PLOT: Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) reports that his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) is missing. The media thinks he did it.
WHO'S IT FOR? Filmgoers looking for a new take on relationships and media craziness, at the same time.
Mystery solved - the gawker-ing hubbub of Ben Affleck’s penis appearing in Gone Girl is probably the manipulation of director David Fincher. With the director known for personally pioneering his films’ marketing (he once made Sony cut up a ton of super useless and expensive metal posters for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), this new fascination with a fleeting moment of nudity serves as meta-marketing to the point of Gone Girl, a bizarre, hyper-realistic take on why people are so excited about clickbait topics like Ben Affleck’s penis: that we become so involved with the beautiful characters we project images onto in media, and that we love to publicly romanticize private ordeals, while the reality concerning a cameo's screen-time or even someone's possible death sentence becomes trivial.
Fincher's mystery/anti-romantic comedy Gone Girl begins simply. A former writer named Amy (Rosamund Pike) vanishes from her St. Louis home on the day of her fifth wedding anniversary. Her husband Nick (Ben Affleck), of whom she currently shares a dead shark romance with, reports her missing. Coincidentally, Amy did leave clues for to Nick to find in an intimate anniversary scavenger hunt, which sends the estranged spouse racing through bits of his past to crack the riddles of their current relationship, and maybe even her whereabouts. Meanwhile, two unimpressed cops (played by Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit) are actively unconvinced of his innocence, and investigate his every move closely.
The tale of a beautiful missing woman like Amy soon explodes into a public narrative, of which Nick is forced to take on characteristics of hollow grievance, despite the disconnection he recently has from his wife. With America more concerned with scapegoating him than finding Amy, his false media image begins to crack; Nick’s emotional detachment from the fantasy created by the public about their missing sweetheart only makes him more suspect. He hibernates from the media circus at his sister Margo’s place (Carrie Coon), and watches with defeat as Nancy Grace surrogates like Ellen Abbott (Missi Pyle) scream at their viewers for justice against a non-convicted man.
About midway through the wacko nightmare of Gone Girl, what seems like minor work from director David Fincher assuredly rises to Major Fincher when the non-chronological strand suddenly clues us into what happened to Amy. As the puzzle completely changes, a hotshot lawyer (Tyler Perry) begins to coach Nick on how to play the media, and recollections of Amy’s enemies brings up a mentally unstable boarding school boyfriend played by Neil Patrick Harris. The film then brings it all back home, and by its end, relationships and media have been completely decimated by Gone Girl’s delicious pitch black psycho comedy.
One of Fincher’s most brilliant strokes in Gone Girl is the casting of Ben Affleck as a putz. His inclusion in this project reflects more than just his efficiently limited dramatic range (he just looks tired with that salt & pepper hair in Argo), but a direct response to Affleck’s own life narrative as the hot-and-cold actor who apparently has already ruined Batman, starred in Gigli, is not Matt Damon, etc. As Nick, Affleck is a productively charismatic force who seemingly has no control over the story that continues to spin around him, a perfect straight guy to Gone Girl’s farce. As much as Affleck may have changed our impressions with his directorial work, Gone Girl thrives on the infamous significances of Affleck, as the Hollywood caricature that has become super famous but still a scapegoat. Affleck has the last laugh, inhabiting someone underestimated by a world that has more fun seeing him in one way, showing in one of Gone Girl’s best scenes that he can match America at its own buzz game.
The centerpiece of Gone Girl is indeed Rosamund Pike’s also indeed “complicated” Amy. She exists vividly in the flashback scenes of coupling between herself and Affleck, immediately giving complexity to a person who currently exists as a missing person’s headshot. The land that she claims with her specific screen time cannot be underestimated. By Gone Girl’s end, her significance to the story is the film’s most piercing idea, one that cultivates all of its heavy discussions into the makings of one character.
With his supporting characters, Fincher displays in Gone Girl his uncanny understanding of the audience’s perception of popular actors - that the baggage they come with doesn’t have to be a distraction, but means for elaboration. While Harris is undoubtedly a more formidable actor than Perry, the two are used very carefully in terms of dialogue amount and narrative depth; Harris only brims on overdoing it, while Perry shows to be a slick supporting act so long as he isn’t directing himself, or giving himself more than fifteen minutes of screen-time. Fincher gives Perry its most definitive f-bomb as well; a direct indication that he knows you're watching Perry within the context of his image.
Author Gillian Flynn adapts her own novel for a screenplay that becomes a goddamn, root-and-tootin’ fireworks-a-blasting, all-you-can-analyze feast; that the film features numerous unanticipated passages is but the beginning of its gift as a narrative. In a very playful manner, it ingeniously binds the vulnerability of relationships to that of media’s hunger for fantasy. These are lives that lose their genuineness once others get ahold of them, whether its Amy’s parents "plagiarizing" her childhood to create the perfect “Amazing Amy” character, or the way in which Nick & Amy discover the dishonesty in their initial coupling.
With a winding story that includes more than just the answer to “what happened to Amy?”, Gone Girl finds its most brilliantly executed twist as achieved through its attitude. In spite of story escalations that seem so bizarre, in twists that blend vivid cues (a literal “Clue One” from the scavenger hunts) with completely mad black comedy, Gone Girl yearns to only be unbridled, sophisticated, acidic truth.
As thoroughly realized in motion picture form, the story Gone Girl becomes a marvel of filmmaking precision. Fincher is indeed an author first and foremost, a filmmaker who uses concrete notions to articulate perspectives that are equally specific and abstract. There is a calculation within this film regarding its ingredients that provides it with such sumptuousness; the exact amount of dryness in its dark humor, the controlled playfulness of its cold, cold heart, the efficient distractions of its supporting casting, etc. As computed as this wonder may be, there is something undeniably alive within the continuous cerebral circus of Fincher’s film; not only in terms of relevancy but of freshness. Through expertly-created impressions and winding narrative mischief, Gone Girl is an acute diagnosis of the freakish world that has inspired it.
In the scope of his distinctive authorship, Gone Girl may surely not be everyone’s film by Fincher, especially when competing with phenomenons like Fight Club and The Social Network, but it is a shining certification of his mastery; Fincher knows how to orchestrate a sensation.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10