Gone Girl

Gone Girl ★★★

David Fincher is a director I have admired for a while, due to films like Zodiac and The Social Network (both masterpieces), so I was very much looking forward to Gone Girl on the basis of its premise and the fact that he was at the helm. Imagine my disappointment then, when I discovered that the film, which came out in the UK the day before my 16th birthday, had been given an 18 certificate by the BBFC, and that I legally wouldn't be able to see it. I needn't have worried; after deciding that I might as well try to get in with the knowledge that people often mistake me for being a couple of years older, I handed over my pre-booked ticket and was granted entry, no questions asked. Gone Girl will therefore always have personal significance as being the first 18-certificate film I ever saw at the cinema, almost a full two years before I should have done.

It's just a shame it wasn't better.

As I'm sure most of you are aware by now, it's based on Gillian Flynn's bestseller (which I haven't read, but intend to do so, especially as she wrote the screenplay) about Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), an ordinary guy suspected of killing his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), after she suspiciously vanishes. Nick's unusual, slightly awkward behaviour in the public eye is attributed to that of a sociopath, and it isn't long before he is "the most hated man in America." Meanwhile, the history of Nick and Amy's relationship is told in flashback from Amy's point-of-view, from the free-spirited early days to the global recession that puts a serious, irrevocable, possibly dangerous strain on their marriage.

The film is interesting for a number of reasons, not least because of the number of themes it dares to tackle; it's part-domestic drama, part-socio-economic commentary, part-media satire, part-police procedural and part-genre thriller. But Gone Girl's deep flaws lie not in an imbalance of tone (the thick vein of acerbic humour running throughout is very effective, even if I didn't laugh very much), nor do they lie particularly in an unsuccessful ambition to tackle a lot of meaty subjects. In fact, a good way to explain where the film fails would be to compare it to last year's Prisoners. Both films are dark, twisted thrillers with labyrinthine plots and a runtime of two-and-a-half hours. But while Prisoners is a better film than Gone Girl, both stretch their credibility too far - the latter, in particular, to a rather stupid extent.

To explain how Gone Girl does this would be to give away a huge plot point, so I'll refrain from doing so. Just know that considering the authentic tone it seems to be aiming for, the big reveal at the midway point is very much out of place. Not that this is the only flaw; more often that not I felt that the characters made unrealistic or unexplained decisions, the (mis)casting of Neil Patrick Harris is incredibly distracting, there's a subtle but annoying air of undeserved self-satisfaction more on Flynn's part than on Fincher's, the film never fully justifies its length and it ends with a whimper, not with a bang.

That's not to say there isn't much to admire, in particular from the cast. Ben Affleck is astounding in the lead, bringing an effective everyman quality to the role, while Kim Dickens is great as a Marge Gunderson-esque cop, Carrie Coon is fantastic as Nick's sarcastic but loyal twin sister and Tyler Perry excels and brings some comic relief as Nick's lawyer, "the patron saint of wife killers." Rosamund Pike is a mercurial presence, but seems to jar somewhat oddly with the rest of the cast. Her delivery of the voiceovers reveal more about her character than her physical performance does, but she is an eerie presence nonetheless.

Fincher's direction is as impressive as it always is, even if the film itself demonstrates that repeated takes of each and every scene don't necessarily mean that the results will pay off. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' score succeeds in evoking something that is meant to be soothing but is, in actual fact, very unnerving, Jeff Cronenweth's murky cinematography builds a dark atmosphere, and Kirk Baxter's typically rapid editing is put to good use.

Arguments that the film is misogynistic are understandable, certainly moreso here than when they were aimed at The Social Network, but they are perhaps somewhat misguided. (Besides, why would a woman write something that demonstrates a hatred or mistrust of women?) I really wish I liked Gone Girl more, but I'm afraid I have to agree with Anthony Lane of The New Yorker when he says: "At first blush, Gone Girl is natural Fincherland... so why doesn't the movie claw us as The Social Network did? Who could have predicted that a film about murder, betrayal, and deception would be less exciting than a film about a website?"

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