Gone Girl – Film Review

I have had a few days now to let my thoughts on Gone Girl ruminate in my mind, and the more I think about it, the more the film seeps under my skin, and yet despite that, it is still a deeply problematic film.

The film centers around the disappearance of Amy Elliot Dunne with the film’s carefully constructed script (written by author of the novel, Gillian Flynn) slowly dissecting and unpacking the motivations of the various individuals linked to her disappearance, by combining a use of flashbacks and narration from Rosamund Pike and scenes from the present day, shot through the perspective of Nick Dunne – Amy’s husband, whose actions become more and more questionable as the film delves deeper into the rationale behind his action’s.

It all amounts to something that for its entire duration (roughly two and a half hours) remains a completely immersive experience with Fincher bringing his typically slick precision to the film. And yet the film – at least tries to be – so much more than a simple whodunnit. The film certainly contains a lot of interesting ideas and the story allows for Fincher to analyze the extent that media and public perception is able to influence the investigation, it allows for an exploration of marriage and class struggle however the film is mostly ineffective in its pursuit of these deeper ideas. At times a satire of modern marriage, at times a physiological thriller, it never appears as though Fincher captures the correct balance and what it results in is a tonally inconsistent film with Flynn’s script never seeming to find the required depth to provide anything new or interesting to say on the themes it attempts to address.

After a few days to think on the film, I found Gone Girl to ultimately be a film that leaves me cold (which I acknowledge is at least partly the film’s intention) and yet still completely appreciative. Whether or not Fincher actually achieves the goals he set out with this film is likely to be divisive, but I at the very least admire his intentions. This is a deeply uncomfortable, at times excruciating, watch and the film never shies away from that. The film presents these severely troubled characters, it never attempts to make them particularly sympathetic or “likeable” but it does intend to make you understand them. Take the character of Amy for example, in the hands of anyone else, she could have easily devolved into a cariacture, but Fincher and Rosamund Pike should be commended for not only finding incredible nuance in the role but also for making us understand why a character may go to the lengths that she does in order to achieve her objective. And I think that is really the key to this entire film, we may not necessarily ever sympathize with pretty much any of these characters but the film does a great job of diving into the psychology of these incredibly messed up individuals, and making us understand why they might behave like they do.

The rest of the ensemble is also perfectly cast. Ben Affleck does some of the best work of his career, reminding us that when he wants to, he really can be a great actor. Carrie Coon, who continues her phenomenal breakout year which started with ‘The Leftovers’, is the standout of the supporting cast as Nick’s twin sister Margo who by the end emerges as the beating heart of the film, and the rest of the cast is uniformly excellent as well. Whether it be Scoot McNairy’s incredibly minor role or Kim Dickens, as the detective hired to look into Amy’s disappearance, whose beliefs are in a constant state of conflict as the plot’s mystery slowly unravels, they all deliver exactly what is required of them. But it is Pike who is clearly the star here and if all that we eventually get out of this film is Rosamund Pike, then it will have been worth it. She has been promising a performance like this for some time, so of course it would be a David Fincher film that ultimately extracts that performance out of her.

The ending – long-rumored to have been changed for the film adaptation – remains intact from the book, and without delving into spoiler territory, I will say that whilst I know it was divisive amongst book readers, as someone who has not read the book, it felt like the perfect ending to this story. I am not sure there is any version of the ending to this film which finds resolution for all of its characters which would feel right. The film is a deeply uncomfortable watch and the ending is a reflection of that and ultimately, it felt like the exact ending this film was building towards from the very beginning. I may not have totally fallen for this film but it is also readily apparent to me that Gone Girl is made by a filmmaker with a distinct vision and it never moves away from that, and I don’t really know if you can ask for much more than that.