Anyone with nuptials on the horizon may be best steering clear of David Fincher’s pitch black mystery that takes he said/she said to a whole new level.
Gone Girl‘s tagline – ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’ – isn’t the only thing about the film that’s devilishly ambiguous; it keeps you guessing in a manner that would have made Hitchcock proud.
That said, an increasingly ludicrous final act and a missed opportunity to properly end the film, a la The Dark Knight Rises, denies Gone Girl the status of classic Fincher.
Adapted by Gillian Flynn from her own bestselling novel, Ben Affleck stars as Nick Dunne, a suburbanite and bar owner (of an establishment called ‘The Bar’ no less) who reports that his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) has gone missing on their fifth wedding anniversary. What starts out as a straightforward missing person case takes on a far grislier tone as the truth about their seemingly blissful marriage emerges and the finger of suspicion points to Nick.
Fincher has long been one of US cinema’s most accomplished exponents of stylish darkness and Gone Girl gives him plenty of material to work with.
Affleck is perfectly cast as Nick, an everyday middle-class American who seemingly lucks out when he woos the beautiful Amy. The film spends its first act cutting between the spiralling events of Amy’s disappearance and flashbacks to their marriage, which gradually dissolves from romantic bliss (a moment when the two stroll past a bakery through a sugary mist is wonderfully photographed) to mistrust, fear and acrimony.
The film works best when it’s keeping you guessing as to which narrator is the most unreliable; whether it be the words written down by Amy in her diary which serves as the flashback device, or the story Nick tells tenacious Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and his twin sister Margo (a cracking turn by TV actor Carrie Coon in her feature debut).
Perhaps the most pernicious narrator of all, though, is the mainstream media and the film is as merciless as Missi Pyle’s cable TV host in its depiction of just how lurid it can be. It may be relatively easy to lambast the tackiness of so much of what passes as ‘news’ media, but it plays as important a character in the film as Nick and Amy and ultimately serves to define who they are to the millions who tune in.
Linked to this, social media also does its bit to decide Nick’s guilt or innocence. Ghoulish ambulance chasers hang around The Bar as if it’s Dealey Plaza and one particularly pathetic figure grabs a selfie with Nick in order to dine out on the notoriety.
While Affleck does a solid enough job, Pike is both luminous and electric as Amy. It’s a complex role and she makes the most of her juiciest role to date with a turn that Hitch would have loved. Pike goes from knockabout romantic lead to statuesque blonde in the flick of a switch and it’s only later that it becomes clear just how much is going on beneath the surface when she casts a simple glance towards her husband.
Meanwhile, Trent Reznor’s soundtrack, although not as memorable as his Oscar-winning work on Fincher’s The Social Network, does have its moments, most notably in one eye-watching scene in the film’s home stretch.
Gone Girl may not be the director’s finest work, but even B-grade Fincher is better than most.