Gone Girl is the perfect antidote to those friends who endlessly insist after watching an adapted movie that “The book was better.” Don’t take this as me saying the movie is better than the book; I wouldn’t dare speak such slander on a literary website, but nevertheless…
Screw it. The movie is better. Gone Girl, adapted from the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn, directed by the legendary David Fincher, is a stylishly crafted masterpiece of thrills, with buckets of charm and gore, and an astounding, stand out performance by a beautiful fat ginger cat. Oh, and Rosamund Pike as Amy. Anyone with any doubts about Ben Affleck’s (or is that Batfleck now?) acting chops obviously hasn’t watched the incredible Argo, but his turn as - in turns affable and psychotic Nick Dunne, the husband of the titular Gone Girl, Amy Elliot Dunne - is incredible. Be excited to see this beautiful specimen of a man suited up with rubber nipples. It’s going to be good.
Gone Girl is about Nick and Amy, in essence, and their failing marriage over the last five years. Nick gets a phone call one morning when he strolls into his bar, called The Bar - how ironic - he receives a phone call saying that his cat Bleeker is outside and the door is wide open. He returns home, to find his wife missing and a scene of obvious distress in the living room. The ottoman (what is an ottoman, anyway?) is over turned, there’s smashed glass, and obvious signs of a kerfuffle. Of course, everyone starts to suspect the husband right off the bat, because that’s what you do. From there, things spin wonderfully out of control and if you have no knowledge of the plot or how things play out, don’t spoil it for yourself. Go in clean and you won’t regret it.
The film is masterful at holding the suspense of the book and allowing the twists and turns to unravel naturally, without too much broadcasting, but without being so left field that they seem contrived. The book’s premiere issue was the way that everything seemed to fit together too neatly, everything felt too contrived, and the film dodges this by quickly brushing over any plot holes that might have needed to be overwritten. The film also knows exactly the right place to end, and while I’d argue the book ran on for thirty pages too long, the movie finishes on a brave note that feels like a perfect, full circle.
Gone Girl drips atmosphere, with the soundtrack by usual Fincher contributors Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross being heavy and moody. Everything starts off as a love story, with soft music underlining the dream like sequences of Amy and Nick’s early courtship, but as things get darker, so does the music. Soft strings give way to oppressive, grungy electronic noise as everything comes out into the open, and Fincher masterfully edits it all together to make it all grip you by the throat and sweep you up in it. In hindsight, it’s easy to poke holes in the plot and make fun of some of the contrived elements, but in the darkness of the theatre, you will feel dread and fear sink deep into your stomach, mixing with your stale popcorn and watered down soda. Who can you trust? Who’s insane and who’s something even worse? Just like Fincher’s other recent adaptation, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, this film isn’t so much about who is good and who is evil, but rather it deals with the shades of grey between the two.
There are no heroes, only a sort of see-sawing between who is wearing the white hat, and who is wearing the black one. Neither Nick nor Amy are spotless, they are both despicable, narcissistic people, and every other character is realistic flawed. Neil Patrick Harris astounds as Desi, a creeping, preening pathetic, rich loser who has adored Amy from afar, as has the entire world, in her own warped brain. NPH has obvious mother issues, and a strange love of flawed women. While Nick neglects Amy, he wants to put her on display, in his fortress of a lake house, keeping her as a beautiful creature to be preened and prodded and admired but never quite loved. The police are quick to accuse Nick and quick to cover their own arses when things go south and Amy’s parents are more concerned with using their daughter’s disappearance to plagiarise her life further to try to grasp back some of their lost fortune, gleaned from a series of Amazing Amy books. It is as disturbing as it sounds, and it goes a long way to help you pity Amy to some degree, even when you find yourself starting to hate her.
Even Nick’s loyal sister Go (Carrie Coone) seems far too willing to forgive her brother for every slight. At first, she lets it go that he doesn’t seem particularly beat up about his wife being missing, but as events progress and Nick’s other faults come to the fore, she continues to ignore it. Even as everyone in America is sure that Nick killed Amy and hid the body, she stands by him, and the pair even occasionally crack wise in the middle of it all. One of the greatest things about the film and indeed the book, is the way they capture real human reaction. There is no melodrama, Nick did not love his wife and Nick is emotionally stunted, he will not wail and beat his chest when his wife goes missing, the world will not halt for him.
Some might see this as an indictment of his guilt, or a piece of poor writing/acting, but it’s one of the truest reactions to bad news on this scale that you’ll ever see on screen. Gone Girl doesn’t shy away from showing us the dark side of people, and the dark side of marriage. In the same way that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo seems to be heavily about sexism and violence towards woman (indeed, the original title translated was Men Who Hate Women) Fincher seems to have opted for another film that shows the evil men can inflict on women. The difference with Gone Girl however is that Amy Dunne is hard to pity. She has dark spots in her past, and an obviously disturbed mind, but through the course of the film, she begins to take over ‘villain’ duties from Nick, if you could even describe the catch and switch of this film in such a way. Lisbeth Salander was a likeable, pitiable character, a strong woman with a bleak past getting revenge on the men who have wronged her. You might not see Amy Dunne in that way, or you might agree with the way she behaves.
Gone Girl seems set to divide opinion in who is right, who is wrong, and who is just goddamn crazy. If nothing else, I can’t recommend enough for a film that will put your heart in your throat and will likely strike debate within the group you decide to see it with. Watch it, go out for a pint after, and see if you can argue out who is the craziest, who is wrong and who is right. I think you’ll struggle.