There is a saying that the notion of marriage involves not two rings, but three. There is the engagement ring, there is the wedding ring of course, but after the honeymoon, there is the suffering and Academy Award nominated director David Fincher’s (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The Social Network”) adaption from the best selling novel written by Gillian Flynn eats, sleeps and breathes this notion about matrimonial suffering.
The opening shot of “Gone Girl” has the back of Rosamund Pike’s (“Die Another Day,” “An Education”), blonde-haired head gently being caressed by the fingers of Academy Award winner Ben Affleck (“Argo,” “The Town,”) hand, while a voice-over Affleck desires to crack open Pike’s head in order to understand what she is thinking.
Pike and Affleck are the Dunne’s, a married couple living in Missouri who are coming up on their five year anniversary. Pike plays Amy, a celebrated children’s book author and Affleck is Nick, a teacher in a community college/part-time bar co-owner which he runs with his sister Margo, played by Carrie Coon.
On the morning of their anniversary, Nick returns home to find their front door ajar, their living room glass table shattered and Amy missing. Naturally, Nick calls the police and Detective Rhonda Boney, played by Kim Dickens (“Footloose,” “The Blind Side”), leads the investigation into Amy’s disappearance and the film shifts into an investigative journey into the pasts, secrets and perceptions of both Nick and Amy Dunne.
David Fincher has built quite the reputation for himself directing films as notable as the phenomenal cult-classic “Fight Club,” to the hauntingly beautiful adaptation of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” to the generation defining masterstroke of “The Social Network,” but quite simply “Gone Girl,” deserves to be hailed as the crowning accomplishment of Fincher’s career to date.
Quite simply, “Gone Girl” is glorious in the sense that visually, narrative wise and thematically, nothing is held back and it is an intense experience that tops everything that has been released this year. Fincher’s direction, Flynn’s screenplay, the score of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Jeff Cronenweth’s beautiful cinematography and Kirk Baxter’s film editing cohesively meld into a relentless psychological thriller that preys on the ever-shifting perceptions of its ever-tense audience and the audience simply savors every jaw-dropping twist and turn the film throws at them from start to finish.
Going into this movie, the perception regarding the two central characters Amy and Nick are slowly dashed by the ever changing events of the narrative that unearth the decrepit duplicities of both characters. To save you readers from juicy spoilers, all that can be said is that this movie drives itself on the idea that the perfect couple is barefaced lie; both Nick and Amy have secrets and demons that will leave you stunned and these secrets all come back to haunt Nick, who is facing the blame for Amy’s disappearance and potential death and the film says so itself that Missouri has the death penalty.
This may be a mystery thriller, crime drama or a psychological thriller, but Fincher and Flynn clearly bring elements of film noir into this feature. This isn’t saying that “Gone Girl,” fits into the genre of film noir, but instead shares similar stylistic tendencies highlighted by the film noir period of Hollywood circa the 1930s-1950s.
Paul Schrader’s Essay Notes on Film Noir illustrates the signature styles and themes that reigned prevalent in the film noir period of American cinema:
- the idea of disillusionment
- the majority of the films are lit for night
- the hero is a feeble figure compared to his significant counterpart, specifically the femme-fatale
- the cinematography moves around the actor, rather than the opposite
- the usage of narration to create a past that cannot be reclaimed and a hopeless future
- a complex chronological order that jumps back and forth between the past and the present to create the feeling of loss and hopelessness, yet is stylistically noteworthy
- the most significant theme of a noir film according to Shrader:
a passion for the past and present, but also a fear for the future. The noir hero dreads to look ahead but instead tries to survive by the day and if unsuccessful at that, he retreats to the past. Thus film noir’s techniques emphasize loss, nostalgia, lack of clear priorities, insecurity; then submerge these self-doubts in mannerism and style.
All of these points exist in “Gone Girl,” and these styles and thematic motifs give the film such glorious appeal. They are the backbone of Fincher and Flynn’s vision and they are utilized to the fullest in Cronenweth’s alluring cinematography, Amy narrating her journal on the shadowy aspects of her marriage to Nick, how Nick and Amy fell on such hard times and what created them to begin with via the editing of Kirk Baxter and the score and soundtrack of Reznor and Ross to give the film such tension.
The cast is sharp. Affleck is decent as the aggrieved-turned-accused husband who has no idea who his wife really is but then sets out to find out the truth, but Rosamund Pike is absolutely Oscar-worthy as “Amazing Amy.” She and Affleck are not the same characters they start out to be when the film begins but her, let’s call it a, “transformation” is sinister, its shocking and it is a work of beauty and she practically steals the show.
The supporting cast of Coon, Dickens, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Patrick Fugit, Sela Ward, Casey Wilson, David Clennon, Lisa Baines, all contribute to the scenes they are given.
Going back to Paul Schrader, he says that:
Film noir seemed to bring out the best in everyone: directors, cameramen, screenwriters, actors. Again and again, a film noir will make the high point of an artists career graph.
This is true of “Gone Girl,” a film that stands head and shoulders above everything that has been released this year and the high point of so many in this collaborative achievement.