Gone Girl

Gone Girl ★★★★½

The Great Gatsby...The Grand Grimoire...Greta Garbo...Gigi...Gone Girl...Something about the Double G alliteration promises to spell the rise-and-fall craze of money and the associated fragility of identity and nefariousness of ambition; the dazzling merits and trapping murderous pitfalls of prosperity. After all, there are two sides to every coin. Too much is doom, too little is damnation. Some can't handle the fall, but even less are willing to exact their revenge and build it all up again, mustering all their Machiavellian cynicism towards the purpose of a cunning scheme. Some choose to observe the lay of the land with an unspoken perspective that justifies and makes permissable the most heinous immoralities. The barriers between love and money, between status and morality, all but blurs out of recognition and relevance. If the recent GFC has given film anything, it is a rich repository for rise-fall-rise psychological thrillers in the hitchcockian and realism mold, and in the lineage of this tradition Gone Girl surgically splits the atom of long term relationships, laid off workers and the modern media in one fell swoop. Nothing invites a maelstrom of human frailties to the surface, both imaginary and real skeletons, more than the mystery of an unexplained disappearance, and that forms the core of Gone Girl.

Gone Girl, similarly to its release date forebear Gravity, is a hard film to quantify with any degree of certainty regarding its future legacy. One can see its commanding current, but also its subliminal frailties, with the good far outweighing the bad. On one hand, this film reminds me of the approach Fincher took in the likes of Zodiac and The Social Network. However on the other hand I can diagnose the comparatively dating gameplay puzzle elements employed by Fincher in his 90s work. This personality will ultimately restrain the film somewhat in terms of discourse, even if it is somewhat muted for the time being in the excitement of a delicious new Fincher feast. This is an amazing film, but it will never be a unanimously praised film, and shouldn't be. From a canonical perspective, it deserves majority adoration and minority dismissal. It's a rich facade we can all deliciously try on for size, but it's not a film to necessarily win over the heart on any particularly deep level. Surface perfection belies its less relevant shortcomings, despite the attempt of a stray wannabe-profound quote here or there. Essentially, this film is sure to set off a bomb in mainstream pop-culture and its associated film canon, but won’t be given the time of day by more elitist canonical perspectives. Despite its rich complexities, it will prove unable to completely disassociate itself from the direct potency of pulp fiction. At its heart, Gone Girl has the calm, mundane ruminating rage and violence of a car wash. A person raised to identify with a visage cannot handle a failed marriage and failed dreams. It turns the domestic space into a source of private horror and public absorption, flipping the damsel in distress or bored, trapped and supportive housewife trope completely on its head. The girl is gone, the fatale is here.

The best feature of Gone Girl, as we have come to expect with Fincher in recent times, is the confidence of its filmmaking. There is a sustained, all-consuming purpose here from start to finish, and it is the rare film that genuinely gets better and better as it goes along. During the first act I couldn't help but notice the problems, but the sheer amount of story condensed into this 2.5 hour film, constantly escalating and escalating, ultimately bludgeons the viewer into awe. This is a rare film experience, and one simply has to appreciate that wholeheartedly. The audience were wrapped up in this film, completely on tenterhooks, in a way I haven't quite seen in the genre for quite some time. It's also a thoroughly hilarious film, with many little subtleties that made me laugh out loud, particularly Amy's observations, and the audience's observations of the roster of well-drawn types. Gillian’s narrative construction here builds an epic story, and Fincher’s sure, brilliant hands are able to adapt it about as successfully as one could imagine. In fact, the story is so epic here that I have no desire to see this again in cinemas. One helping is enough to tide me over for some time, this won't be gobbled up again and again as with the likes of Se7en and Fight Club.

Beside the satire, which is constantly forced down our throats so I’ll leave that for other reviewers, what struck me most strongly about this film was the upfront blatancy of its characterisation. Within a few seconds of a character being onscreen, and a few lines, we know all the dynamics of a particular character. Every single character, and how they influence the story around them, is so richly and vividly drawn, that first appearances immediately establish a solid rapport with the audience. We can sense the influence the parents have had on their daughter, the schmuck every man essence of Nick is constantly shoved down our throat (in Amy's 'cool girl' riffing, to hilarious effect), how Rhonda Boney is so strongly differentiated from the boyish faces around her, the various media-savvy figures, the relative isolation of Desi from the rest of the characters, Nick’s lonely boxing corner and confidant in Margo, etc. etc. etc. Every character here has a blatant purpose and point of difference, it's all just so brilliantly conceived to complement the intensities and complexities of the satire, and also to serve the overall thriller. I am sure a lot of this is down to Flynn on the page, but Fincher has also shown a knack for this in the past, and perfectly complements her narrative construction. Whilst this style of characterisation is at times a little paper-thin, for the purposes of reader/viewer connection to these character types, and may ultimately cheapen the film for some in the long-term, the thriller here at all times serves the cynical satire more than the integrity of character realism. One may dislike elements and aspects of this film, but the overall implementation of those elements is all but flawless. This film, for what it is, is ultimately knocked out of the park. One may attempt to critique core elements of the story, but as a film adaptation and a film in general, this is the type of brilliance that audiences crave. It is pure Fincher, whilst also being crowd pleasing Fincher.

Finally, as a fan of the work of the likes of Dickens, Fugit, Clennon, etc. it was a thrill to see them granted with arguably their most well publicized roles to date. The casting in this film is absolutely impeccable, even Perry and NPH, right down to the spot-on small appearances of Pyle (yes!), Ward, McNairy (who is rightfully developing a cult following of late, and might also pose the best prospect in god knows how long for someone to appear in three consecutive Best Picture winners), etc. which develop the background action of the story to superb effect. Affleck also makes complete sense, and Coon is well cast. But all of the narrative revolves around the titular gone girl, the amazingly terrifying Amy. Whilst I don't quite see an Oscar winning performance here, Pike’s coolness perfectly suits the quiet ferocity of the role. Do I believe her character? No. Do I think there are many similar characters to her out there? Yes. Amy provides a lot of the film's humour and visceral thrills, and her characterisation will provoke wide debate, from vicarious fulfilment to horrified unease. On the surface this is a scintillating date movie, but LTR viewers should enter this cinematic realm with a healthy degree of wariness, as Amy Dunne is only a stone’s throw away from every seemingly normal person. Is Amy Dunne truth or fiction? The answer is somewhere in the middle, and will provoke debate. Both Amy and Nick, the squirming victim of the hangman forced to fight his way out of a crevasse, provide the audience with an incredibly fun cat-and-mouse set of bedfellows.

Gone Girl is the younger but more popular, confident and fateful Hitchcockian sibling to Soderbergh's Side Effects. A pulp yet intelligent banquet, Gone Girl is a perfectly realised production, a nineteenth century novel dipped in Fincher’s inky black cauldron and deposited into the landscape of the 21st century. Ultimately, it is most chilling in its exploration of the fickle thriftiness of human contact, where only blood holds remotely reliable traces of permanent affection, and all it takes is some widely held innuendo for the rest of the world to potentially cast you aside, or alternatively eat you alive and spit out your skeleton before you can even open your mouth in response.

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