This review contains plot spoilers.
Gone Girl does nothing to deviate from what we expect of David Fincher: a stylish thriller, steely tones, and an eerie soundtrack provided by Trent Reznor. As the film opened with a series of shots of suburban houses and parking lots, quiet in the bleached stark light of early morning in small-town Missouri, I was confident that I would like this latest offering from the director who gave us The Social Network and Fight Club. However, fifteen minutes into the film I realised it wasn’t going to go how I expected.
First off, let me confess that I haven’t read the book, but from what I understand Fincher did some serious editing. In her review of the film for New York Village Voices, Stephanie Zacharek opines: ‘Ticking along with metronome-like efficiency, it’s more slick than sick’, and I can’t help but agree. Perhaps that’s what happens when you have to cut an almost five-hundred page book down to a two and a half hour film, but the lightening-quick dialogue between Amy and Nick left me unconvinced of their initial connection. They were just a bit too cool. Then again, this is all part of Gillian Flynn’s ‘we are all putting on a front and pretending to be something we’re not in order to seduce each other’ narrative. Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck execute this masterful manipulation in seemingly effortless portrayals. In fact, all the performances are stellar. Affleck is perfectly off-key, whilst Pike is poised and aloof, making her psychotic transition in the second half even more impacting. Meanwhile, Carrie Coon as Nick’s sister Margo is likeable and funny, and considering it is her first film role, Coon seems to have transitioned from theatre to film seamlessly.
Flynn and Fincher have both come under fire for the potentially misogynistic undertones of the film, the criticism being that a female protagonist who falsely accuses men of rape will promote this as a gender stereotype, setting back a feminist cause that is already fighting a losing battle. Certainly, the women in the film are not treated mercifully, from the baby-spewing neighbour Noelle, to the venomous show host Ellen Abbott. In contrast, it seems that the men are all victims. Desi’s predominant crime is his fierce, if somewhat creepy, loyalty to Amy, offering her sanctuary in her most desperate moment. He is not without his own flaws however, as he attempts to mould Pike’s character into the ideal woman, becoming disturbed when she falters from physical perfection, which perpetuates its own stereotypes. Meanwhile, Affleck’s character Nick is a lazy adulterer, but he has the saving grace of human weakness, made all the more palatable by Pikes’ polished haughtiness. Nick becomes increasingly sinister as the plot progresses, and by the film’s conclusion it is difficult to vouch for the moral integrity of either.
There is no clear-cut victim or perpetrator in the film, and this is what catches audiences off guard. As for the debate surrounding the book and film, namely that it propagates a highly damaging myth that goes some way to explaining why such a minuscule percentage of rapes are actually reported: while I whole-heartedly agree that there is room for this debate, I can’t help but feel that to some extent, it is easier to take this line of argument than to face up to Fincher’s social commentary about a society that loves to chew itself up and spit itself out again all over the front page. The society portrayed in Gone Girl is one that is media obsessed, that loves to build people up to celebrity status and then tear them down, and it is a society that resonates uncomfortably with our own. Fincher holds up a mirror, and the reflection is not a particularly pretty one.