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Movie Review – Gone Girl

Spoilers. Sorry.



IMDB Rating: 8.5 out of 10 (62,612 votes)

Director: David Fincher

The poster for Gone Girl.

The poster for Gone Girl.

Nick Dunne is a bad husband. No matter how much he endeavours to be good, he can’t do it. Throughout his 5-year marriage with Amy Dunne, the cracks begin to appear bit by bit, culminating in her disappearance. At the beginning of their relationship, they swear not to be “that couple”. They identify other marriages as one thing, and hold themselves to an ideal which is the contrary, an ideal which conforms to what they believe is a healthy relationship. After 5 years, their marriage is far from healthy. They’re both at fault, but who really holds the blame? If Nick Dunne is a bad husband, why does ‘Gone Girl’ demand that we like him?

It’s a strange and consequential thought that the film toys with. Acclaimed director David Fincher, whose career has been made by films like ‘The Social Network’ and ‘Fight Club’, chooses to once again explore the psychological war of humans-against-humans in his new thriller. ‘Gone Girl’ is typical Fincher – it’s dark, brooding and bold. Elements of comedy are placed inconsequentially throughout the film, like a drop of water entering the ocean, because ‘Gone Girl’ is pessimistic, it’s bleak and it’s essentially depressing. Don’t go into this film if you’re just about to lose faith in humanity: ‘Gone Girl’ may just do it for you.

Straight away, Fincher, or rather the screenwriter Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the bestselling novel, introduces us to this idea that humans are violent and vicious. “When I think of my wife,” Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) narrates, “I always think of her head – I picture cracking open her lovely skull, unspooling her brain, trying to get answers.” We don’t know when he says this, or why – we can make an educated guess that it’s around the time of his wife’s disappearance – but we can only assume that he wants answers. He needs an explanation of how it all went wrong. The failed expectations of an ideal couple. He was only trying to be the best husband he could, which was his problem. His marriage was a psychological war. And in this war, there is only one rule: never let your opponent know what you’re thinking. Nick had to find this out the hard way – choosing a manipulative, evil genius of a wife didn’t help.

Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) picks him for the fool he is. Nick believes in true love. Amy knows better than that. She has the uncanny ability to spot Nick’s weaknesses, and she exploits them. Nick makes it too obvious that he only wants Amy because he believes marriage is normal. He doesn’t love her, and she doesn’t love him. This idea of image is central to the film’s ideas. It’s all about what’s on the outside. Portraying an image of happiness is why these two are together, and it’s why Nick decides to stay at the end. He wants to keep up his profile. He’s won over everybody, every single person that ever doubted him. Why ruin all that public admiration?

Fincher sends us on a rollercoaster and absolutely loves every moment of it. Ven from the opening credits, the two-second shots and disappearing names of the production team, we know that nothing in this small town is definite: everything is constantly changing. There’s such craft to the screenwriting and the suspense, the unreliable narration, which is so brilliantly misleading. There are moments of violence which are built up like a symphony, as Fincher gives us little clues here and there – a suggestive recording on a tape; a throw-away shot of someone grabbing a razor; someone sneaking into the bathroom in a seemingly meaningless moment – before he finally culminates all of these things into one violent and very disturbing act. It’s these things that Fincher does exceptionally well with ‘Gone Girl’. He leads us on. And he’s very, very good at it.

I did not having anything to do with the disappearance of my wife...

I did not having anything to do with the disappearance of my wife…

The film is so incredibly pessimistic that, at times, it’s hard to contemplate ever seeing marriage in the same way again. Nick and Amy are such a failure, down to the tiniest detail. They live in a big empty home and work average jobs. They have no kids. They are so desperately unhappy, both of them, and they each resort to their own coping mechanisms, which I would spoil if I weren’t so diplomatic. This marriage is doomed from the moment they utter the words “I do”, which we don’t see because it would show a kind of unity that Nick and Amy should never represent.

The thing that makes ‘Gone Girl’ so gripping is that it’s essentially asking us to be the detectives. We’re required to make our own mind up about Nick and Amy in order to make any part of this film work. Every other person in America has already judged the pair of them, so why not us? We need to sympathise with one character. It’s obvious whose side we’re on during the first hour. So incredibly obvious. As soon as we reveal the fate of Amy, we then realise we’ve been completely mislead and we switch sides as soon as possible. Fincher so easily twists our mind, it’s like we’re the actual caseworkers. Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) is second-guessing Nick the whole film. She doesn’t want to make her mind up just yet, but as each clue stacks up, she has no real choice, just like us viewers. Her partner, Officer Gilpin (Patrick Fugit), made up his mind before the case was even opened.

And then the ending comes and it’s brilliant, because it allows us to make our own mind up. Throughout this entire film we’ve been a puppet in David Fincher’s grand show. He’s manipulated us and he’s thrown us in every which way and we’ve gone along with it because, hey, who wants to sympathise with the wife-killer? Even the people who believe he’s innocent – his sister (Carrie Coon) especially – can’t help but wonder if Nick is actually a murderer.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to think of ‘Gone Girl’. It’s like the night sky – you feel like you can look into it forever, but you never really know what the hell’s actually going on up there. It’s the same here. Trying to puzzle out the mindset of all the parties involved in this marital mess is probably not a good thing after all. The investigation could easily be solved if Nick, Boney and Tanner Bolt (aptly played by Tyler Perry) just worked a little harder to uncover Amy’s story. Because in the end, who really believes Amy? Who wants to believe her? And furthermore, who actually leaves the cinema thinking she got her comeuppance?

It’s this that frustrated me about ‘Gone Girl’: what it said about humanity. For all the craft, the amazing suspense, the tantalising clues and the gripping nature of the watch, a basic need of a story – an ending – is left lacking. The film is so firmly pessimistic, it’s hard to know if Fincher was being serious or he was just making a film about bad people. I don’t mind the pessimism, in fact I like its boldness, but the ending is flat-footed and frustrating. Maybe Fincher was just trying to say what humanity really is: a war against the sexes. Nick Dunne even knows it. He knows it from the start. “What will we do to each other?”

MY RATING: 7.5 out of 10.

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