Gone Girl is, in the perfect sense, a slow burner. It starts off pretty unassuming and normal. Nick Dunne gets home sometime during the day of his 5th wedding anniversary to see a chair overturned and the glass coffee table smashed to bits and his wife Amy nowhere to be found. And from there the story slowly unwinds, raveling looser, building and building until all hell breaks loose.
The narrative is split into two parts. While it follows the present, counting the days since Amy’s disappearance, it also flashes back to Nick and Amy’s past, using Amy’s diary as our source. Amy and Nick meeting, Amy disappearing. Amy and Nick getting engaged, Nick being questioned by the police about Amy and not knowing very much about her. Amy and Nick losing their jobs and moving to Missouri to be with Nick’s mom who has cancer, Nick doing a press conference and smiling next to his wifes’ missing poster. Slowly and slowly, things seem to get completely out of control. And then she’s just gone.
David Fincher was beyond the perfect person to direct this. The pace of this film was pitch-perfect and I think any other director would’ve moved the story along quicker. But what makes this film so good, and so enticing, is the slow build. The story drops a hint here, a small clue there and slowly unwinds all the characters, their stories, and their lies, until it all just explodes. The story never reveals more than it needs to. Fincher lets us know information when we need, and never before. Having read the book and knowing what we going to happen just as fun, I think, than if I hadn’t read it beforehand. Fincher drops clues and makes small gestures and has throwaway lines that made me, the informed viewer, love the attention to the tiny details.
Fincher also makes some pretty hard jabs at the way the media and the public react to cases like this. The highly publicized case, with beautiful people involved. The way we put “experts” on TV to make judgments when they have very basic information, how the population takes “sides” based on “evidence” reported by the media, and the rumors and untrue details made up to spiral the case. The flip-flopping over the public disliking Nick, then loving him, then thinking he is a killer and hating him to liking him again speaks volumes about widely publicized cases we heard about so often. People are so quickly jumping to conclusions of who did it and assuming they know much more about a case that they really do. People regard it almost like reality TV, being almost that far removed from what the actual situation is.
And in contrast, Fincher does the exact opposite, as a director. Fincher doesn’t paint anyone as black or white. He shows them as they are so that we, not leaning one way or the other, like we like to have people painted. But the audience actually has to make their own decisions on the characters. He leaves everything ambiguous enough that you teeter back and forth on opinion, but it’s also not too vague that you don’t connect with a character. Even after the reveal of what exactly is going on and who did what, no judgment is laid down by the director. The characters are treated fairly, and don’t have them boxed in neat and perfectly into either “good” or “bad”. Life isn’t like this, and Fincher puts that out there for us to see. It’s such a different approach from most films of this genre. Fincher doesn’t really care what we’re supposed to think, he just wants us to think. And I love it.
In regards to casting, Ben Affleck is spot-on. Though I read the book before I knew about casting choices, I knew Ben Affleck would be the perfect casting for Nick. Nick is an interesting character. We are constantly trying to decide whether he’s just aloof, or if there’s some other motive going on. At a press conference, he stands next to the missing poster of his wife, looking sullen. When one of the dozens of photographers shouts “smile!”, he obliges, for a quick second. But it’s that smile that haunts him. It’s that homecoming king, charming smile that nobody can seem to figure out. That smile, that moment, is what seals the deal of Affleck nailing the part of Nick.
Rosamund Pike is the one you’ve been hearing most about since the film’s release. Pike, not as big a star or household name as her on-screen husband, has been around for a while. From Bond girl to Bennett sister, she’s done various projects, but none as juicy or amazing as this role here. Without spoiling anything, Rosamund Pike as Amy steals the show. Pike is beautiful, with wide, innocent eyes plays Amy to a tee. There is much more to Amy than there appears to be, and Pike just adds so many layers (that the audience who hasn’t read the book may not quite see at first). Hard to talk about without any spoilers, but expect to hear Pike’s name in conversation come Oscar time. Her role is insanely juicy and Pike knocked it out of the park.
The supporting cast, as well, was quite spot on. While many were questioning some of Fincher’s choices, there was no one who was at all weak or not giving out their best. Tyler Perry as Tanner Bolt exceeded many people’s expectations. Playing the cocky and hot-shot lawyer, Perry brings some unexpected talent to the role and was well cast. As well, Neil Patrick Harris seemed a very odd choice to me, and while his character is also very odd and little unfitting, he really does nail the role well. Carrie Coon, who is still relatively unknown, was perfect as Margo, Nick’s twin sister. The only real moral compass of the film, she brought perfect wit and empathy where it was needed.
But seriously, this film is just stitched together in a way that no other director would dare to do. The pace is a pure slow burner, the unraveling of the story. And not to mention that one scene, which had some of the most perfect editing and was an incredibly gutsy and was ever-so Fincher. It was a shocking move, how it was filmed and edited, but it seemed to cap things so perfectly for the story we have. As well the ‘aha’ reveal scene, where things finally start to become explained is perfectly done. It’s incredibly impacting and is just so well done. The emotional impact it punches is really great and the reveal is so perfectly timed and edited.
Indeed, just the whole film was so well edited (as usual), and the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross was perfectly mood setting (again, no surprise). While it’s not really a film that just anyone will enjoy, it’s extremely well made and is perfectly adapted from its source material (mainly due to the author penning the screenplay). While the book doesn’t expand on a few points I felt it would benefit from (the impact of Amazing Amy on real Amy’s life, and many other things that I can’t talk about without spoilers) but it was the film that the book deserved and then some.