Gone Girl Review
Okay, slightly different format this time. I am just going to say up front that David Fincher’s Gone Girl is an excellent movie and well worth your time to see in the theater if it’s still out. Reasons why include a disturbingly shocking story, great performances across the board, great dialogue, and sheer craziness. If you want more than that, I have to go into spoilers, which I will, but if you want to know if I think it’s a good movie, my answer is yes, it’s a great movie and you should totally see it. To drive that home, TYLER PERRY IS GREAT IN THE MOVIE!! That’s it for the spoiler-free review. You have been warned.
Spoiler Heavy Review
The story starts with Ben Affleck’s Nick Dunne discovering that his wife Amy (played by Rosamund Pike) is missing. He calls the police and begins organizing a search for her. As the movie progresses, it becomes more likely that Amy is missing, not dead, and more and more evidence points to Nick, the distressed if somewhat prickish husband. And just when we in the audience start to believe he’s responsible, we learn that’s not what happened. Turns out his wife, a first-class psychotic bitch, has spent months organizing, planning, and setting in motion her scheme to frame her husband for her murder because she’s disappointed in him (seriously). She then planned to disappear for a few months until her husband is arrested, tried, and convicted and, thanks to the massive amount of media-reinforced public outcry against him, suffers the death penalty. However things go awry for her when a couple of rednecks steal the cash she had saved to get her through the hiding period, leaving her broke, homeless, and without friends to help her. She is then forced to seek the aid of an obsessed, slightly unnerving ex played by Neil Patrick Harris, and finds herself trapped in his house. As crazy as all of that sounds, that’s not the entire movie. That’s just THE FIRST TWO ACTS!!
Needless to say, one of the big draws of this movie is that the story, adapted from a novel by Gillian Flynn (Gillian Flynn also wrote the screenplay), is ten different kinds of insane. Between the constant twists, the character double crosses, and the sheer chilling spiteful malice of the main female character, this story is going to make you uneasy and keep you glued to your seat at the same time. You will have no trouble following the ridiculously twisty and unnerving plot. It’s ridiculous how crazy this movie is. I only I have a few complaints with the story of this movie. One is that the plotting of this movie is so insane that aside from broad themes relating to western cultural morays and understandings of spousal dynamics, it’s impossible to take seriously. The film is just a trashy, over-the-top ridiculous thriller that you can marvel at, but not necessarily empathize with. While that is a flaw, I don’t necessarily think it cuts the movies entertainment value in any way. The other complaint is that there’s a section of this movie that, because it draws so much attention to how intricately Rosamund Pike’s character planned out her schemes, it seems to hand wave away a lot of pretty major questions like, “How did she do all that in a house full of cameras without any of the cameras seeing her?” or “What happened to those two supposedly brilliant private investigators Tyler Perry sent out to find Rosamund Pike?” or “Why does no one ever confirm her story or investigate the murder scene?” Stuff like this can get somewhat irritating in a movie that draws so much attention to its plotting and scheming, and I somewhat blame the over-the-top insanity of the story for this, but that doesn’t keep me from marveling a the insanity.
Another big point in the movie’s favor is that, because the female lead role in this movie requires acting gymnastics on a level I’ve never seen before, it’s appropriate that the best performance in the movie by far is Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne. Ignoring the fact that Pike has a reputation with me for playing scheming ice queens, the sheer number of different facets to her character and emotions and performances that she has to portray in this role is mind boggling, and she pulls it off wonderfully. Despite the fact that Pike is easily the best performance, that doesn’t mean there were any bad performances in this movie. Ben Affleck is great in a role that seems to exploit his somewhat erroneous public persona of an aloof prick who smiles all the time no matter how inappropriate it might be. He plays a flawed somewhat unlikable guy who you still want to root for by the end because of how awful his wife is. Other notably good performances include Carrie Coon as Margo Dunne, Nick’s sister who loves her brother and knows what his wife is really like, and despairs at how miserable his life will be now that he is trapped with her. Also, Missi Pyle, who I only know as the alien chick in Galaxy Quest, completely transforms herself into an almost uncanny duplicate of Nancy Grace, both in appearance and in persona, and she is such a horribly ugly person in this movie that I wanted to punch her in the face by the end of it. And finally, most importantly, Tyler Perry plays an important supporting role in this movie as a rich defense attorney who exploits the trash of society and sells it to make millions (again, playing on public persona) who takes Nick’s case because, as he says himself, “You two are too crazy for me, and I know crazy.” Not only is Tyler Perry good in this movie (never thought I would say those words), but I really appreciated his presence because he helped ground me in reality by confirming for me that I wasn’t insane, it was the movie.
The overall message and themes of this movie are worth mentioning. Nick and Amy, publically, represent the ideal middle class white American family, whereas in their private life, Nick is a flawed individual trapped in an emotionless, sterile marriage with a complete psychopath. The point is clearly to suggest that the idealized “wholesome” family according to modern society is often likely a mask that hides terrible people and even the misery of good people behind the mask of civility. And what happens when the mask of civility slips? The media immediately demonizes you and turns your community against you regardless of whether you have done anything wrong or not for the sake of ratings. I will admit that both aspects of the film’s message are very appropriate for a discussion of modern American society, but I believe Fincher’s argument about marriage suffers somewhat from lacking a proper counterpoint. Based on this movie, you would assume that all marriages are loveless shams created to entertain the media and hide the dark truth about people from the world. Perhaps it means I’m too much of a romantic, but while I will admit that loveless sham marriages are a thing, I don’t know if that should be presented as all marriages. Without a proper counterpoint, this aspect of the message comes off as heavy-handed, and I believe it reflects more on the views of Fincher and the original book’s writer Gillian Flynn, but it works for a ridiculous fictional thrill ride.
Fincher’s Gone Girl, despite a few points of going too ridiculous with the script and heavy-handed message mongering, is still very worth your time. Its storytelling is delightfully insane; it has great performances across the board, and the cinematography and lighting fit the gloomy, desolate mood of the film. I won’t spoil the ending because any good movie where I can say, “Tyler Perry was good in it,” is worth seeing for yourself.
Gone Girl is an insane thrill ride that you have to experience for yourself. The story is off the wall crazy, and the chilling performance of Rosamund Pike anchored by consistent good performances from everyone (including Tyler Perry) keep you watching all the way through. The directing and cinematography drive home the bleak, despair of the main character, and the twists at the end will make want to re-watch it over and over to see if you missed something.