Review: Gone Girl

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Spoilers follow

Image: 20th Century Fox
Image: 20th Century Fox

Two wearying hours into Gone Girl, Rosamund Pike’s Amy engages in an act of genital self-mutilation in front of the bathroom mirror, returns to her lover’s bed, and slits his throat with a box-cutter, wallowing in blood to the beat of Trent Reznor’s thumping, psychedelic score. At this point the friend I am with explains her need to leave the cinema, and I am left to sit alone, reflecting on a line earlier in the film about the protagonist’s penchant for terrible Adam Sandler movies – Adam Sandler has never made anything quite as bad as this.

Gone Girl starts promisingly enough, with director David Fincher’s moody style instantly recognisable, as his floaty camera follows Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) through a washed out suburbia. He returns home after a walk on the beach to find his wife (Rosamund Pike) missing, but after calling the police acts weirdly relaxed about the situation. Soon it’s revealed that his calmness is because of various domestic troubles, and in one of the more promising aspects of the film, the media latch onto every moment of his reaction and create a frenzy surrounding the protagonist.

Whilst Nick continues his investigation, viewers watch dramatised extracts from Amy’s diary, showing their initial marital bliss before money troubles begin, and finally domestic violence ensues. This is all quite interesting, and the audience, increasingly alienated from Nick, begin to empathise with Amy and understand why she might have left such an abusive relationship without a trace. But wait – in a Usual Suspects-style twist Amy is actually making up everything to create a narrative of abuse, framing Nick for her murder as she flees to live under the radar (we get a tonally jarring Oceans Eleven montage explaining how she accomplishes this feat). It also turns out that Amy falsely accused her previous boyfriend of rape, her motivations never really clear other than that she’s just a sadistic psychopath.

At once Amy transforms from a sympathetic victim to an unrelatable villain, performing further acts of self-abuse as her husband falls under the glare of the press. In a movie with such a gritty, realist aesthetic her actions are maddeningly unrealistic. Fincher and writer Gillian Flynn have constructed a bizarre, psychologically unexplainable femme fatale who ticks off every possible anti-Feminist trope.

After the aforementioned blood orgy we enter the film’s coda, where it only travels further down the rabbit hole. Amy returns, and we witness a large group of policemen accepting her false allegations. The message of the scene is never clear – is it supposed to be satirical, showing how easily members of law enforcement believe fabricated accounts of rape? The laughter in the cinema seemed to suggest that this scene was going for some sort of blackly comic social commentary. If so it is a painful sequence, mainstream cinema that serves to delegitimise the claims of real sexual violence victims.

There are countless other problems with the film that prevent it from being a remotely enjoyable experience. A bloated-looking Ben Affleck practically sleepwalks through the movie, turning in an expressionless performance that’s his worst since his trailblazing career comeback. One of the great tragedies of Gone Girl is that he put off directing a follow-up to his Oscar-winning Argo to work with David Fincher instead.

Neil Patrick Harris manages to be somehow not charming as one of Amy’s ex-boyfriends, and Tyler Perry also shows up, in a strange, Doctor Hibbert-esque role as Nick’s lawyer. Once Amy is safe home and Nick expresses a legitimate concern that he will be killed in his sleep, Perry just laughs, tells him not to get on her bad side then, and walks out of the film. At this point the audience has been watching for two-and-a-half excruciating hours, too long for even the tightest thriller, which this mess is not.

David Fincher seems to specialise in rendering good films out of dodgy source material – cult classic Fight Club was based on a horribly voyeuristic novel, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button came out of a lesser F Scott Fitzgerald short story, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was originally airport fiction (that also dealt with a mystery built around sexual abuse) in a similar vein to Gone Girl. Here however he seems to have not only failed to pull off his usual feat, but create an abomination. Ranked in Fincher’s filmography, this is worse than Alien  3. Ranked in Affleck’s, this is worse than Daredevil. Its critical acclaim and box office success is a genuinely worrying indication of the social outlook of a viewing public who can lap up such a twisted, misogynist fantasy.

1/5

Gone Girl is in cinemas now

2 thoughts on “Review: Gone Girl

  • Thank god there were no spoilers in this review. Shoddy.

    Reply
  • There is actually a spoiler warning at the beginning of the review

    Reply

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