towards the end.

The problem, however, is that having primed his audience for one thing he can’t help but disappoint them when he instead delivers another. As much sick, subversive, scathing fun as Gone Girl undoubtedly is, it’s also incredibly unsatisfying, particularly as Fincher — directing a screenplay written by the author — tinkers with Gillian Flynn’s original ending. Like so many of Fincher’s films, it’s more concerned with making its point than bringing the story to its natural conclusion. Justice may be on the menu, but though the demand is there he seems reluctant to actually serve any.

4-Stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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