Gone Girl

Gone Girl ★★★★

Marriage has never been a more dangerous sport than it is in David Fincher's latest psychological thriller.

The plot, which uses a flash-back/forward structure that changes perspectives like the book, follows Nick (Ben Affleck), a magazine writer whose wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) disappears from their cookie-cutter home one morning after what appears to have been a violent struggle. Nick cooperates with the local PD but appears aloof, disengaged. During his initial interrogation he makes a dreary joke about feeling like he’s in a Law and Order episode, humming the TV theme. The detectives are unimpressed. As more evidence mounts against him, Nick’s attitude appears less like a symptom of masculine emotional detachment and more like an indicator of guilt.

Though arguably her weakest novel, Gone Girl brought Gillian Flynn international acclaim and saturated the market with derivative imitations. She’s written the screenplay, which is sometimes too clever for its own good. The scene where Nick and Amy meet is rapid-fire cutesy (and drowned out by ambient background noise). Rosamund Pike is a revelation; her Amy has a statuesque beauty that slowly erodes as her true nature comes to the fore. Ben Affleck - as the stupid, wounded hunk - engenders more sympathy from an audience than the character on the page calls for.

At times things are too precise; Fincher’s editing becomes despotic. There’s a scene where Nick makes a speech to the volunteers who’ve gathered to help find Amy. ‘I didn’t kill my wife,’ he says - and we cut to the investigator who’s just expressed his suspicions about Nick. ‘I love Amy,’ he says - and we cut to his mistress, who’s burned by the admission and mouths a retort. ‘I have nothing to hide,’ - we cut to his sister who knows that he is withholding pertinent information. No room is allotted to consider Nick’s words beyond the impression they make on certain characters whose perspectives have been established, or to consider what they mean for Nick who's saying them. There’s less exploration here than in some of Fincher’s previous films, and it’s this tendency toward oppression that reduces the story back to its trashy origins. There's nothing wrong with trash though - particularly when its done with this much panache.

There are some brilliantly perverse touches that ground the film solidly in Fincher territory. In one scene, during an SES search for her daughter’s body, Amy’s mother (who treats her daughter’s disappearance like a PR opportunity) looks around at the scrub, scrunches up her nose prudishly and says, ‘It smells like faeces’. Her character's insensitivity is so overt it could've been cartoonish, but in Fincher's steady hands it doesn't boil over. She remains a wry creation; ironic and faintly horrifying.

The implausibilities amount to a bizarre ending that will probably furrow a few brows. Without giving anything specific away, an incredulous story is accepted by police and the media and Affleck's character is railroaded into a submissive state that doesn't make sense if one thinks it through. It seemed less preposterous in the novel, but the film is so audacious that it remains interesting even after it's stopped making sense.

Gone Girl is always engaging and the performances are vivid. Sudden flashes of violence are rendered with Fincher’s signature brand of sleek brutality. There’s more humour and playfulness here than in his other films (excluding The Social Network, which was jam-packed with subversive humour). Pike’s mellifluous voiceover compliments Fincher’s clean, fluid style and elevates the film to greatness on a few occasions. The Reznor/Ross score is so adept that we’re sometimes misled into believing the film is more important than it is, and it’s exhilarating to see a domestic thriller made with this much visual acuity - even if the content doesn’t quite match the form.

Luke liked these reviews