As much as this reviewer is a great fan of David Fincher, “Gone Girl” is a film for the Coen brothers. It would have felt so home with those excellent directors that have the eye for a perfect crime in the most unusual characters. They will have the wicked sense of humour to be sitting at a corner devilishly grinning at those characters and audiences alike. But Fincher’s “Gone Girl” wants to be serious and I mean very serious and there is nothing wrong with that. It becomes fascinated by the twists and dramas it has in store that it forgets something elemental in the making of a crime thriller, the human complexities. Not in the redeeming way but in the complexities of us and the motives and drive that gear towards that insanity.
How much more appropriate can a thriller story begin when the central character of the film Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) wants to split open his wife Amy’s (Rosamund Pike) skull implying both the hate he has for her and would genuinely like to understand the psychology behind that face. This movie is out to set a twisted dark aura into the institution of marriage using the tools of thriller and commentary on society and media. It builds up and builds up good. Fincher plays with his audience right from the moment Nick walks in to a bar named “The Bar” and begins venting out to the bartender (Carrie Coon). From the friendly banter he has with her, we begin to build up a story for them, an obvious one. Then he enlightens us and not smile or put us down but says this is the way the mind assumes but boy how wrong can it be. That is the baseline the film should have been on. I forgot to notice that in the rest of the movie though.
On the fine morning of their fifth anniversary, Nick Dunne’s wife Amy disappears. He comes back home to a broken glass coffee table and immediately he suspects foul play. He calls the investigators and before the Sun can set down, the hunt is on. The pace at which the investigation progresses appeared little bit cinematic but having to be in the middle of the crime drama, this has to be expected. This is an out and out attempt on a Hitchcockian story telling. Nick appears little laid back and unnerved for someone whose spouse just disappeared and soon enough have the possibility of being hurt. Ben Affleck fits that bill quite good. He is indifferent in a way and that does not carry good signs for his prospects. There is of course a reason for it. The layers peel off to expose those. Nothing shocking or unexpected but explains his behaviour. The real twist comes in the middle.
The scenes flip between from the day of disappearance and Amy writing her diary. She details on the charm Nick pulled on her in the New York City through the early glory years. The early years of being together and finishing each other’s sentences. Then comes the disintegration in simple happenings. Then to be dragged on to the state of Missouri into Nick’s hometown. The film consistently begins to guide you through the perspective of marriage losing its glitter. Written by the author who wrote the novel as well, Writer Gillian Flynn reminds the audience on the days gone by. It suits the way initially to be aware of the timeline to show the media frenzy of picking up the idiocy in exploiting the fear and emotion of the public. But when the film becomes into a full on legitimate crime everything out in the open, it asks the audience to do the favour of filling the gap in an unnatural way, almost lethargic.
If one thing is glaring in the media in America, it is the blatant nature of how exploitative the news and the people covering it has become. Riding on the lines of not necessarily using the keywords to get them sued, it is a shameless display of the reality TV styled reporting. Not driven by facts and more so by the opinion, American public are full well aware of the atrocity that gets committed in the name of journalism. There is no comedy or satire to be made out of here but Fincher apparently thinks so. It is no news about the state of our news.
The essential miss of “Gone Girl” is the complexity of human mind. Granted that it is showed through the actions but the drive is through the mind. That mind is through the characters whom are seen as plot pushers than real people. When Nick explains his frustration of not able to understand the motivations of Amy, we ourselves are perplexed by it. When her story comes up untangled, there is still the air of insanity more than the statement on modern marriage. I have a real hard time believing on Nick and Amy played by Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike respectively to have sustained even couple of months let alone more than five years. There is no denial on how people can be more than what they seem to be but the establishment of these two people as a couple having those great years seem implausible. One has to watch “Blue Valentine” to see how two people are madly in love unable to be apart even for a second and then witness their disintegration through the years. We do not see their entire years but a day in their final stages of it is revealing enough.
Marriage or partnership is a poetic mess of complications. When two people merge and decide to share a life together, the emotional dependency and the lack there of makes or breaks it over a long period. Fincher approaches this material like a standard crime movie and nothing else. It has shades of statements but not the solid profundity to look at the pathetic nature of life and the cynicism. With random cast of Tyler Perry as Nick’s lawyer offering some sort of humour and Neil Patrick Harris’ Desi Collings who appear to be a real life non-comical creepy Barney in a more serious manner, “Gone Girl” offers small surprises without ever knocking you out to the ground. It lacks the passion it had in “The Social Network” nor does it offer a bleak void the consumerism has resulted in the modern world like “Fight Club”. It does not carry the intense nature of how a public image can bring any one down to their knees like Steven Soderbergh’s “Side Effects” but more fascinatingly it surprised on the Hitchcockian twist. “Gone Girl” is a crime novel that appear to be a very polished presentation of a life time movie with some moody and seedy score of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. It has all the right cast, glow and components to make an effective psychological thriller but fails to capitulate on it from such a great director.