Gone Girl (2014)

11:08 AM

*this review contains spoilers*

David Fincher revels in manipulation. From testosterone-fueled testaments to ego-stroking teenage boys with Fight Club (1999), to the skin-crawling slow burn of Zodiac (2007), Fincher delights in toying with his characters and audience. Gone Girl is no exception. Not only is there is a deep and unmistakable mistrust of its key players, but also in Fincher as the puppeteer. The distortion of trust only serves to deepen the mystery of the story which, convoluted as it is, is the device which holds this crumbling whodunit together. Gone Girl is adapted from the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn. Having not read the novel, I'm told that the film is a faithful adaptation, the screenplay having been written by Flynn herself. I suppose she is to blame then for this hot mess. 

The beautiful, intelligent Amy Dunne goes missing one morning while her husband Nick Dunne conveniently is not home. The front door is open, the glass coffee table is shattered, licks of blood are caught in kitchen corners. No body. Nick appears crushingly apathetic, but doofy enough to relieve any suspicion the audience might have against him. To the police however, he's prime suspect. A window into this minefield comes in the form of Amy Dunne's diary, which glides over the happy days of her marriage; the witty meet cute at a hip NYC party, the saccharine proposal from Nick, the spontaneous fucks in public places. But the whimsical New York adventures hit a brick wall with the recession, and Nick's mother conveniently falls ill, prompting the on-the-rocks couple to shack up in Nick's home state Missouri. Two years later, we're sitting in Nick and Amy's living room, wondering where the girl has gone.  

I did say this film is a hot mess, and I'm not going back on that statement. But that's not to say Gone Girl isn't enjoyable, because it is. Massively so. In small, spaced-out bursts. A story of this magnitude with so many crawlspaces and sub plots and turns is understandably difficult to condense into a film, which is why I started to feel antsy at the hour and half mark and relieved when it ended at the two and a half hour mark. What isn't so enjoyable about Gone Girl is that it isn't so much about the girl as it is about the boy. We might glance into the lives of Amy and Nick primarily through Amy's diary entries, but make no mistake, this story is about Nick, and more importantly, how hard done by he is. The opening moments of Gone Girl introduce us to Amy through the calculated inner-monologue of Nick who at first appears to be staring lovingly at the beautiful blonde head of his beautiful blonde wife, but is really contemplating bashing her head in. A macabre image to instill just the right amount of doubt in Nick and just the right amount of sympathy for Amy. The next two and a half hours is classic Hitchcockian whodunit with Rosamund Pike as the centrepiece frosty blonde.

Fincher isn’t new to abusing his leading ladies - Tracy in Se7en (1995), Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tatttoo (2011)But as Gone Girl progresses, Amy Dunne is made out to be the first one deserving of what comes to her. So much that Fincher has made a career from has been rooted in the male struggle, which is why it didn't really strike me until later, just what truly unsettled me about Gone Girl. I've heard the word "feminist" thrown around a lot lately regarding this film, almost always in a positive context, like we should give Fincher a cookie for making a movie about, or revolving around a woman. But too often, a patriarchal structure that dominates in film results in the main female character(s) either submitting to violence or insanity or being hinted at as mentally ill. Fincher plays into that female stereotype by having Amy succumb to various acts of violence and unhinged psychotic episodes. 

Multiple scenes reveal even that Amy is the "girl who cried rape", having schemed doctors and authorities through clever tricks and in the process ruining the lives of honest law-abiding men. Congratulations Fincher, you've successfully confirmed the ultimate male paranoia that women are untrustworthy. It's especially disturbing considering false rape claims make up a statistic so small, it's practically non-existent. This is the kind of Alpha male bullshit you read about on Men's Rights blogs or The Red Pill. I suppose you could argue that in destroying her husband's life, Amy is taking back the power in the relationship, but really we're just confirming that women outside the confines of a structured male-dominated life can be become dangerous and unstable.

Watch Gone Girl if you enjoy Ben Affleck's megawatt smile, and have a strong stomach for the continued maltreatment and stereotyping of female characters. If you're on board with all of that, Gone Girl is actually a solid psychological thriller, and I'll say watch it on that basis. All I ask is that you prioritize its massive shortcomings. If that doesn't resonate with you, maybe the novelty of a more than decent performance from Tyler Perry will. 

6.5/10 cats

Gone Girl (2014)
Dir. David Fincher
Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry
149 minutes | USA

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