Words: Brody Rossiter
THE PERFECT CRIME?
There are many different ways in which you can process David Fincher’s Gone Girl. On the surface it appears to be contemporary murder mystery – a sleek, stylish “who done it” of the highest order. Those initial press shots of lead protagonist Nick (Ben Affleck) comfortably resting beside his seemingly deceased wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), immediately manifested the characteristically mischievous mark of Fincher – his ghoulish charm radiating from the glimmering scalpels and brushed metal morgue bed upon which they are lay. However, despite an overarching hue of intrigue which lingers over the first few acts before rapidly crashing down like a poisonous tidal wave – uncovering a far more nuanced and enthralling tale of deceit in its wake – Gone Girl reveals that there is far more to its tale of two lovers than meets the eye.
Nick and Amy, both writers and former New Yorkers, return to Nick’s rural Missouri hometown to care for his ailing mother. Amy initially embraces the move; she has stood by Nick through a recession which has robbed him of his career and the couple of financial security – what’s one more sacrifice? Slowly, through Amy’s eyes, Nick regresses to his rural corn-fed roots, chugging beers and lounging on the sofa for several jobless hours a day. We watch their passionate and deeply romantic history unfold before jumping to the morning of their fifth anniversary. After a contemplative morning at the beach and the bar he runs with his sister Margo (Carrie Coon), Nick returns home to find a smashed up coffee table and his wife missing – so begins the hunt for Amy and America’s hunt for the man who has taken this beautiful and talented young woman.
Gone Girl’s most impressive aspect is the manner in which it successfully interweaves numerous narratives; the curious examination of Nick and Amy’s relationship both past and present; the hunt to discover what has actually happened to Amy; the scathing dissection of the accompanying circus of prime time media bullshit which haunts and shapes the search – all are robust, deeply nuanced and riveting, complimenting one another while constantly driving the story forward into new and exciting avenues. Gillian Flynn’s novelistic source material and her screenplay adaptation of her bestselling book must be commended for both its uniqueness and restraint, as should Fincher’s masterful direction, constantly creating the illusion that the audience is one step ahead in the search for Amy (you never truly are), whilst forcing you to sympathise, empathise, and often despise the cast of characters – and what a perfect cast it is.
Watching Ben Affleck onscreen is always a somewhat Meta experience, and who better to play a man who can’t escape the negative side of the media’s gaze than Batfleck himself. Nick’s battle to stay on the good side of the American media who are seemingly desperate to condemn him for the slightest misstep and deviation from playing the distraught husband provides much of Gone Girl’s most compelling material. Affleck’s public persona has always (unfairly) been that of a smug guy from Boston who made it big thanks to the work and talent of others – a theme mirrored within Nick and Amy’s relationship – yet he is also as likeable as he is unlikeable. Yes, he’s partially responsible for Gigli, but he’s also an Academy Award winning screenwriter and director, and Batman. The audience’s relationship with Nick, and how their opinion will most likely swing from one extreme to the other, is quite possibly Fincher’s finest piece of characterisation, and would not be nearly as potent without our existing knowledge of Affleck and his fantastic, hyper-self-aware performance. Rosamund Pike’s portrayal of icy, ex-golden child Amy is a revelatory moment for the actress and one which cannot be wrote about in-depth without revealing too much of the twisting, turning narrative. Suffice to say; she reaches Tyler Durden-esque levels of brilliance on a couple of occasions – especially during a stellar and unforgettable monologue. The supporting cast is also possesses much strength in-depth. Tyler Perry reaches a career high as Nick’s headline grabbing attorney, Tanner Bolt, Neil Patrick Harris banishes the bro ghost of Barney Stinson for his turn as Amy’s infatuated ex-boyfriend, and Carrie Coon’s animated and emotional depiction of Nick’s sister, Margo, will likely win her many new fans.
The Immaculate score must also be highlighted. Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and long-time collaborator Atticus Finch have perfected their unusual brand of brooding electronica scoring. Whereas The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’s discordant industrial soundtrack felt heavy-handed, overstaying its welcome and overpowering the action onscreen, Gone Girl’s near omnipresent opera of Gothic beats and looped guitars is now joined by some truly beautiful synth interludes and glockenspiel movements that both enhance and mystify.
Page after page could be written about just how complex and accomplished a piece of cinema Gone Girl is. There are so many themes and elements that possess so much meaning, or perhaps just the pretence of meaning. After two hours and twenty minutes of unmissable filmmaking, I was still left questioning why Nick, and once Amy, repeatedly wore a specific pale blue Oxford shirt during certain pivotal scenes. The tiniest of factors are seemingly as important as the largest, but ultimately you are at Fincher’s mercy throughout – thankfully he will do with you what he pleases. Gone Girl is a pristine origami swan floating upon a vast, dark ocean of tainted love, slowly unfolding itself to reveal something both magnificent and unforgettable beneath every delicate crease.