If you think your marriage is complicated, stop what you’re doing and witness the absolute nightmare that is the union of Nick and Amy Dunne (Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike). Gone Girl, a faithful adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name, is an understated, intriguing, and darkly humorous look at the trials of married life. Only instead of bickering about money and who’s turn it is to feed the cat, it’s a full-fledged (maybe) murder mystery. What else would you expect from a David Fincher film?
It’s the five-year anniversary of Nick and Amy’s thoroughly unimpressive marriage, so the joyless husband starts the day with a trip to a bar; His bar – to be exact – known as “The Bar” (very meta). He enjoys some 10-in-the-morning bourbon with his twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon), when a nosy neighbor calls to let Nick know that his front door has been left open. When he arrives back home, some furniture is overturned, the iron is still hot, and Amy is nowhere to be found. Nick calls the police and before he knows it, he’s at the center of one of the biggest missing persons cases in the country. Thanks to a dreadful press conference in which Nick comes across as indifferent and bored by his wife’s vanishing act, public sentiment quickly turns negative and he becomes public enemy number one.
It’s difficult to talk about Gone Girl without delving into spoilers, so for many of my claims you’ll just have to take me at my word that I have evidence to support them. For the sake of not giving too much away, let me just put this idea into your head: Amy Dunne is not a simple character. Her parents are the authors of a series of best-selling children’s books about “Amazing Amy”, a little girl that is suspiciously like their daughter. Only, Amazing Amy is a complete success in every instance where Real Amy is a failure. Based on Amy’s actions throughout the course of the film, it’s safe to say that had a negative effect on her development.
Gone Girl touts itself as being a no-punches-pulled look at the inner workings of an ordinary marriage. There is the meet-cute story of a first kiss in powdered sugar snow (I promise that makes sense in context), the all-smiles early years, and then the inevitable tapering off. The first half of Gone Girl accomplishes this exposé brilliantly. Director David Fincher molds a genuine mystery around Amy’s disappearance, and makes us really question if Nick just might be capable of murder. As more and more attention is paid to Nick, his secrets reveal themselves in surprising ways. More importantly, the surprises are authentic. We slowly begin to unravel this marriage to find a rancid center, and it’s one that may ring a little too true for some audiences.
But at the midway point of Gone Girl (a 150-minute run altogether), everything changes; The perspective of the film, the perceived antagonist, the general tone – all shift drastically as a major surprise is revealed. At this point, Gone Girl stops being a pragmatic look at marriage and turns into an examination of one characters’ socio- and psychopathic behavior. The entire film is a tale of two marriages: the one Nick describes as his truth, and the one Amy describes in a diary she left behind. Well Gone Girl is the tale of two movies: one is an unflinching window into real marital issues, and the other is a rather convoluted chess match that has nothing to do with marriage and everything to do with complete insanity. This second half, which feels like a completely different film, is well put together and stands alone as brilliant, but I cannot help but feel it diminishes all that was set up in those first 70 minutes. Again, it’s hard to explain fully without spoiling anything, but in essence Gone Girl gets bored with being a thoughtful mystery and opts to become an outlandish tale of vengeance. Is that exciting? Well, yes. This segment of the film is excellent. But when taken in conjunction with the previous segment, it creates a disparity that one cannot ignore.
In the final 15 minutes, Gone Girl once again becomes about the compromises of marriage, and it is phenomenal. The films closing moments are breathtaking, enraging, and oddly funny. And through it all, we’ve been admiring the believable performance of Ben Affleck, and witnessing the birth of a new star in Rosamund Pike. Pike has an immense challenge with Amy, and delivers in every single scene. This is a daring performance that will be remembered for years to come.
David Fincher has made two really great movies with Gone Girl. I just wish that they coexisted a little more comfortably. I wanted more of the subtle mystery that was setup in part one, and less of the unbelievable revenge story in part two.
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