On the Silver Screen – Gone Girl
David Fincher directs the adaptation of the popular novel Gone Girl starring future Batman Ben Affleck as as Nick Dunne, a man accused of murdering his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) after she goes missing and the evidence starts to point to him.
Having not read the novel I had very little knowledge of what this film is about going in so I won’t be able to discuss it as an adaptation of the novel. I’d be inclined to say it’s a faithful one given that writer Gillian Flynn wrote both the novel and the screenplay for this film.
Structurally the film plays out a bit strangely jumping between past and present with little to no announcement which sometimes makes the narrative slightly difficult to follow. I feel that a Memento style visual change to indicate the past would have been welcomed here and made things a little clearer; that being said the structure really helps to flesh out the story as we see events through different perspectives.
Nick’s part of the narrative mostly focuses on him being investigated after his wife disappears. The evidence is teased and revealed very slowly over the course of the film as he insists that he is not responsible but it becomes clear that he is not entirely innocent in other matters helping to sow the seeds of doubt in the mind of the audience as to whether he did it. Many of the unhappy marriage tropes are thrown in for good measure like the extramarital affair, the growing disinterest and lost spark in the relationship as well as money woes among many other things. Nick is a man fully aware of the fact that his marriage was falling apart but it’s not something he wants to share with the police since that will only incriminate him further. It’s interesting to see him purposefully misdirect the investigation to suit his own interests and it’s clever to keep the audience doubting the character in order to keep the mystery alive throughout.
I found Nick a very difficult character to follow since I didn’t find anything about him especially likeable which was probably the point in a lot of ways. From the beginning I thought the character was sleazy and a little entitled as to what he feels he deserves in life so I found it difficult to see what would have drawn Amy to him in the first place. As always I found Ben Affleck’s performance to be really bland which contrasted with the clear nuance implicit in how the character was written but not effectively shown in Affleck’s acting. There was something unnatural about his scenes that often lifted me out of the narrative. He has no real charisma and seems to have a lack of chemistry with costar Rosamund Pike or anyone else he shares the film with.
Amy’s side of the story is something I found to be much more interesting. I liked the idea introduced through her of creating a narrative, something that’s hinted at early on by the series of books seen to improve upon her real life experiences. Much of her story is about her manufacturing a believable fiction that will be detrimental to Nick and it’s something that is explored very well. Her intelligence and devious nature are put across very well along with her propensity to be diabolical in her methods.
Her character was the strongest part of the film for me and Rosamund Pike plays this role perfectly. I have never seen her be so devious and sinister bringing a refreshing change for this actress. I was captivated by every minute of her screen time and was constantly enthralled to see what she would do next. Her character was put across to the audience in a really interesting way as she began the film appearing to be victimised by an emotionally -and physically- abusive husband who seemed to take advantage of her weakness and fear but as the film went on it becomes clear that she is completely in control of the situation. It’s an interesting character progression that ties together quite nicely, once we learn her real plan it makes the earlier scenes so much clearer.
As mysteries go it was teased pretty effectively with enough relevant information coming at the audience at appropriate times. I do feel that parts of the film feel oddly paced and the 149 minute run time is a big ask. I don’t feel that the film wholly earned that run time and could have been trimmed down considerably if the mystery was played out a little closer and more emphasis given on the post twist scenes. I won’t spoil what the twist was but it does take a while to present itself.
The themes of public perception of people through mainstream and social media as well as the way events are presented by those who experienced them are kept nicely at the forefront. I liked that the narrative constantly evolved based on who is telling the story and the implications of keeping a fiction consistent enough that it fools as many people as possible. There are plenty of surprises concerning these ideas and the story does keep the audience guessing throughout.
In terms of supporting cast I felt that this was something of a mixed bag. Tyler Perry’s lawyer Tanner Bolt didn’t do it for me, something seemed too unnaturally cool about this character which is something I found incredibly off putting whenever he was on screen. Carrie Coon as Nick’s sister Margo gives an impressive and memorable turn as someone who stands by her brother despite the terrible things he has clearly done.
Kim Dickens as Detective Rhonda Boney does a great job here, her feelings about the investigation are clear from the beginning and she plays the combination of suspicion and disbelief really well throughout. It was good to see Neil Patrick Harris flex his acting chops in a more serious role. He plays Amy’s ex boyfriend Desi Collings as just unsettling enough to cast suspicion on him as well.
A strong story with an intriguing narrative and an effective mystery. The story is filled with suspense and the twist is a great one for those who haven’t read the book. Rosamund Pike gives a landmark performance as the devious and calculating Amy, a woman who expertly manipulates her situation to suit her own interests. The running time of this film does feel excessive and could have been trimmed somewhat as well as being brought down by the bland performance of Ben Affleck playing a character who is fairly unlikeable as it is.