Gone Girl (2014): David Fincher's satire on marital infidelity, media trespassing, and capitalism

Part dark comedy, part murder mystery lifted by Pike's performance


By Murtaza Ali

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

Gone Girl, Movie Poster, Directed by David Fincher, starring Rosamund Pike, Ben Affleck
Gone Girl (2014) By David Fincher
Our Rating: 7.5
IMDb Ratings: 8.5
GenreDrama | Mystery | Thriller
CastBen Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris
Country: USA
Language: English
Runtime149 min
ColorColor

Summary: With his wife's disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it's suspected that he may not be innocent.
Gone Girl is the latest offering from the famed American filmmaker David Fincher. Based on a 2012 bestselling novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn (who has also written the screenplay), Gone Girl stars Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck in the lead roles. The movie also stars Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, Kim Dickens, and Carrie Coon. Part dark comedy, part murder mystery, Gone Girl harks back to some of Fincher’s earlier films like Se7en, The Game, and Zodiac. Gone Girl revolves around a Missouri man whose wife's dramatic disappearance on the day of their fifth marriage anniversary makes him an object of intense media and public scrutiny, and, with each passing moment, his intentions become increasingly questionable. On the face of it, Gone Girl comes across as a typical crime mystery-cum-thriller that involves search for a missing person, but, in essence, it’s a satire on: the lack of fidelity in modern marriages, the ever increasing influence of media on public opinion and how it invariably curbs personal privacy, and the drastic impact of economic changes on the quality of human relationships.

Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne in Gone Girl, Directed by David Fincher
Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne in Gone Girl
While Gone Girl shows a lot of promise to begin with, it loses its way in the middle of the second act, which almost seems like a comedy of errors. But, just when it seems to be getting lost in a vacuum of sorts, a shocking turn of events in the third act, vintage Fincher, sets it right, once and for all. Fincher is a master of mood especially when it comes to depicting the darker shades of things. In Gone Girl, he once again creates that ominous mood (making good use of Flynn's powerful material at hand while adding a few deft touches of his own) right from the onset only to dilute it with a tinge of dark humor—a somewhat strange concoction for a Fincher film, but one that’s quite palatable nonetheless. We are presented with motley of duplicitous characters: vindictive wives, cheating husbands, prying neighbors, opportunistic parents, manipulative sisters, delinquent teenagers, obsessive paramours, shyster lawyers, and unscrupulous media personnel involved in yellow journalistic practices. In fact, there are so many twisted caricatures and diabolical scenarios on display that only a dark ending would have been a befitting one. Fincher, of course, realizes this and delivers a most satisfying climax—one that reminds this critic of Paul Verhoeven’s masterful erotic thriller Basic Instinct.

Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne in Gone Girl, Directed  by David Fincher
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne in Gone Girl
Even at a runtime of 149 minutes, Gone Girl remains quite an engaging film not only because of its constant twists and turns but also because Fincher manages to elicit convincing performances from his actors. Rosamund Pike’s chilling portrayal of a female psychopath is the movie’s major highlight. Pike made an impressive debut starring opposite Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day. It’s never easy to break the stereotypical image of an eye candy for an actress who starts off her career as a Bond girl, but now that she is the “Gone Girl,” she can finally expect some major acting accolades to come her way, perhaps even a nod from the Academy itself. Pike’s performance in Gone Girl is easily one of the strongest female portrayals in recent times. As Amy Dunne, she is the epitome of feminine chicanery and sexual magnetism à la Glenn Close of Fatal Attraction or Sharon Stone of Basic Instinct, or the archetypal femme fatales of Hollywood's classical film noir period. There's no doubt in the mind of this critic that the icy blonde would have made a great Hitchcock lead lady. In comparison, Ben Affleck’s performance appears somewhat weak. But then it's no secret that Affleck is a better director than actor, and, within his limited acting range, he seems to have played reasonably well the part of a dumbstruck husband. The support cast does a decent job as well with a special mention of Kim Dickens who is quite impressive in the role of a female police detective with a Midwestern accent.  

Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne in Gone Girl and Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne in Gone Girl, getting cozy in a library, Directed by David Fincher
A Still from David Fincher's Gone Girl
Overall, Gone Girl proves to be an engaging work of cinematic art that, despite its flaws, has enough drama (as a matter of fact, it’s too dramatic at times) and suspense to offer to its viewers. Gone Girl is not Fincher’s best film, but, nevertheless, it’s a worthy addition to his oeuvre. Made in the vein of classic Hitchcock romantic thrillers, Gone Girl also offers a powerful social commentary on the lack of morality and trust in the modern societies. As a satire on American television news broadcasting, the movie packs a powerful punch, reminding us of some of its most serious threats: How easily can the electronic media swing the public opinion. How easy it has become for disgraced individuals to go out on TV and deliberately confess their ill doings so as to regain their goodwill. How yellow journalism brings disgrace to honest individuals, ruining their lives and careers.  Gone Girl also brings our attention to the general lack of fidelity in modern marriages and how easily the economic slowdown (especially, in a Capitalistic setup) can corrode the tenderness in human relationships. Gone Girl is quite high on entertainment quotient, and, at the same time, it offers some good fodder to ruminate upon. Highly recommended!

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated!  

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5 comments:

  1. Destination InfinityNovember 1, 2014 at 6:32 PM

    I'd like to see this movie. I wanted to read the book, but for now, I'll settle for the movie :)

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  2. Watching the movie first is never a bad idea... it's the other way around that I kind of dislike. Having watched the film already, now, I am quite excited to read the book as well. Btw, I would love to hear your thoughts once you have watched the movie!!! :-)

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  3. You are right to mention the word 'satire' in your review. Although the movie takes a darker turn at every corner, it provides few chuckles even in those scenario. I felt that the 'not-too-rosy' ending was good. Even though I had the novel, I wanted to watch the movie first, especially when I heard it's to be directed by Fincher. I think we shouldn't let the ending bother us, just because it's not entirely plausible, as you have should we must only take it as a commentary on media and failed marriage.

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  4. Glad you see the movie in the same light. As far as I am concerned Fincher has made a deliberate attempt to scandalize the institution of marriage in modern societies. The movie to me is a joke... of almost cosmic proportions... the relation that Nick and Amy share perpetuates this... they are happily married in the eyes of the world (to begin with) but we can sense right from the onset that there's more to it than meets the eye. There is a ritualistic feel to their marriage. One fine day, Amy walks out of Nick's life on the day of their fifth anniversary. Why? Because Nick couldn't match his earlier standards as a husband (and that he was cheating on her). So, she is hellbent on punishing him. But, how? Well, she wants him to be executed for killing her. And, she has plotted every thing to perfection. In the end, she plans to commit suicide and ensure that the police finds her corpse floating in the Mississippi so as to corroborate the evidence that she had so meticulously planted earlier. But, the moment she watches Nick apologizing on TV, her heart melts and she decides to come back in his life (what if she has to sacrifice an ex-lover to complete the ritual? And, the police detectives are really a bunch of jokers). Now, Nick knows that she is a murder but still he wants to start afresh because she is now carrying his baby. Well, it all sounds like a ritual to me. And, Fincher has never been cheekier.

    Perhaps, the humour element may not seem as obvious if you approach the movie inch by inch, sequence by sequence... but, if one looks at the movie as a whole, the humor seems to be oozing out of its crevices. . I would go to the extent of calling Gone Girl a satire not only on marital fidelity but also on media as well as capitalism.

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  5. I too am glad we are on the same page with this one, Alex. The movie is quite stylish and the pacing, though deliberate, only adds to the movie's overall brilliance!!! :-)

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