As a David Fincher film, Gone Girl is more Zodiac than Fight Club. Gillian Flynn’s acclaimed exploration of suburban ennui and media frenzy moves through its waypoints with a careful deliberation. From a directorial standpoint, the film is a thing of beauty. From the disorienting opening credits that move so quickly that the feeling of small-town America seeps subliminally into the viewer’s brain to the bookended opening and closing that shows us the lengths that we will go to to stay exactly where we are.
No Spoiler Warning All of the ghosts of the general fiction section have already read the book. But, this is Hollywood not Dymocks, so I don’t plan to give away any of the plot spoilers from the second half of the film.
Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike play Nick and Amy Dunne, a pair of Manhattan creative who, hit hard by the recession and family tragedy, relocates to suburban Missouri. Nick, who returns home to care for his dying mother, opens a bar with his sister while Amy begins to fade into the background of her own life. The story picks up when Amy goes missing under suspicious circumstances. The eyes of the national media turn upon Nick.
Gone Girl is a wonderful exploration of the ways that a relentless, bloodthirsty, media machine can pluck a person from an ordinary set of circumstances and cast them as a monster in a matter of days. Amy’s disappearance, combined with her public profile as the inspiration for the protagonist of a series of children’s books, fuels an increasingly vitriolic whirlwind of character assassination and thinly veiled accusation.
Pike shines as Amy, the very picture of the caged bird yearning to be free of the suburban hell her increasingly distant husband has consigned her to. Affleck, true to form, plays Nick Dunne with the charisma of a piece of particleboard. Maybe I’m missing something, but I just didn’t get anything from his performance. It’s almost like they sat down at the start of production and said, “Alright, we need somebody who looks okay in a chambray shirt and is taller than Rosamund Pike”. I’m not sure that Affleck didn’t just pretend he was making a sequel to The Company Men.
For me, the standout performances come from Carrie Coon’s Margo, Nick’s feisty twin sister and the true moral core of the story and Missy Pyle’s Ellen Abbott. Ellen Abbott is a beautiful caricature of tabloid vulture Nancy Grace. Tyler Perry is Tyler Perry playing a lawyer shaped like Tyler Perry.
Fincher’s direction is sumptuous. His masterful eye for angles and composition is on display in Gone Girl. Almost every frame of the film gives the impression that it is being marshaled by a director who is truly on top of his game. The film is ponderous where it needs to be, but doesn’t hesitate to show moments of jarring,
unexpected action which serve to drive the plot forward at a pace that held my attention for the film’s two and a half hour runtime.
Gone Girl shows us, in exquisite detail, that things behind the walls of suburban McMansions littered with European SUVs are rarely exactly what they seem to be. Some of us may be filled with doubt and regret about the way our lives turned out when the outside world started to encroach upon our dreams, but rarely do we get the chance to watch people discover the lengths they will go to in the quest to reclaim their sense of self.
Gone Girl is perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon. It is a simple visual feast and a darkly comic gem. It’s not always an easy time, but it is a good time.
Words by Shaun Hobby