My head hurts 😦
Before I go deep within this review, this is just a friendly reminder that this post will contain spoilers. If you’ve not seen Gone Girl, I suggest you bookmark this post and come back later. But what I will say (in case you need a bit of motivation) is that this film is an uncomfortable yet fantastic watch. Don’t be surprised if this gets it’s fair share of nominations during the awards season.
Gone Girl stars Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, a perceived happily married man to his successful wife and writer, Amy Elliott Dunne (Rosamund Pike). When his wife disappears under strange and suspicious circumstances, Nick suddenly becomes the prime suspect in the police investigation. Did Nick really kill his wife?
Watching Gone Girl was like watching Fatal Attraction, Misery and War of the Roses all wrapped up in one and yet you still couldn’t get close to what this film was. It’s a dark complex chess game where every single detail is analysed or used against in context with all the characters. This was one psychologically messed up film and it gripped me from start to finish.
“When I think of my wife, I always think of the back of her head. I picture cracking her lovely skull, unspooling her brain, trying to get answers. The primal questions of a marriage: What are you thinking? How are you feeling? What have we done to each other? What will we do?” – Nick Dunne
The best way to sum up Gone Girl is on the idea of perception and what you believe.
The first perception theme is based around the idea of marriage, relationships and the values around it. How do we attract the opposite sex? Do we be ourselves in hope that our honesty (faults and all) will be accepted, or do we hype ourselves up, pretending to be something we’re not? Director David Fincher and writer of the novel and screenplay, Gillian Flynn examines that idea under a microscope. In the case of Nick and Amy, what started out as a bit of a fairy tale descends into full-scale absurdity.
The way Nick and Amy first meet is almost too clichéd. First kiss under a sugar storm, christening libraries or Nick interviewing her at a public function, describing how good her private areas are – it’s something you might expect in some modern romance film! Yet as Amy reads/narrates her inner thoughts from her diary like some scary version of Peep Show, you are never entirely comfortable with the whole thing. The low light from the flashback scenes and the offset music creates the uncertainty in Nick’s character and behaviour.
As the intensity increases from the police investigation and the media, Nick’s character does buckle and unravel. He’s not as innocent as everyone perceives him to be. During his five-year marriage with Amy, he was having an affair with one of his students, a girl barely half his age. Yes it was a questionable relationship but Nick probably saw this as his way of getting out of his marriage with Amy.
But just like everything in life, there are two sides to every story and that certainly applies with Amy. When watching this film, her motives probably don’t seem as clear-cut. It would be easy for me to call her a psycho and add that pleasant word that rhymes with witch but I think in Amy’s head she was obsessed with the idea of perfection. In the film she writes in her diary that marriage is hard work but not for her and Nick. The only reason why she would be saying something like that is because she likes the aspect of control and she does it in clever and manipulative ways. She likes the idea of building up someone to their standard, someone who could easily be their equal. However, as soon as they fall below that standard, she creates a fantasy of lies that really buries them and in the case of Desi (Neil Patrick Harris) – a murderous lie. You would think getting a divorce would be simpler but this is someone who loves having an end game. As a writer and eagle-eyed watcher of TV, she clearly does her research, exposing the system and the laws where she will always come out on top. Her transformation is something out of nightmares – she starts off innocent enough but by the end of the film she doesn’t even resemble what you would call a human being, devoid of emotion or remorse for the things she’s done.
I think we’ve been exposed to so many romantic clichés that what Gone Girl successfully does is take what you know and familiar with and turns it upside down in the water…then drowns you in the madness. Does two wrongs make a right? Of course not! It’s always sad when a relationship breaks down for one reason or another. Not all men are pigs and not all women are sociopaths but for Nick and Amy, a couple who possibly at one point loved each other, their mismatched and volatile nature was the perfect combination for their self-destructive qualities. There are no winners that you can sympathise with, just darker shades of grey where power, control and secrets were key over common sense, love and compromise. The idea of being trapped in a loveless marriage is a scary thought where being together was safer than being alone and complicit in each other’s crimes. They are now partners in crime and it’s something Nick has to live with.
