After the somewhat unnecessary exercise that was The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, David Fincher has returned with a blistering adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best-selling novel. Gone Girl is a giddy film about appearance, perception and the personas of everyday life. Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) arrives home to find his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) gone and signs of a struggle in the living room. After the police establish a missing persons case, their attention turns to Nick who isn’t quite reacting as his family or the media expect him to.
Something about Amy’s disappearance doesn’t add up and Fincher quickly establishes a disquieting atmosphere. Right off the bat, the deceptively simple opening titles cycle through images of the Missouri locale but never settle into an identifiable rhythm. Everybody is slightly guarded in these early stages: Nick is wondering why he’s being asked so many questions whilst lead detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) is wondering why Nick’s answers are so skittish and incomplete. Nick’s twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon) knows her brother too well to know that something isn’t quite right.
Thanks to Amy’s minor celebrity status as the inspiration for Amazing Amy, the main character in her mother’s series of children’s novels, her disappearance soon attracts the attention of the media. Under this spotlight, everybody tries to appear as society dictates they should. Amy’s parents give the heartfelt speech and set up a help centre for the search; strangers display the compassion of someone who’s known Nick for years. The problem for Nick is that he’s not very good at keeping up appearances. What Flynn and Fincher do here is brilliantly convey how the modern media can sway the opinion and focus of the general public. Thanks to a misplaced smile and ill-judged good intentions, Nick finds that his every gesture and decision come under scrutiny (drawing a parallel to the intense scrutiny he faced as one half of “Bennifer”) as the media make a series of increasingly incredulous accusations about his life to fill the time in the 24 hour news cycle.
Gone Girl is very much a film for the modern age and the desire for more information in fewer words and minutes. The case soon gets boiled down to easily digestible tabloid chunks and everybody forms an opinion. Even Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit), the young detective working the case, is convinced that Nick is guilty of murder, much to the despair of Detective Boney who realises that they have no body, weapon or other irrefutable evidence. In one brief shot, someone takes a selfie outside of the bar that Nick co-owns with his sister. To clarify, they’re taking a photo of themselves outside of a bar because it’s owned by a guy who may have killed his wife. The dismayed look on Nick’s face as he drives past displays his disbelief at someone using his horrifying situation to feed their egotistical habits. We’re never meant to like Nick, but we are meant to share some sympathy with him in this early stage. Affleck delivers a wonderfully layered performance that blends nice guy with just the right amount of shit bag.
The film juxtaposes the present day gloom with romantic flashbacks to the early stages of Nick and Amy’s perfect relationship. He sweeps Amy off her feet, their conversations are witty and they buy the same anniversary presents for one another. How adorable is that?!? Narrated by Amy herself, Flynn and Fincher do just enough to suggest that she might not be entirely reliable. The relationship appears to be too adorable, too perfect. As Amy’s narration charts the downturn of the relationship, the fairy tale dissipates and the unease of the present day seeps its way into the drama, again aided by Amy’s unreliable depiction of events. How much of what we’re seeing is the truth? You try to get a grasp of who these people truly are, but you’re never meant to.
This lack of sure footing means that even those who haven’t read Flynn’s novel won’t be too surprised when the story’s marquee twist is revealed; something was amiss from the very first frame of the film. It’s treated as just another narrative development in a story that further embraces its potboiler and pulpy origins as Amy’s fate is gradually revealed. Rosamund Pike’s fearless performance is extraordinary, full of intelligence and aggression in an ever-changing role. Pike plays Amy behind a handful of different personas throughout the film and you never know which is the true Amy Dunne. Whilst providing a healthy nest egg for the family, the Amazing Amy books also gave Amy’s parents the opportunity to make alterations to their daughter’s life as they saw fit. Where real life Amy fails, Amazing Amy succeeds. Her actions in the second half of the film undoubtedly derive from the torment of having to live in the shadow of an upgraded and parent-approved version of herself. The striking beauty and hint of deceit in Pike’s face is perfect for this role. Awards nominations will be forthcoming.Gillian Flynn’s impressive script injects the murky proceedings with a wickedly funny streak. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score is haunting, invigorating and even romantic in a film of shifting tones. David Fincher’s direction is as clinical and methodical as we’ve come to expect. He never shows off so as not to distract from observing the characters’ (not the actors’) performances. Gone Girl is a film about appearance: how we appear to friends, family, and partners, in the media and on our online profiles. How can you ever truly know someone if they are in a state of constant performance?
On top of the lead roles, the supporting players in this distorted thriller are perfectly cast as well. Carrie Coon encapsulates Margo’s devotion to her brother with such grace and humour, Tyler Perry charms his way around the screen with an unnerving smile. Missi Pyle has all sorts of fun as sensationalist, pot stirring TV host Ellen Abbott and Scoot McNairy paints a forlorn figure in his one scene as Amy’s ex-boyfriend Tom. The casting of fresh young “it girl” Emily Ratajkowski (one of the models from the now infamous Blurred Lines video) as Andie Hardy further highlights the film’s desire to be as up to date as it can.
Gone Girl is in cinemas nationwide now. Images and trailer courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox.