Review: Gone Girl

By Ross Anderson

Words cannot describe the difficulty of writing a thorough review of Gone Girl, David Fincher’s intensely unnerving adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s engrossing, if somewhat outlandish, thriller of the same name. So much of the film is based on the subjective, often conflicting viewpoints of the two central characters, married couple Nick and Amy Dunne (Ben Affleck; Rosamund Pike). Ambiguity doesn’t lend itself to an effective summary. The premise is this: Nick Dunne returns home on his 5th anniversary to find his wife gone (hence the name) and a suspiciously crime-scene-looking front room. The film follows him as the police, the public and the assembled forces of the media begin to turn on him and find themselves asking one question: did Nick Dunne kill his wife?

Fincher has a well-established expertise in this kind of work; movies of mind-mangling twisty-turnery that play off audience expectations (see Fight Club, Se7en), and adeptly handles the many spinning plates of the ingenious plot. He even finds time to play around with some provocative ideas: who we pretend to be and the person underneath; the fickleness of the public; the double-edged blade of the media.

The performances, across the board, are superb. Throughout much of the film Affleck sports a sort of perpetually bored look that he’s worn in previous films, like a cow staring at an especially unimpressive fence post , but here it works well for Nick Dunne, the man who is under increasingly heavy scrutiny for being unable to convincingly emote. Carrie Coon is also excellent as devoted twin, Margo Dunne. Watching her slowly unravel and begin to lose faith in her brother is as gut-wrenching as any of the more immediately shocking moments the film has in store. But Rosamund Pike is the standout, in an astonishing, career-defining performance.

Rounding out the cast are Tyler Perry, who, perhaps surprisingly, is terrific as the “Elvis” of lawyers, Tanner Bolt; Neil Patrick Harris, possibly at a career best as intensely creepy maybe-stalker Desi Collings; and Missi Pyle as ratings-hungry terror-hawk Ellen Abbot (based on the real-life, and somehow more frightening, media personality, Nancy Grace) who smells the blood in the water.

Two small gripes: The first is the dialogue in the opening scenes of the film, which comes across as very movie-ish. The quippy back-and-forth just seems a bit artificial, and at odds with the more grounded tone Fincher is going for, but this thankfully fades away as the investigation kicks into gear.

The second is the ending. It’s an odd and audacious conclusion, one that’s difficult to describe in detail without ruining the plot. Fincher and Flynn have a lot of ideas up in the air, but have a special focus on the ways we try to manipulate one and other, with neither of the central pair being particularly sympathetic throughout the majority of the runtime. This ambiguity, working on both a character and plot level, is a big part of the film’s success. Unfortunately, all of that subtlety is jettisoned into the sun at a hundred miles an hour by the time you reach an ending that definitively takes sides.

However, the film is outstanding up to that point, and while the thematic strands may not tie up nicely, Gone Girl is still an expertly paced, beautifully acted and utterly haunting thriller, with an incredible turn from Rosamund Pike. You’ll leave the theatre optimistic about her chances come awards time, if not about marriage, the media or life in general.} else {