“I will practice believing my husband loves me but I could be wrong.” – Amy Dunne
The second perception theme is around the media and how Gone Girl tackles it is pretty much nail on the head of how most people see the news today. When was the last time you watched a news report where it just reported on the facts? Nick may not be as innocent as you think and makes naïve mistakes (such as smiling when he’s suppose to be looking concerned about his missing wife), but he’s subjected to a witch-hunt. Even when the facts in Nick’s story were always mounting against him, he’s accused of being a murderer when there was no body. The media intensity becomes a joke in itself worthy of a Picard/Riker double facepalm meme. It borders on slander, basing their facts on emotional opinion that added fuel to the fire. Naturally it changed public opinion and his supporters turned against him. It did Nick no favours and in the end had to hire a defence lawyer, Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) to aid and counter-act the stories. It ended up being beneficial to him because even though he had grown to despise his wife, he was able to use that emotion to appear (at least in parts) that he was deeply concerned for Amy’s safety.
The third and final perception theme is acceptance and this occurs in the third act of the film. Even when the truth was staring right back at the cops, the reporters, Tanner and even Nick himself, it was almost like “well we got everything we wanted…let’s move on.” This uncomfortable nature where you feel real justice wasn’t served, just doesn’t feel satisfying. Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) tries to plug holes into Amy’s story but gets quickly shut down because Amy came back from her brave, extraordinary circumstances. Despite the overhype lies spread by the media, Nick didn’t get an apology, certainly not publically where it mattered. Just a small token gift given by the instigator who was “only following where the news was.” Tanner who specialises in “f*cked up” basically said to Nick, “my work is done – just don’t piss her off again!” Nick is trapped because Amy is now pregnant with his child and doesn’t want to leave in case Amy raises the child to be the next spawn of Satan. Just watch his reaction when Amy announces to the world of their happy news – everyone was celebrating but him!
Officer Jim Gilpin: “You ever hear the expression the simplest answer is often the correct one?”
Detective Rhonda Boney: “Actually, I have never found that to be true.”
Gone Girl is a film that keeps on twisting until the final moments and it certainly plays into the strengths of David Fincher’s amazing directorial work. He’s an expert in creating mood where complex motives are hidden between characters or even in plain sight. Not one character in this film gets an upper hand. For example, there’s no low angle camera shots of a character talking down to someone. The camera is always steady, filmed at the same eye level, creating an intimacy with the dialogue, especially when you get that uncomfortable feeling that something bad was going to happen.
For someone who has not read the book, the shock twists stunned me. There were outstanding performances from everyone involved, in particular Rosamund Pike. In a way, the film itself plays out like a marriage – it’s blissful beginnings, when it hits rock bottom and then coming back together to resolve the problem. However, Gone Girl deals with it in a distorted manner and still manages to balance out the different viewpoints from Nick and Amy and what they perceive to be right. The whole journey feels unbelievable, however, you know you’ve gone through the motions. When you reflect on it, you know you’ve seen an outstanding film.
One of the best films of 2014? Absolutely.
A really good (and comprehensive) analysis. I loved this film too. Looking forward to reading more of your posts.
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Thanks! I rank Gone Girl as one of David Fincher’s best films. That’s how much I enjoyed it.
Any favourite moments?
It’s hard for me to look at Gone Girl the same way because I’d already read the book when I saw it. While that allowed me to better understand the plot, I also wasn’t as blown away by the movie. Fincher and Flynn did a good job adapting the book, and the acting was all very good. Even so, both the book and movie feel a bit like a trick. You do a great job exploring some of the themes, and the one about the media is very sharp in the movie. Even so, I wonder how it would play on another viewing.
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Completely understand. I think it works better if you’ve not read the book. I’ve certainly enjoyed not knowing what was going to happen. I think some story elements are too far fetched to believe in, but hey – we live in a crazy world and some truths are stranger than fiction! Give it a second watch. Sometimes when the hype dies down and you watch something with no expection, you find yourself enjoying something more than you realise.
Definitely one of the best of the year. Good review.
I never got a chance to see this in the theater. I’ll have to catch it on my Amazon Prime.
By the way, I really enjoy your site, and nominated you for The Liebster Award! I hope I can help get more readers to you.