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Movie Review: Gone Girl

2014-gone-girl-movie-review

Title: Gone Girl
Director: David Fincher
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Drama

#. The Details
The opening scene sets the tone in such a brilliant way that it makes you want to go through it frame by frame. It’s a seemingly intimate shot with so much left unsaid by the subtle changes in expressions and actions. The lighting? Perfect; all awash in this uncanny shade of blue and grey. This sense of unease lasted throughout the entire film and made for the best thriller movie I have seen in a while. I think it’s the small details that can make or break a film, and this film was all about the details! The pen in the shape of a stork delivering a baby, the board games like Mastermind and Game of Life, the checklist and post it notes all added to flavor of the film in a humorous and witty manner.

Spoilers Ahead———————————————————————————————————————————

#. The Balance
The remarkable thing about Gone Girl is how the odds are very much stacked against Nick Dunne while leaving him just enough leeway for the benefit of the doubt. He doesn’t seem very upset that things have been overturned in his house, nor does he seem anxious as he interacts with the police. In fact, he remains relaxed and eerily calm. Although his smiles are brought on by obnoxious reporters and strangers that want to take his photograph, it’s hard to shake off the feeling that something is wrong.  Add to this the few scenes where he lashes out during frustrating situations, and we have ourselves a guy that is reacting normally due to pressure or has the potential to be a murderer.

Then there are the real moments; the glimpses here and there of the real Nick Dunne. His face lit up like a boy on Christmas morning when he figured out the first clue of the 5th anniversary treasure hunt. It feels like the honest truth when he tells his mother-in-law,”I am in a nightmare. All I’m trying to do is be nice to the people who are volunteering to help find Amy.” Then there are the moments where he confides in his sister about how miserable things are between him and Amy. Maybe it’s not the sweet happily ever after story we want to hear, but it’s raw and real. Despite all evidence pointing against him, you start to see a guy in a sticky situation rather than a madman that may have slaughtered his wife.

#. The Marriage
I must confess, I’ve seen and read my fair share of romance. They usually end in happy endings and fill me with hopes for love and romance. Gone Girl does precisely the opposite. In the beginning of the film we see the “perfect couple;” a sweet moment in a sugar storm, playful banter, loving support, and hot chemistry.  It’s the couple we expect to live out a happily ever after. Instead, we see a recession, money problems, disconnection, and a murder mystery. It’s easy to understand where Amy’s head is due to the journal, but Nick’s frustrations need to be read through his actions. Amy talks about her unhappy feelings of feeling disposable and used for sex, but Nick probably felt a blow to his self-worth of similar magnitude when Amy gave her parents the trust fund without discussing it with Nick. I’m not trying to stand up for one or the other here, I just feel like both are problems that anyone can face. It’s not hard to keep your cool and be reasonable or understanding during a chat, but what do you do when it cuts deeper and becomes a breeding ground for shame and resentment? Clearly there isn’t a solution that fits all or majority because if there was, you would think it would be well-known knowledge by now. Is this just an inevitable part of life? After all, both Nick and Amy were aware of difficulties that could arise in marriage and seemed determined not to be “that kind of couple.”

 #. The Women
“Amazing Amy” shows Amy’s dysfunctional relationship with her parents in various stages of her life. It’s sad but amusing when Nick tells Amy that her parents had “plagiarized her childhood,” and she replies that it was just a better version to “peddle to the masses.” While this struck me as a bit extreme, parents with expectations of perfection with sharp criticism ready in the case of failure can be found everywhere. However, throughout the film it’s only the mother who actually appears to be the problematic parent. Her mother is portrayed as this commercializing, attention-seeking, pushy woman while her father was just being a nice and supportive guy.

Then there’s Andie; Nick’s student and mistress. Andie is pictured as a girl that doesn’t have an ounce of common sense, and only serves to push him further into a precarious position. This is rather disappointing as she met him in a creative writing class (you would think she would have some intellect) and he was presumably planning on divorcing Amy for this girl. It doesn’t seem realistic that a guy would leave a marriage for such a light relationship. Perhaps this is all part of putting Nick in the worst situation imaginable, but it felt like she was thrown in without much thought.

It’s a shame that the film brought up all these issues regarding relationships but buried them in the ground by ending the story with a poor guy chained to a crazy wife. It makes for a shocking story and an intense thriller mystery, but ends on a depressing note as any sympathy for Amy is thrown out the window. It’s not just the murder either; she manipulates a friendly neighbor and calls her a “local idiot,” and out of the blue she has a history of ruining the lives of men.  She goes from calm to screaming victim in front of a surveillance camera in 3 seconds flat, which is way beyond creepy. The murder scene? I don’t even want to go there.

I can’t help but wonder if the director is a misogynist, but in any case I liked that it brought up a lot of questions and issues for me to think about. This is definitely one of those movies that linger in your thoughts as you contemplate the meaning. The acting was brilliant and some of the scenes had me completely immersed and empathizing with the characters. I would definitely recommend this movie, but with fair warning of the more graphic scenes.

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  • Tegan Whalan

    The movie is very true to the book, but also somewhat lacks the in-depth examination of love that you find in the book. To me, this made the ending more palatable in the book. It’s not a happy ending – it’s a twisted ending. Nick says (in the book) “I’m a great husband because I am very afraid she may kill me”. While it’s terrifying in its own way, I think it mirrors the complicated give-take relationships we have in life. Nick begrudgingly re-enters the relationship, but the relationship has elements of enjoyment, and these start to take up more than a little of the time.

    The whole book is an examination on what it means to love – in a relationship, out of a relationship, parental love, cheating-love, love-hate, sibling-love. It’s all very interesting – but this complexity doesn’t translate to screen well.

    • http://www.silentlyfree.com/ Kim

      I remember reading the book years ago and remembered the plot, but I’d forgotten some of the subtle details. I’ll have to go back and re-read the book sometime and see what I find now that I’ve seen it in a new light. I think the first time around I was more absorbed with where the plot was going, so it should be interesting to read it with a focus on the relationships!