Gone Girl is a mystery thriller based off the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn. The movie is directed by David Fincher and stars Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, and Carrie Coon.
The opening narration is a graphic description of a husband wanting to find out what his wife thinks. The husband is Nick Dunne (Affleck) and the wife is Amy Elliot-Dunne (Rosamund Pike).
Nick steps outside his house in the early hours of the morning and arrives at The Bar (the actual name of the bar) to talk to his sister Margo (Connie Coon). He mentions their fifth anniversary, the “Wood Anniversary,” and tells his sister he has no idea what he should give Amy as a present. Nick returns home after a neighbor calls that his cat is roaming out in the front yard. He finds signs of a struggle and his wife nowhere to be found. He calls the police and starts an investigation.
Flashback to a party in 2005, Amy recalls in her diary that she first meets Nick at a party. On their first date, they both admit to being writers; Nick writes how-to a men’s magazine, Amy writes quizzes for women’s magazines. They kiss in a “sugar storm” and get very friendly afterward.
Cutting back to the investigation, Nick’s behavior makes the detectives working the case uneasy; not knowing basic information including social life or blood type. At the initial press conference, Nick gives a low-toned plea for anyone with information to come forward and ends the conference with a picture of the “Missing” poster with Amy’s face on it. For a brief moment, his social awkwardness causes him to smile at the flashing cameras.
The rest of the first act of the film bounces back and forth between the investigation of Amy’s disappearance and Amy’s journal entries documenting major life events and marital struggles.
Nick and Amy are at the forefront of the movie and characterization. Nick’s defining moments are apparent almost right away, while Amy’s is given in small bits, mostly through her diary. Margo, referred to as Go for a majority of the movie, is portrayed as supportive as well as very critical of Nick. Both ends of that spectrum become very important during the film’s second act. Other characters include Desi Collings (Neil Patrick Harris), Amy’s overly attached ex-boyfriend, Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry), a defense attorney known for defending sleazy husbands, Detectives Boney (Kim Dickens) and Gilpen (Patrick Fugit), and Ellen Abbot (Missi Pyle), a not-so-subtle expy of Nancy Grace.
While the above characters are developed in their own right, there are still others that only make brief but significant appearances without the satisfaction of having a conclusion. Nick’s father is revealed to have Alzheimer’s disease and put into an assisted living home. He has a home close to the town that Nick, Amy, and Go live. After the initial appearance, he is mentioned twice but never in enough detail to examine his character. In the realm of the movie, I wanted to know what made him so important or not important to Nick. Other once-off characters include Amy’s former classmate Tommy and Nick and Go’s mother Maureen.
I was expecting a good portion of forensic jargon to go along with the investigation, but surprisingly it was hardly there. The most biting use of language was the way that some women (not saying who to avoid spoilers) were addressed. It was so angry it could almost be identified as misogynistic. More on that below.
There were a lot of messages that could be pulled from this movie. The primary is a deconstruction of a marriage and what it entails. Misogyny is also briefly brought up, being the only dialogue that Nick’s father ever says in the movie, calling a female officer a bitch several times. Later in the movie, Nick is accused of being like his father and he gets very defensive, saying he doesn’t treat women that way.
Outside of the marriage deconstruction is the sort of “jury by media” that occurs in spurts throughout the film. Ellen Abbot, a character largely based on real TV show host Nancy Grace, goes for the throat in tearing down Nick’s character while the investigation was still ongoing. As a result, most people coming into contact with Nick hate him. Much like Nancy Grace, it practically becomes a science.
As with David Fincher’s other films, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and Atticus Ross scored the movie. Licensed music can be heard in small bits, but the defining music is the instrumental score. It gives the atmosphere a sense of uneasiness and hostility.
The framing of the movie is the only thing to focus on in terms of spectacle. Without fantastical science fiction or fantasy, dramatic movies have only performances and structure to rely on. The back and forth of the first act of the movie sets the stage for who Nick and Amy are as characters, and how things fall apart as time goes on in the second act. Keeping everything well-rooted in the real world, it does a great job for the narrative. Also, somewhere in the third act, an awkward scene comes about that simultaneously ends in a bang and a whimper.
In my mind, Ben Affleck and Neil Patrick Harris were the two most noticeable names on the cast list. Tyler Perry was also on my radar, but moreso for African-American comedies with varying forms of success. Rosamund Pike started her film career as a Bond girl, which is pretty cool, and has several award nominations throughout her career. Carrie Coon is a relatively new actress.
My initial impression for this movie’s audience was female-centric, particularly those who watched the Lifetime channel regularly (perhaps that’s sexist, sorry if you’re offended). This also stems from the fact that several of the reviews I’ve read about the book were written by other women. Surprisingly, the showing that I went to had a large majority of male viewers, some curious about Ben Affleck’s role in a mystery movie. Considering the marketing and TV spots, it’s possible that the movie could be directed toward men because of the limited female presence during commercials.
My biggest concern or unresolved issue came with the minor characters, such as Bill Dunne, father of Nick and Go. Initial interviews said that there would have to be intentional deviations from the novel to help structure the plot from page to screen. I was happily relieved that not too much had changed, but rather edited out or condensed for time.
Gone Girl was released in 2012 by Gillian Flynn. When she was revealed to also be the script writer for the film, I was concerned about how the book would translate on screen. A handful of movies have had the author of a novel go about writing the script for the movie version with varied success. Ranging from keeping the core elements at the cost of important subplots (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) to almost being an “adaptation in name only” (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), author’s screenwriting skills may not be the best transition from one writing medium to another. Happily, Flynn did an excellent job of melding the fragmented structure of the novel to make for an easy-flowing movie.