Gone Girl

Gone Girl ★★★★

The sexual politics underpinning Gone Girl are both fascinating and frightening, to both sexes, and pulsate at the very heart of David Fincher's adaptation of Gillian Flynn's increasingly well known novel. He and Flynn, who also penned the screenplay, create something unexpected; a jet black river of satire, exploring and picking away not just very conceptual building blocks of marriage but also the deep rooted misogyny at the core of the male psyche, exposed through Ben Affleck's Nick Dunne, a protagonist Fincher never wants you to pin down. Did he kill his wife, after she disappears one morning from their perfect suburban home? Does he carry a dark, hidden web of deceit and violence within? Or is he the victim of someone else's manipulation? Just when you feel Fincher is about to answer those questions, Gone Girl takes another right turn and keeps you dancing for answers; not from a narrative perspective, the mystery here is not what happens to his wife, but why... and consequently that makes for a stranger & far more twisted viewing experience than it could have easily been.

The texture of modern Fincher is all there in Gone Girl - the clean, opulent surface layer hiding a dark, unnerving underbelly, overlaid by yet another discordant, echoing electronic score from the marvellous Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross combination; the increasing isolation, despair and unravelling tension of a very flawed pair of main characters; the fast cutting, pulsating montage sequences, the use of voice-overs - it almost feels a companion to his last two films, visually and stylistically at least, and this is no criticism. There's a sleekness to Fincher's moviemaking that is enormously alluring, seductive and quietly powerful it draws you in, even perhaps when he could have cut a little from the running time. He & Flynn work hard to deconstruct Nick not just as a character but indeed an archetype - Affleck imbues him with that preppy American charm many have come to dislike the actor for, and that helps given the film asks you to judge him at many an interval, through him managing to highlight the facile nature of modern Western society. Nick becomes the centre of a national media storm, hated and vilified by a militant left of female broadcasters who Flynn wants us to see through - they badge bad journalism and witch hunting under the banner of rampant feminism, decrying the male instinct to cheat & lie. It's hard as a man not to be scared by Fincher & Flynn's message here.

This is where, of course, accusations of misogyny against the film have rolled in, which seems to be vastly missing the point; Fincher isn't making a misogynistic piece of cinema, he's shining a light *on* misogyny itself, allowing Nick to potentially emerge as a villain while equally building up the portrait of the victim, Rosamund Pike's Amy Dunne, the missing wife who we come to know in narrated diary entries and is the true centre of the entire narrative, and it's unnerving central concept. To say any more would be disingenuous, as inevitably Amy's disappearance isn't quite how it seems, but once we reach the point of understanding, two things happen: firstly, Fincher avoids the typical narrative idea of turning Gone Girl into anything resembling a typical thriller or criminal 'chase movie', what he does is more sinister, creepier and oddly truthful than you might imagine; secondly, Pike turns in the performance of her career as Amy, a woman who has lived her life in the shadow of a literary creation that has haunted her psyche - she's an enormously difficult & complex creation Pike vividly brings to life, and set against Affleck she indeed makes him better (and if you've seen the film, the irony of that statement won't be lost on you...). Affleck is perfect casting as Nick because he's easy to pick apart, while Pike looks every inch the 'perfect' woman she's supposed to be. Having nailed his central pairing, it allows Fincher to craft around them a compelling, by turns unexpectedly comical and unnerving piece of drama - hell, he even manages to get a damn fine performance out of Tyler Perry, which proves he's one of the finest directors in cinema today!

The crucial point is this: Gone Girl will keep you dancing, keep you unsure, keep you unsettled, keep you scared and sometimes horrified, keep you exactly in the place many of its characters are, as David Fincher shines a light square into the face of one of society's most deep rooted institutions and picks away at the truth of it, heightening the melodrama but allowing Gillian Flynn's cautionary tale to play out vividly. While the consequent narrative may seem unlikely, there feels a deeper truth at the heart of Gone Girl than might at first appear, and by the time Fincher sticks an enormously dark & twisted landing to the whole affair, you'll be left reeling from two genuinely great performances from Ben Affleck & Rosamund Pike, and certainly if you're married asking yourself a few timely questions. Not Fincher's best, but yet again proof he shows no sign of losing his role as one of Hollywood's greatest modern auteurs.

A. J. liked these reviews