This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Austin Gorski’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
“When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. I picture opening her skull, unspooling her brain and sifting through it, trying to catch and pin down her thoughts. What are you thinking, Amy?"
What were you thinking, David Fincher? I want to know every single thought that went through your head when making this, because this is one hell of a marvel. Not only is it a dark crime "thriller" that's not unlike previous Fincher films in the past, particularly Zodiac, but the film is also a sick and twisted satire of not only the state of marriages today, but also how the media manipulates its audiences in modern-day society.
First off, Gone Girl is highly ironic, as though Fincher filmed the entire movie with a smug grin on his face, hoping that we would notice all the little clues and tidbits littered throughout. The first of many clues was in the first minute of the movie, when Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) gives his sister, Margot (Carrie Coon), yet another board game; this time it's "Mastermind". Oh, you clever bastard, you. And that's only the tip of the iceberg.
The rest of the film is sprinkled with so many hints that it's impossible to list them all, but it's clear the hyper-detailed Fincher is completely in his zone here. His attention to detail is extremely impressive, following Amy through her completely bonkers, but creative, master plan and somehow makes it all believable. Now, this film isn't particularly "realistic" compared to some of Fincher's other films. In fact, it plays like a smarter, more responsible older brother to The Game, with it's dark story, but has a racy and almost illogical bite to it, leading to an ultimately fun and interesting experience, as the film balances between style and grit.
Fincher clearly takes cues from Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma here, with the calm and cool feme fatale to the creepy pervert with the even creepier house. And for one, I loved this added touch. It wasn't dragged down by it's dour tone, as was the issue with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The characters, along with the atmosphere, just felt empty when it should have popped in Dragon Tattoo. Here, the atmosphere feels empty (just like Nick and his wife's marriage), but the performances are much more lively here.
Many will assume that Nick is the star of the show here, but this isn't his story. Oh no. He's definitely the more relatable of the two leads, but he's just a sideline character in his wife's ultimate plan. His wife being Amy Dunne (played to absolute perfection by Rosamund Pike). Almost as if she walked right off the set of a Stanley Kubrick film, Amy speaks like an alien; whether it's having overly pretentious conversations with her husband or her cold approach to most everything she does, Amy is a extremely complex character that Pike most definitely comes prepared for.
Having been overshadowed by "Amazing Amy", the main character in a set of novels based upon her life, Amy feels as if her fictional counterpart is always one step ahead of her in life, exceeding where she, the real Amy, tends to fail. When Amy was cut from the volleyball team freshman year, Amazing Amy made varsity. When Amy wasn't allowed to have a dog, Amazing Amy was given a dog to make her relatable. With this mentality, she seems to forget that because of this book series, she and her parents are wealthy and are able to live comfortably, even after a recession. The issue is Amy's mindset is so fucked up that she can't help to think that she can do better than Amy - a fictional character.
Nick, on the other hand, likes new things. By "things", I mean women. That's at least how he looks at women. As Amy puts it, he looks for the "cool girls" and latches on to them. That's what happened with their relationship; Nick liked the side of Amy that tried on a constant basis to meet his basic needs and be "cool". This meant to use her for sex whenever he pleased. Once she wasn't "new" anymore, he went after one of his students at the university, as she would fits his needs. It doesn't help that he feels that he could never live up to Amy's unbelievably high expectations for him.
But, Nick never shows this side of himself publicly. He tries to put on an act - an almost unnervingly humble middle-class man who not only seems to have all the right features, but also knows how to treat people with respect and seem considerate to everyone. All this is doing is building up Nick's lies, lies that he's been piling on for God knows how long. This is extremely difficult for the viewer, because even though Nick is a scumbag, he's much more human than his partner-in-crime, so to speak. It's even more difficult to watch when Nick starts to rebuild his life, he's too late and never seems to catch a break.
