Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Directed by: David Fincher
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry
When a novel you’ve loved is adapted for the big screen, it’s generally impossible not to feel slightly let down by the finished result. Because no matter how good the film is, it’s rarely able to mirror your imagination. David Fincher however, has proved himself a deft hand at literary adaptations. And given its pulpy premise, ominous atmosphere and dark satirical edge, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl seems like a natural choice for the director.
Just like his unfairly dismissed remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Fincher’s Gone Girl is admirably faithful to its source material. The screenplay, written by Flynn herself, fastidiously follows the intricacies of the novel’s narrative, introducing us to Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary. It is on this day that he returns home to find his lounge ransacked and his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) missing. Soon enough a police investigation is underway, led by Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens), who finds herself confronted with various pieces of evidence that guides her finger of suspicion towards Nick. As the investigation intensifies, we relive the early parts of the couple’s courtship through Amy’s diary, which slowly reveals their apparently perfect marriage to be falling apart at the seams.
Unlike Nick and Amy, the pairing of Fincher and Flynn is a match made in heaven. The superior first-half simmers furiously, building the suspense with a mystery that constantly twists and turns. Of course, those who have read the book will know what’s coming, but even they are likely to find themselves hanging on to edge of their seats as the writer and director’s joint symphony gradually builds to its mighty crescendo that any who go in blind are unlikely to see coming.
Fincher, in particular, is at his unequivocal best here. Fusing the perpetually gloomy mise-en-scene of DoP Jeff Cronenweth with Trent Reznor’s suitably brooding score, the director crafts an all-encompassing sense of dread that slowly wraps itself around you and refuses to let you go.
That being said, Amy’s disappearance isn’t the film’s sole hook. Dig a little deeper and Gone Girl reveals itself to also be a bitingly satirical treatise of modern marriage. It’s here that Flynn’s screenplay shines brightest, encouraging the audience to question how the characters perceive themselves and want to be perceived by others, which will in turn cause them to query their own narcissism. That the situations are wildly exaggerated does nothing to undermine the effect; it merely allows for the film as a whole to be peppered with a blackly comic sheen, and for Flynn’s pulpy fiction to be imbued with realism that adds a deliciously sinister tint.
Central to all of it are the strong performances of the two leads. Affleck has long since proved himself to be so much more than the man who was once half “Bennifer”, and here he excels as the inherent nice guy who’s belied by an egotistical streak and may possibly be hiding a horrifying secret. But it’s Rosamund Pike who steals the show. Like Amy is on the page, Pike is an ethereal presence who’s deviously hard to pin down on the screen. Her personal musings, be they positive or negative, are all delivered with the same cool, detached vocal air that eerily hangs over the flashbacks of Nick and Amy’s relationship, effortlessly adding greater validity to the film’s enigmatic foundations.
Inevitably, fans of the book are unlikely to be wholly satisfied with the finished result. Certain key characters, notably Amy’s parents Marybeth and Rand (Lisa Banes & David Clennon), are disappointingly underdeveloped. As is the thematic depth of the novel’s other key stand concerning the media frenzies that can surround such criminal cases, which is occasionally observed but never properly addressed here. Most frustrating of all is the ending though, which, despite some tweaks by Flynn at the request of Fincher, still fails to offer a conclusion that’s as effective and memorable as what precedes it.
It’s hardly cause to condemn the film though. For while it’s true that Fincher’s vision is unlikely to reflect your imagination entirely, his playful blend of suspense and satire is guaranteed to consume your mind.