Gone Girl (2014)
written by Gillian Flynn, based on her novel
directed by David Fincher
David Fincher has made three great movies to date: 1995’s Se7en, 1999’s Fight Club, and 2007’s Zodiac. But in the last eight years he’s mostly been coasting. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) was a curious case of heart-tugging boredom, The Social Network (2010) never quite fulfilled its exploration of social media, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) was a pointless carbon copy of the original Swedish film. For my money, his best work post-Zodiac is the first two hours of the Netflix TV series he helped develop, House of Cards. Perhaps there’s something about Fincher’s work when it’s about serial murderers, multiple personalities, or sociopathic presidents: He seems to be at his best when the plot revolves around crazy.
And so he arrived in 2014 at this adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestseller about an unhinged woman named Amy (Rosamund Pike) who vanishes (willingly) and frames her husband Nick (Ben Affleck) for her murder. As Nick pieces the clues together, the movie shifts from an average mystery to something more deliciously insidious, perfect for Fincher’s own brand of cold examination: The expectations people have of each other and, in particular, of marriage. And he gets ace performances from his two leads. I’ve never particularly cared for Affleck, but he’s perfect in the role of Nick, a Midwestern douche who marries a rich girl but becomes lazy and unfaithful after his dream woman starts to resent their uninteresting, suburban life. And Pike is excellent as Amy, a woman who realizes she’s lost the man she’s carefully molded and wants him back… at any cost.
At the beginning of Gone Girl, Nick meets his future wife at a party and asks, “Well, Amy… who are you?” It’s a perfect question. Because who we are when we start to date is not who we really are, but what we want the object of our affection to think we are. Another smart layer to the film’s theme of identity is its scathing portrayal of the news as complicit in the fabrication of hype and image: Amy is the inspiration for her parent’s popular line of Amazing Amy children’s books, and her disappearance triggers a nationwide response. The world thinks of her as a sweetheart, the victim of a horrible crime; Nick is the cold-hearted husband and quite possibly the killer. Amy knows full well this will happen and uses it to her advantage, while Nick scrambles to outsmart her and change the public’s perception.
In the end, both characters are locked in a squirming relationship with themselves and the media from which there is no escape. He’s a smug cheater, she’s a manipulative bitch. Sympathy is hard to come by for any of them – they truly deserve Fincher’s nightmarish vision of love.
Carlos I. Cuevas