Dark, Wicked, and Perfectly Entertaining: A Review of David Fincher’s Gone Girl

amy eliot dunne

The Film: Gone Girl
Director: David Fincher
Primary Cast: Rosamund Pike, Ben Affleck, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris
U.S. Release Date: 3 October 2014

I am someone who read Gone Girl before seeing the film. Now that I’ve seen the film, a little piece of me wishes that I had skipped the book. Oh well. . . too late for that.

Also, I feel sort of silly reviewing this film for some reason, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway. However, I am not going to bother with a summary, because it’s a hard plot to summarize without spoiling things  and the book came out 2 years ago, so. . .

Short Version
Fincher is a sick, twisted little misanthrope. Personally, I love him for it. Gone Girl may not be his best work to date (then again, it could be). That said, it may just be his most hypnotic, his most humorous, and his most wicked all at once. Gone Girl amuses and unsettles, entertains and disturbs. With Gone Girl, Fincher and Flynn offer audiences a tense, manipulative, and pulpy ride that they won’t soon forget, and this sinister take on sex, love, and marriage is the best film I’ve seen this year.

The Great
First, let me say that, in my opinion, this film is PERFECTLY cast. As someone who read the book, not a single casting choice disappointed. In fact, many were downright brilliant.

In particular, Rosamund Pike’s portrayal of Amy is a thing of dark, manipulative, and evil beauty. I have never seen Pike in anything before, but she certainly steals the show. She is terrifying, she is powerful, she is gorgeous, and watching her go from sweet to crazed to downright haunting was a real treat. Also, while I’m thinking about Rosamund’s performance, allow me to say that, I for one, would like to see more characters like Amy Eliot Dunne. She is a woman who is as ruthless, as capable, and as downright nasty as scores of male “antiheroes” that have come before her, and I do hope to see more like her.

Affleck’s performance is less noteworthy, but he does what the character requires of him. He is a suitable Nick Dunne, in part, because viewers can’t ignore the fact that he’s Ben Affleck. As we (as audience members) watch Affleck playing Dunne who performs as his life is examined by the public, it’s easy to conflate actor and murder suspect. There is also something about Affleck’s face (probably the “villainous” chin) that also makes Affleck the perfect choice to play Nick Dunne. One moment, you can’t help but love him, the next, he looks like the most arrogant man you’ve ever seen. This duplicity is the heart of his character, and Affleck portrays it with ease. So yeah, while Pike steals the show (and hopefully, continues to do so in future roles) Affleck also does a fine job with the material he is given.

The supporting cast all give solid performances as well. I was particularly pleased with Carrie Coon’s portrayal of Margo and with Kim Dickens’s of Detective Boney.

Though I mentioned the cast first, my favorite thing about Gone Girl is actually the music. Reznor and Ross’s soundtrack is absolutely brilliant. It is ethereal and beautiful. It is also dark, terrifying, and, at points, downright disturbing. Along with the way the film is shot (and lit), the soundtrack plays a vital role in establishing and maintaining the film’s specific tone, it’s wicked and hypnotic mood, and it’s atmosphere of darkness and doubt. I’ve listened to the soundtrack several times since I saw the film, and it amazes me every time. It has the same sense of humor (very black indeed) as Flynn’s script. It will leave you tense and paranoid even as you marvel at it’s beauty (in that way, it is very much like Amazing Amy herself and has a great deal in common with Gone Girl as a whole).

Gone Girl is atmospheric, moody, and beautifully shot. Fincher’s well-constructed sets certainly deserve praise. Like the lives of those it portrays, this film has been shaped and preened and manicured to perfection even as violence and darkness simmer beneath it’s surface. I also found that where scenes from the novel were cut, it was usually for the better. Flynn has done a fine job of translating her novel into a screenplay, and Fincher’s version of the film is (with the possibly exception of it’s last section) well edited.

Maybe I’m a twisted fuck like Fincher, but I also thoroughly enjoyed the film’s sense of humor. Yes, it’s pitch black and sinister enough to leave some feeling bad for laughing, but it’s also smart and, if you allow it to be, a lot of fun because I said so obv.

I don’t want to spoil too much here, but allow me to say this about the film’s climactic and most violent scene: Hallelujah thank the lord I love it! I’m not kidding. I wish I could discuss the sick brilliance of that scene in detail here, but I’ll wait until people have the film on DVD before I write anything like that.

The Not So Great
As someone who did read Flynn’s novel, my main beef with Gone Girl lies with the portrayal of Nick Dunne. Audiences are not led to dislike him as much as they should, and I think the film would have been better and considerably more interesting if he were less sympathetic that he is. 

Also, as seems to often happen when novels are adapted to film, the “ending” of Gone Girl seems to take a rather long time indeed. I feel like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has a similar pacing/structural problem. . . so yeah. The film’s resolution is more drawn-out than I would have liked. Oh well.

There You Are
Gone Girl offers a haunting, scathing, and wonderfully wicked look at relationships, gender relations, and human nature. The film asks a number of intriguing moral questions, but it has no desire at all to answer them in any sort of clear or hopeful way. I suppose there are some who will be bothered by this fact, but why those sort of people would go to a Fincher film is beyond me. Gone Girl is pulpy and trashy and it knows it. In fact, it knows it so well that it is able to shine a damning and disturbing light on that which makes it so much fun.

Strong performances, a brilliant soundtrack, and a dark as night sense of humor abound in Fincher’s most recent offering. Fans of Flynn’s novel may be annoyed by a few details, but are sure to be pleased overall. Meanwhile, those who haven’t ready Flynn’s novel are sure to be delighted, sickened, or both. Also, though some of the nuance from the novel is lost, Gone Girl is a story that, thanks to Fincher, is considerably more effective on film. 

Thank you for reading, feel free to leave a comment below.

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