Gone Girl Review
But the real question is: would you want her back?
It’s a testament to a great movie that, after seeing it, you’re already itching to revisit it; to unravel its many mysteries with successive viewings, each one better informed than the last.Fincher’s films almost universally hold this quality, and Gone Girl maintains the tradition for the best part of two hours. It’s a shame, then, that it’s two and a half hours long.
Almost impossible to pigeon-hole – as with much of Fincher’s work – Gone Girl effortlessly shifts its way through being a slow-burning kidnapping mystery flick set against the backdrop of an acute relationship study, to being a potential murder investigation set within a murky world of lies, deceit and media frenzy. It at once reminds us of sharp old-school thrillers like Presumed Innocent and Disclosure, whilst also paying greater tribute to the works of Hitchcock, and classics like Sleuth – as well as one of my personal Fincher faves, The Game.
With an eclectic cast, Fincher elicits some outstanding performances, with the two leads standing out (Affleck is surprisingly nuanced, whilst Rosamund Pike delivers a career-best) but the supporting ensemble giving the film some much-needed heart (Carrie Coon), humour (Tyler Perry) and honesty (Kim Dickens).He also turns in another trademark slick piece of efficient direction, making the most of every minute of what should have felt like a much longer runtime, but which glides along smoothly with not a wasted frame. Another moody score from the Nine Inch Nails crew perfectly suits the material too.
Indeed, it beautifully builds over the first two hours into what promises to be one of Fincher’s best works, using his now-trademark switch-and-bait twists to surprise you repeatedly over the course of the proceedings, developing layers upon layers of uncertainty until you simply don’t know who to trust; what to believe.
Ultimately, though, a fitting conclusion proves elusive for this particular tale – perhaps there isn’t one – and the final act unravels much of what has been so meticulously built-up, turning this from greatness into a merely solid piece of one-watch work.
As a result of the author-driven ending (although different from the book, the author wrote the screenplay and struggles just as much with finishing that), the film, as a whole – and as perhaps with many of his other films – turns into something of a love-it-or-hate-it marmite endeavour. Some will appreciate its darkly comic denouement, which veers into War of the Roses territory, albeit with the kind of subtlety that you would only expect from such a master auteur, whilst others will find it something of a deeply dissatisfying cop-out.
Sharp and slick, Gone Girl is ultimately too clever for its own good, unravelling during the final act after an otherwise masterful build-up.
It all starts so well, with Affleck's disillusioned husband returning home from a bar to find signs of a struggle, and his wife nowhere to be found. With the police probing every aspect of his life, gathering evidence, and the press foaming at the bit, eager to go on a fun little witchhunt on behalf of the gone girl, it soon becomes apparent that he is going to need to be more than innocent - he is going to need to prove his innocent, both in the court of public opinion and in a court of law. He lives in a state with the death penalty after all.
The build-up during this time uses the wife's diary-entry flashbacks to clinically dissect an initially blissful marriage soon under the pressure of careers, finances, family and all the usual things you would expect, particularly during a recession. Through them we learn that Affleck was far from a perfect husband, and that he has plenty of secrets to hide, but what of Pike's picture-perfect wife? Is she really as perfect as she seems?
Certainly little more can be said without spoiling the surprises along the way. Fincher uses these ingredients to stir up a sumptuous feast which at once works as a mystery thriller and a scathing satire upon the press and public furore - and a similarly cynical, but still brutally honest, look at some of the problems that may occur in any relationship. Ultimately, though, the book's twists and turns lead it into truly dark comic territory, and it's here where - after the bloody violence and horrific witch-hunt that have gone before it; where, after we've been asked to take things so very seriously - the tonal shift starts to stick in our throat. This isn't War of the Roses, or Mr & Mrs Smith, after all - this is a David Fincher film, and it deserved a David Fincher ending, not Gillian Flynn ending.
Ultimately, however, you need to know little more than the fact that the film is directed by David Fincher, and features standout performances, to know that this still deserves a watch. Just be warned, that – unlike many of his classics – you may merely want to watch Gone Girl once. Afterwards, you may not want her back.
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