“What are you thinking? How are you feeling? What have we done to each other? What will we do?”
There’s a common phrase: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Gone Girl takes the saying, and ramps it up all the way. On the surface, Nick and Amy Dunne (Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike) are a picture-perfect couple, recently relocated to Nick’s small hometown from a bustling New York City. That is, until Amy’s sudden disappearance. Her missing persons case is soon turned murder mystery after she fails to turn back up, with one prime suspect: Nick. As the investigation chugs along, and the audience is treated to interspersed scenes from Amy’s diary, the layers are quickly pulled back from the idyllic relationship, revealing the lies and secrets that hides beneath the surface.
Owing to Gillian Flynn’s nail-biting novel, from which the movie takes its plot, Gone Girl has the excellent benefit of a terrific script, one that leads Affleck and Pike play off with effortless finesse. Affleck is the ever affable, unalert husband. Though the character is, in many ways, a blank slate of a person, Affleck helps to inject personality into the otherwise stale character. Even as Nick’s more damaging secrets are discovered, he remains the tale’s hero, a fact that may not have been so certain in a lesser actor’s hands.
The true star, however, is Rosamund Pike. As you watch the film, you become increasingly aware that Amy Dunne is undeniably psychopathic – never more clear than when she slices her ex-boyfriend’s (Neil Patrick Harris) throat while she’s having sex with him so that she can plan an elaborate escape back to Nick, her husband whom she’s currently framing for her own murder. Pike’s character is simultaneously unstable and detached, as well as charming and charismatic. All of this is topped off with an air of casual superiority and nonchalance. Amy thinks that she’s better than you, and it’s important that you know that.
Director David Fincher expertly balances separate timelines on top of the jarring twists that come with a mystery-thriller, suspending both in a dreamlike quality. Even as the film’s cast takes Amy’s diary entries seriously, the audience gets the dim notion that not everything they’re being shown may be entirely the truth. In fact, the whole film preys upon the premise of an unreliable narrator. In turn, this forces the audience to actively involve themselves with the film, rather than passively view it. The audience is prevented from disengaging from the movie, lest they miss a plot point. Just when you think you can trust a character, you can’t. Where most films allow their audience to know everything there is to know about their leads, Gone Girl strips that trust away completely, forcing viewers onto their toes.
While Fincher’s Fight Club is often lauded as the ultimate ‘Man’s Movie’, perhaps Gone Girl is for women. It’s not because every woman’s first instinct upon discovering her husband’s infidelity is to frame him for her meticulously planned murder. It’s the almost empowering tale of a woman fighting back after everything’s been taken from her. In a film landscape where women are more typically hapless damsels-in-distress, Gone Girl gives women a voice, albeit one more violent and manipulative than it ought to be.
By: Darienne Sim