Gone Girl (2014)
A rare treat gentle readers, a delicious chance to settle down and get my teeth into a new film from one of my favourite filmmakers – David Fincher’s Gone Girl. First things first in the form of a penitent confession but I love being proved wrong – completely wrong. When the trailer for Fincher’s second foray into popular mystery literature after The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo I naively voiced the opinion that Dave might be treading water, that he wasn’t stretching himself thematically or technically, that after his foray into Scandinavian noir he might be pandering to popular culture with another screen translations of an immensely popular book which must have circulated through the agents inboxes of the highest Hollywood echelons. Well, like the arrogant elitist buffoon I am that notion has been eviscerated with this severe and scything motion picture, a thoroughly gripping and savagely satirical piece of work which tears strips from a number of targets – tabloid 24hr cycle sensationalist media, the holy institution of marriage, the rather naïve notion of everlasting and infinite love. Other than a couple of viewing of the trailer I went into this colder than a waterlogged corpse, knowing nothing of the book or its sarcastic dimensions, I can’t comment therefore on how much of this is present in the source text but the film has urged me to give the book a go, and that’s always the mark of a great film. In that spirit yes I will be studious avoiding spoilers which is going to make really digging in this films guts impossible to achieve, although I’d say that the so-called ‘twist’ isn’t really a twist as it occurs a mere hour into the picture, that plot trajectory really much more of a left turn manoeuvre into territory where the film firmly locks down its misanthropic jaws and sucks you into a deeply troubling vortex.
The screenplay is scribed by Gillian Flynn, adapted from her phenomenally successful 2012 novel, an autopsy of a formerly loving, almost perfect marriage in the final throes of disintegration. Redundant writer Nick Flynn (Ben Affleck) returns home on the day of his 5th wedding anniversary to discover a disquieting scene – an ajar front door, a smashed coffee table, and a light daubing of copper liquid streaks in the kitchen area. Deftly dancing from flashbacks of the initial flushes of love with the ethereally beautiful Amy (Rosamund Pike in a breakthrough performance) and the embryonic consequences of his wife’s disappearance the public image of the perfect couple is slowly eroded, as incriminating elements are unearthed by chief investigating officer Dvt. Boney (the consistently brilliant Amy Dickins). The national media descend on their quiet Missouri town as Nick suffers a slow evolution of public sympathy to spiteful suspicion, as his extracurricular activities and suspicious circumstances are brought to light – serious financial woes, possible infidelities and a brooding resentment at having to move from New York to suburban Missouri to care for Nick’s cancer stricken mother. I think I’ll draw a discreet veil over the plot here as that’s just the establishment of a deliciously nasty neo-noir narrative, with cloaked secrets and clandestine couplings obscuring a procedural pricking of modern life.
As we all know this quiet corner of the internet is also the domain of the local president of the David Fincher appreciation society, and although the film is still percolating I’m fairly sure of one thing – this is one of the best films of the year. It’s a masterful exercise in anxiety and unease which would make Hitchcock proud, a struggle of the sexes and thwarted ambitions for the 21st century. They say directing is 90% casting and down the line this film is stuffed with brilliantly played and thoroughly authentic characters, from Tyler Perry’s amusing barracuda entertainment lawyer, from Nick’s supportive twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon) and my personal favourite the always acerbic Amy Dickins whom you might recognise as poor exhausted Joanie from Deadwood and more recently the spirited Janette from Treme. Affleck is that slightly charming, yet slightly squirm inducing alpha male next door whom remains eminently punchable, the film brilliantly manipulating our sympathy and suspicion of his motives and incriminating behaviours. But one thing is for sure, Rosamund Pike is going to be a fucking massive star after this movie hits with a North American audience who might only recognise her in passing as that broad who was in one of those dumb Titans movies, again avoiding spoilers I can’t delve into any specifics so I’ll just leave it to Fincher who stated that he cast her from a long list of A level actresses as (permit me to paraphrase) ‘she a mystery, an enigma on-screen, a cryptic presence whom you can’t be sure if she’s twenty-two or forty-two years of age’.
To say the sexual and gender politics of this film are challenging and complex is the understatement of the century, as I’m guessing that left-wing feminists and right-wing puritans will loathe the representation of men and women in Gone Girl with equal ferocity. This is crucially an adult film made for an adult audience with no glib positions on power dynamics or the intrinsic social pressures to confirm and succeed, possibly the worst date movie or recent vintage since the Antichrist or Blue Valentine nuptials were consummated. Obvious barbs are also hurled at celebrity sensationalism, of trial by media jury, with a brooding undercurrent of economic malaise foisting a further level of disquieting ennui. That said it’s also very, very funny not just judging by my personally rather dark sense of humour (the audience I saw this were equally receptive), until Fincher pulverizes you with one scene that summons frantic shrieks and groans, reminding us that this film was made by the same sick fuck that foisted Se7en upon an unsuspecting congregation. This third collaboration with soundsmiths Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross yields another fantastically seething yet unobtrusive score, perfectly complementing the slithering plot, an ideal aural background for writing this review as it happens. An obsidian black satire on marriage, of the impossibility of ever really knowing what makes your other half tick, Gone Girl is an apprehensive film for an anxious era;