Note: I began this review over a month ago after seeing the film, only to be interrupted by the NCEA exam period. Because this film initially stirred quite strong emotions which have since cooled or evolved, the resulting article may seem somewhat uneven. Additionally, I have decided to make this review the first in a series of musings about violence in cinema, which is something I think about often. Enjoy, and be warned that SPOILERS follow.
Gone Girl is a disgusting film.
There, I said it.
It is a film that, in the admittedly very talented hands of David Fincher, throws everything at the screen and dares you to look away. In truth, I wish I had looked away more often. In that sense, Gone Girl possesses an extremely perverse brilliance . Fincher’s aesthetic combines neutral, benign colours and moody shadows to create an involving, gritty atmosphere which is punctuated by a spooky, ethereal score. It is a noir-esque paint job covering…no, emphasising a cast of non-characters who shift through the propulsive plot like neurotic, mumbling shells.
Gone Girl is not a realistic movie, and to judge it as such would mean joining the group which Hitchcock erroneously labelled ‘The Plausibles’. The disappearance of Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) leads to a media circus of absurd proportions and suspicion falls on her somewhat inept (and possibly violent) husband Nick, who is played by Ben Affleck. Under the unwavering eye of hack journalists and ‘concerned neighbours’, cracks begin to appear in Nick and Amy’s fairytale marriage and it becomes clear that nothing is as it seems.
Fincher (in an interview with Pure FM) stated that “…it (Gone Girl) starts as a mystery, becomes this sort of wildly absurdist thriller and ends as a satire.” This description is apt, not only as a summation of the film’s tone, but as an indication of it’s main problem. Gone Girl gives the impression that it wants to be all theses things, but it succeeds at being something far less; a grotesque slideshow with a faux-satirical veneer . As twists and turns pile upon each other, story and character are further relegated to the background as the audience is encouraged to gasp when it revealed that Amy is alive, cringe as she mutilates herself and recoil in horror when she murders a sleazy (and gullible) lover with a craft knife.While he is on top of her.
It is in the escalating brutality that Gone Girl truly loses it’s way and it becomes clear that the themes and ideas the film posits (perception vs reality, sensationalism in the media, gender roles) are not important. Rather, they are a means of giving a sadistic thriller a comfortable, intellectual gloss. ‘Comfortable’ may be the wrong word, as no such luxury is afforded to the audience, but what I am getting at is this; without the pretence of being a satire, Gone Girl would very quickly be relegated to the rank of bargain bin psychological thriller. Perhaps then, one could argue that Gone Girl is simply a noble failure with sizeable ambitions whose scattergun approach to genre and tone simply misses the mark. I do not believe this to be the case, as the film’s use of stomach-churning violence and disturbing psychosis is felt (and perpetrated by) a cast who are not playing characters, nor even archetypes. The world of Gone Girl is populated by poorly-drawn chess pieces, things that cannot contribute to (potentially) thought provoking ideas because they are constantly being manipulated by a story whose first goal is to make one gag rather than think. Perhaps, Gone Girl could have been saved by a degree of nuance (implication is almost always more powerful than demonstration) or the inclusion of players whose instincts include more than ‘fight, fight and flee’ or ‘gossip,manipulate and murder,’ but one can only speculate.
Of course, maybe I am overthinking Gone Girl. It may be ‘just a movie’ whose primary objective is too entertain, but that is more disturbing. If I, as a viewer, am not supposed to demand adequate context,reasons and consequences from the dark, violent media I am encouraged to consume then I have one response:
Stop the ride please, I’d like to get off.