Gone Girl (2014)

Final Rating: 9.4/10

The Social Network is David Fincher’s crowning achievement. It is a social criticism of how the need to evolve in modern society will surely detach you from people even though the main goal is for one to connect. The mood throughout the entire movie is eerie, unsettling and vicious. However, Fincher is associated mostly with twisted films that invoke the deepest cynicism of their audience. His films try to find humor in dark scenarios, and evil in the lightest of events. The Social Network is definitely his magnum opus, but when it comes to analyzing Fincher as an auteur with a clear drive for a specific genre of film, what would be his best film of his signature style? Seven? Zodiac? The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? We have a new contender, and one that is so powerful that we are realizing, slowly, that not even Fincher was sure of what he truly was capable of. With one of his crowning achievements, we have the hyper stylized, uncomfortably funny and diabolically sick Gone Girl.

The best way to view this film is without any clue of what it truly is about, so for the sake of your own benefit, I won’t say much about the plot itself. What I will say, however, is that there are so many twists and turns that make complete sense, that you know there will never be a black and white solution. People are complicated animals, and there is absolutely no way that a story of this proportion could go without the other hand. Gillian Flynn, who wrote the best selling novel the movie is based on, wrote the screenplay for the film and even threw in a few new plot points so those that were familiar with the book could still experience a few thrills of their own. Either way, I recommend either not watching the movie first or not reading the book first, depending on which venture you wish to tackle and truly embrace. Having not read the book, I would, with bias, suggest watching this sinister movie without reading the book, but it’s up to you of course. Here are my reasons as to why the movie is a worthy option.

The acting in this film is top notch. I don’t think we’ve ever seen Ben Affleck this good before, and while he may not be pulling off a Brando anytime soon, Affleck pulls off some difficult work here. We get the good guy side from him as well as the jerk-off side. He feels so out of place that he is almost a cartoon, but then he will feel so securely anchored that we are unsure of the sanity of the film. Affleck’s awkward smiles and moments of explosion are a big key as to why Gone Girl’s slithering ways work so well. In other bizarre casting choices, we have Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry, both of whom do a job well enough to rival Justin Timberlake’s surprise turn in The Social Network. The real winner here is Rosamund Pike, who I’ll be damned if she doesn’t get awards recognition for her performance of labyrinthian proportions. Without saying too much about her character, it has to be an unthinkable challenge to take on a role so organic yet so mechanical. How can one be so full of hospitable spirit yet end up being a complete cyborg? The title of both the book and the play are made never more appropriate than the moments you realize Pike can successfully play a girl who is totally gone. With a line up that is round up by Carrie Coon and Kim Dickens, there isn’t a sour note here in terms of casting a group of perversions of the American dream.

The whole film is a trip into the furthest corners of American culture and the scariest parts of our minds. From the very beginning, with credits that refuse to stay on screen, the editing is so fast that even when things seem to be okay, we are left feeling a bit ill. Once the movie gets going, the editing slows down and it is as if time has slowed down. You start off with a typical crime drama that turns into a neo noir commentary on social networking. In a similar way to The Social Network, Gone Girl attacks the way we connect. It casts shadows on the news and on trashy media (with a hilarious characterization of Nancy Grace). It shows the damnation of the internet and the curse of a fleeting rumor. It presents the ability to judge with any little idea of the bigger picture, but it also shows the distortion of said deeper understanding. Fincher’s directing is so sleek and yet so gritty. Lately, he’s felt like the Fellini full of hatred (who comments not on Italy’s upper class but instead on America’s angry class [and Sweden’s, too]), and Gone Girl may be the best example of this. How such grotesque images feel so smooth is more disturbing than the images themselves. Then there’s the music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, of whom have worked with Fincher twice before. Once again, they have struck gold, with some songs on this score being some of the best material either man has ever supplied to a film (Consummation is their biggest success so far, and you’ll know what song that is when you enter the film’s more shocking moments).

Gone Girl is funny at times, and you will feel repulsed at yourself for laughing. It is disgusting enough to make you guilty for watching. It is a movie that will slice open the envelopes of our subconscious, and it will read the letters of our deepest thoughts right across our faces. We can’t help how we feel during this movie, and with that mentality, who are we to place any fault on any of the people within the film? With some previous knowledge, Gone Girl will be a successful take on film noir, a nice statement on Western culture and a ghastly portrait of the human psyche. Without a clue as to what the movie is about, each and every scene that follows will be a moment of panic. It is a true test of psychological turmoil, and it is a test that Fincher has passed with flying colours. It is a film that could have felt too melodramatic within the hands of another director, but with Fincher (who arguably made it even more intense than other directors would have, oddly enough), it all feels real enough to be tangible. If there was ever a time to see Fincher truly being Fincher, it’s with Gone Girl: One of the best cinematic successes of 2014.

About author

Former Film Editor & Music Writer at Live in Limbo. Co-host of the Capsule Podcast. A Greek/South African film enthusiast. He has recently earned a BFA honours degree in Cinema Studies at York University. He is also heavily into music, as he can play a number of instruments and was even in a few bands. He writes about both films and music constantly. You should follow him on Twitter @Andreasbabs.