Amy has all the right to be enraged at Nick, but the way she gets back at him is laughable. Seriously, it's laughably ridiculous, but it's so ludicrous to the point that you can't help but gasp "holy shit" under your breath. Amy is a psychopath, no doubt about it, and no matter how unrealistic it all might seem, it all works. It just works. If anyone other than Fincher helmed this film, I feel like this material would have came off wrong and we'd have a whole new discussion on our hands. But in the controlled and capable hands of Fincher, Gone Girl succeeds at making this is comically unhinged scheme work in the confines of not only a crime movie, but also a very dark comedy as well.
But, Amy's plot not only works thematically, but also on a deeper level as well. Amy feels trapped in limbo, living what can be seen as a normal marriage today in society. There's some arguments about money, falling out of love, and affairs. Most people hide these encounters inside the confines of their own homes, as to keep up appearances. She takes things to a whole new level of crazy, creating a plot to switch the roles in their marriage around, leaving her on top and Nick gasping for air at the bottom.
See, she feels trapped in the much smaller suburban Missouri town than that of the high-rise apartments that she grew up with. She has a warped sense of reality, causing her to feel empty and vengeful inside. Her life might not have gone the way she planned, but was it really that bad? But, that also leads to a counter attack to that question: why should she settle when she could do much better in life? It's a sticky situation, as you can understand where both sides are coming from, but can never flat-out root for one or the other.
Ironically, Amy's plan to "start over" gets turned upside down when she realizes that she isn't prepared for what the outside world that she ultimately thought she was better than. She may be strong mentally, using her brains to think her way out of situations, but when she can't manipulate someone, she can't seem to harm them. Take the two lodgers that lived next to Amy when she first ran away. The characters never felt like outright characters, but instead moving plot points to help show you Amy's true colors. She's always trying to be someone she isn't (just like her husband), but I feel like we see the true Amy only after she's mugged by this couple. She doesn't go after them, because she has no way to manipulate them. Physically, she just doesn't stand a chance, so when she doesn't have a mental advantage, she doesn't see the point. She just gives up.
Even more ironic is that after being mugged, she turns to the creep that stalked her for countless years, Desi (Neil Patrick Harris) to help her out. She thinks that she's in control, but Desi doesn't intend on losing Amy again. He holds her hostage in his lake house, surrounded by a sea of surveillance cameras watching whoever comes in or leaves the house. So, she's essentially trapped yet again, but this time in the literal sense. Obviously, she makes her way out of the situation, but in the form of a quite bloody and disturbing sexual encounter, which is easily the most memorable scene from any movie this year thus far. She then returns home to her perfect "poster boy" husband, just with the roles switched. She finally has what she wanted, even if it wasn't her original intent.
Nick is now under her rule, the way Amy has always thought it should be. She's of a higher social class, she pays for all their shared belongings, and has had to live in the shadow of "Amazing Amy" for most of her life that she wants to be in control for once. No one else. She just wants to be one step ahead of the game, so to speak. But, when it's all said and done, Nick doesn't fall down the marital spectrum as much he just sits there lazily, eating an entire carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream while playing Battlefield 3. He too shows his true colors as a human being when he shows his vulnerability and ultimately gives up after finding out that Amy has his life in the palms of her hands.
But, from the eyes of the casual American watching from the comfort of their own home, the story of Nick and Amy Dunne isn't nearly as grotesque, despite the horrific details that Amy tells the media outlets. The fact that the two are able to carry a stable and loving marriage in the public eye but live in separate rooms in their place of abode, exclusively behind closed doors, is more disturbing than most horror movies being released today. It makes you wonder what the media doesn't tell people when covering the news or what your neighbors or friends share with you. How much of what they share with us is really true?
That's why I love this darkly comic film about public appearances, martial struggles, media inaccuracies. The antithesis to your typical date movie, Gone Girl brings up many daring issues and topics, but under the mold of a highly entertaining procedural "thriller". Not only does Fincher prove himself as a modern-day auteur, but also shows that he can turn a novel with pulpy situations and over-the-top ridiculousness into a serious conversation-starter about the state of marriages and media personifications today. Add to the fact that the entire cast is game to play, the score is wickedly stylish, and the look and feel of the film matches the material perfectly, and you've got yourself one of the stronger films to come out in the past few years.