Gone Girl is as much about plot twists as it twists its tone and its audience’s allegiances. It’s a sick, cautionary tale. It’s the blackest comedy about perversion and it contains an ugly hook which won’t let its audience turn away from its unpleasantness, embroiled in a thin fabric of farce. It is directed by David Fincher and written by Gillian Flynn, who is unusually the lone writing credit adapting her own novel, Flynn undresses her book from many of the vivid details which make it feel so complete, such as the town in post-financial crisis abandonment and instead exposes naked its ugly interior, keeping a focus on the role of modern media in shaping perceptions. That ugliness is portrayed by the unpleasantness of both leads. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike play Nick and Amy, a husband and wife whose relationship flourishes in flashbacks, before she goes missing and eyes inevitably fall on the husband, who himself seems confused but not acting exactly how people expect him to behave. Fincher grapples with his audience’s perception of social norms in order to deliberately make things disconcerting and tense.
The polarisation of the cinema between feverish laughter and downright shock is what makes the film so strange and difficult to handle. It isn’t quite as good as the book but as a standalone work it is strange and compelling, perhaps more challenging. Its commentary on women can sit uncomfortably. Certain twists and characteristics can feel like throwaway pulpy storytelling on the page, but on screen it felt more blatant and shocking in its subtext. Gone Girl is probably not Fincher’s finest work (for that remains reserved for Fight Club, Zodiac, The Social Network), yet it’s an icy shower of a film, a deconstruction of what commitment means in the twenty first century, testing its audience’s sympathies with a frightening situation. Its characters reek of malevolence, which in a way we are all guilty of creating.
Review by David Rank
Gone Girl is out now in the UK. Running time 149 mins. Certificate 18 (UK).