Arts Review, Movies
David Fincher, dir.
Gillian Flynn, script based on her novel
Starring: Ben Affleck (Nick Dunne), Rosamund Pike (Amy Elliott-Dunne), Carrie Coon (Margo Dunne), Kim Dickens (Detective Rhonda Boney), Tyler Perry (Tanner Bolt), Missi Pyle (Ellen Abbott), Neil Patrick Harris (Desi Collings), Sela Ward (Sharon Schieber)
It’s only October but mark my words, when Oscar talk starts heating up around Christmas, one of the films being talked about will be Gone Girl. It’s a big budget Hollywood thriller, directed by David Fincher, a two-time nominee, who helmed The Social Network, which garnered three Academy Awards. And it stars Ben Affleck, an Oscar winner.
Prior wins and nominations always help but Gone Girl would have gained attention on its own steam. Gillian Flynn’s adaptation of her best selling novel about a marriage gone bad and the disappearance of the young, rich wife in the dissolving relationship is tough, lucid and concise—just the kind of thing that attracts audiences to films and reading clubs. Fincher, whose previous work includes the brilliantly made thrillers Seven, Zodiac and The Fight Club, is the perfect director for Gone Girl. He honours the material, making the initial vanishing of Amy, the poor little rich girl, into something worthy of high drama; then, he builds the complex story that unfolds with great precision and depth.
Gone Girl is a complex thriller, which is thoroughly nasty in its treatment of fidelity and mass media’s endless compulsion to feast on the hedonism of others. There are too many plot twists that shouldn’t be revealed in this review—but, trust me, they’re well crafted and add to the audience’s pleasure as the film progresses.
The premise, which can be disclosed, is complicated in its own way. Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), a failure as a magazine writer in New York, retreated to his hometown of North Carthage (what a classic name!), Missouri with his Manhattan-born wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) when his mother became fatally ill with cancer. Amy, whose parents wrote a best selling series of children’s books starring “Amazing Amy,” has tried to fit into Missouri life with no success. Soon after the film opens, a depressed Nick celebrates his fifth wedding anniversary with early afternoon drinks with his sister Margo at the Bar, the drinking establishment purchased for them by Amy.
When Nick arrives home, Amy is missing and a big glass table has been shattered. Alarmed, Nick calls the police and an investigation begins that reaches epic proportions. “Amazing Amy’s” disappearance goes viral and everyone is a suspect, especially Nick.
For a good portion of Gone Girl, the story is told in the present tense as a thriller and as a backstory through Amy’s narrated diary of how the couple met, fell in love, and gradually grew apart. Then, it gets more complicated…
What’s fascinating about Gone Girl is how far it has been able to expand its focus beyond genre expectations. On the most basic level, it’s a thriller with enough narrative permutations to intrigue any lover of classic film noir or John le Carré espionage adventures. But Gone Girl goes beyond that to make sardonic comments about the decline of the American way of life in the 21st century.
We’re living in a time of degrading entertainment shows that manufacture celebrities out of those unfortunate enough to have their private lives exposed to the media. At least in America, the recession of 2008 hit hard and it’s no surprise that a lowlife hangout in Gone Girl is set in a decaying abandoned shopping mall. Hypocrisy is ever present in the U.S.—and to be fair, in Canada, Europe and elsewhere. While hedonism quietly touches the lives of many people, the rise of hard-core religion is a fact in every continent in the world.
Heavy stuff, right? Well, Fincher and Flynn have created a film that touches on all of those realities while placing its most piercing gaze on marriage. The Dunnes appear to epitomize what couples should be: beautiful, rich and stylish. Gone Girl strips them bare, revealing how profoundly unhappy they are. Then, the film’s story trajectory forces them back into each other’s arms. The apparent triumph of marriage is shown up to be a matter of appearances—and that’s the essence of this film’s success.
Gone Girl is a true inheritor of the mantle of film noir. It deserves to be celebrated while, no doubt, making oodles of dollars.
Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical 96.3 FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus
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