Inevitably audience members seeing Gone Girl will fall into two camps: those who read the book beforehand and those that didn’t. If you haven’t heard already, Gillian Flynn’s 2012 bestseller has some pretty jaw-dropping twists, ones that left many readers (including myself) absolutely stunned as they turned the pages.
My review is coming from the POV of someone who read the book beforehand; I knew the twist and turns of the story. I think knowing what was going to happen has affected my viewpoint slightly, since I knew what was going to happen I can’t interpret how well the film was at revealing the twist.
The extremely talented Gillian Flynn brings her novel to the screen by writing the screenplay. Her adaptation is, for the most part, excellent. She knew what worked well cinematically vs. the written word. She balances sickly twisted witty comedic moments with high-wire stakes of her taught mystery. Gone Girl is a dark story of marriage gone wrong, the Honeymoon days are long over. The personas that people put on while dating are shed away as they fall into not-so-domestic-bliss, revealing their true and naked selves.
In the book, we are told the story from two different perspectives, very much a he said/she said match of verbal tennis. We follow the husband, Nick Dunne, on the day of their fifth anniversary when he discovers his wife has gone missing. And on the other hand we follow the wife, Amy Dunne, through journal entries of the past leading up to that day. We wrestle with whether or not Nick is guilty of causing his wife to go missing, or if he killed her. We slowly start empathizing with Amy grow distrustful of Nick. Then the twist comes and turns everything on its head. With a film adaptation, being able to see things rather than just picture them in your head, some of the plot points of the twist seemed to be a bit implausible, just teetering on the edge of, but not quite as insane as, say, a movie like Wild Things.
In the film, Nick is a bit more likeable. In the book, he is much more of an asshole. Equally as hateable as Amy becomes, two characters perfect for each other in their sheer unlikeablity. This is the one thing that the film was missing out on. While we see some flashbacks from Amy’s POV and diary entries we rarely see anything from Nick’s POV, everyday scenes of their marriage together. These flashbacks would not have given anything away, but would have played up on the whodunit factor and the audience’s constant guessing and wrestling of who’s side to be on.
Aside from the completixies of marriage and relationships, the film is also able to deftly explore a theme only touched upon in the book. Much of Gone Girl’s themes is dealing with media scrutiny. When the news of Nick’s missing wife goes public, he becomes perfect fodder for the tabloids. He can’t go anywhere without being harassed by news outlets since they all, without any evidence, think he did it. This is extremely prevalent in our 24-hours news cycle culture, whatever story is hot at the moment is beaten to death, discussed, and picked upon by anyone and everyone.
Nick overhears in the airport snarky comments from two onlookers watching a piece about Nick and his twin sister “Looks like twincest” they remark. Others remark how hot or not hot Nick is, and pose for selfies outside of his bar. Gone Girl illustrates how once you are a public person, your life is up for grabs. You are not yourself, but a persona, owned by others, the media and the public.
In the hands of executing the film is David Fincher. This film is absolutely perfect for him, a blend of unreliable narrators (Fight Club), technology and the media, (The Social Network) and feminist/gender perspectives (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). With his typical Fincher flair, (with superb cinematography and stylish shots), he brings his sick strengths to spin another tale of shock, thrills, and questions of the darkness of humanity. A death scene of a certain character is probably one of Fincher’s best scenes put to screen, it will leave you breathless and your heart pounding. It’s graphic and horrifying, but Fincher refuses to turn away.
Not only did Gone Girl land an incredible director, but also a superb cast. Each actor brings their roles perfectly to life. Nick Dunne is a role that was made for Ben Affleck, it is oddly perfectly suited for him. He has just the right amount of cockiness, charm, and cluelessness needed for Nick. Affleck has had his share of real life dealings with media scrutiny– his relationship with J.Lo plus a string of bad movies equaled a tarnished reputation in the media’s eyes. Bringing to life those experiences he gives most likely the most natural performance of his career.
Rosamund Pike is perfection in the role of a lifetime as Amy Dunne. With a husky voice and piercing gaze, she calls to mind both Kathleen Turner in Body Heat and a wild-eyed Sissy Spaceck. She is cold and calculating, daring and outspoken. Pike brings an incredible depth and talent in this breakout lead performance. Like Edward Norton’s narration in Fight Club did for men, her “cool girl” monologue will leave viewers squirming at her dare-to-say-out-loud gender divide views for females. Her performance and character will surely become one of the most memorable of all-time.
Tyler Perry as a high-profile lawyer and Carrie Coon as Nick’s sardonic twin sister round out the supporting cast, with fun appearance by Missi Pyle as a Nancy Grace-esque parody. (This appearance even further illustrates the media scrutiny theme, for what better example of the bloodthirsty media as Nancy Grace??)
Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is an incredible story, a mix of dark wit with a jaw-dropping mystery. Paired with David Fincher’s unflinching stylish gaze, Gone Girl is a Hitchcock thriller for the millennial generation. One of the most talked-about films and book of the year, it will probably be regarded as one of the most famous stories of all time. Whether or not you knew the twist beforehand or not, there’s no denying that the film is a scary, suspenseful and seductive ride that will leave you stunned.