Gone Girl

Gone Girl ★★★★½

Without being a groundbreaking masterpiece (at least not yet; it needs more time to fully sink in), David Fincher’s upper mid-tier Gone Girl is an extremely well made thriller comprised of age-old antics with an added touch of auteur flavor, and a formidable accomplishment in the unsettling, cynical and bizarre departments. Based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name, which she adapted for the screen herself bringing her artistic voice along while at it, the severely bonkers film stars Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike as married couple Nick and Amy, and tells the story of a certain Girl who has Gone missing, focusing on the aftermath of the disappearance together with the suspicions that arise.

On the surface an almost banal and cheap yet very effective thriller (or in less formal words the cinematic equivalent of a good read while on the shitter) that, when put under the microscope might reveal some anomalies, Gone Girl has more to offer hidden just below that surface, occasionally emerging in both blunt and subtle fashion, in calculated, unexpected or outright baffling ways. It’s a marriage of two seriously deranged visions, between writer and director, book and film. At the same time mystery, thriller, absurdist comedy and satire, the film weaves through different genres and shifts between tones at times smoothly, at other times abruptly not only to put its viewers on edge and disquiet or even shock them but to create a sense of heightened reality that envelops the story.

There’s that strange feeling you have while watching it unfold, like someone is watching you and follows you everywhere you go, there’s something off about it, which stems from the fact that everything is distorted. Nothing is the way it appears to be, what characters say can’t be trusted, their actions can’t be taken at face value. The world Fincher creates is like a house of carnival mirrors where characters’ reflections show different versions of them. Some mirrors show them as beautiful while some expose their ugliness, the characters finding themselves in a constant search of the perfect image to hide behind. This world reflects our own, where the concept of privacy is becoming more and more ambiguous thanks to an ever-increasing level of access to information; the impact of mass media leaves its mark on society as it influences, shapes and manipulates, so much so that the individual has few options besides resorting to the ancient tactic of fighting fire with fire, values like honesty being lost in the process.

If this tactic of manipulation would be used in self-defense only against the media the picture wouldn't be that grave or fractured (or interesting) but this is a David Fincher film, so human nature is too dark to resist the urge of rearing its ugly head in the most sacred of places: family. Role-playing for the camera is one thing but role-playing inside a marriage is where the film shows its true grandeur. The movie deconstructs the concept of marriage, examines it thoroughly and splendidly satirizes it, from the impact an unstable economy has, to the sacrifices that need to be made in order to have a leveled marriage, maybe even employing pretense, changes in behavior to better correspond with the partner, questioning whether this is normal or not, dealing with problems that inevitably arise sooner or later. The nuclear family is in danger as the rotten nucleus needs to be replaced with a shiny new one. When the satire angle comes in full swing in the last act (after the second act abruptly ends with a formidable scene worthy of Fincher's best moments), the movie is at its best. The abrupt shift supports the absurdity of the last act, which proceeds with a maddening, severe and unnerving dream-like quality until its closing moments, reminding of Rosemary’s Baby ending in terms of its heightened reality atmosphere.

Minor anomalies include Nick’s carelessness in the first half, some thriller-specific pitfalls and the unclear or unbelievable motivations of characters, all of which are less troublesome given the unorthodox presentation and absurdist angle. A hefty performance from Ben Affleck, an excellent Rosamund Pike, a Tyler Perry in great form, a solid Carrie Coon and an assured Kim Dickens comprise the notable acting performances. The cinematography is stunning, the editing magnificent. The score doesn't come to your attention except at certain moments but when it does it makes it count, perfectly underlying the shock with dissonant sound and the absurdity with surreal music. What else is there to say, Gone Girl is a deeply unsettling, dangerously funny and terrifyingly dark movie that is cynically relevant to our times. A gem.

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