If you’ve never seen a David Fincher film before, and Gone Girl is your first experience with his directing style and storytelling, I envy you. If you’re like me, and you’ve seen everything in his filmography, Gone Girl fits David Fincher like a glove the same way that glove was supposed to fit O.J. Simpson. Gillian Flynn who wrote the novel with which this film was based on also wrote the screenplay. There should be undoubtedly no question if the film is a true adaptation to the source material or if certain liberties were taken for dramatic purposes to benefit the final product on screen. It’s natural to have some of the fat trimmed to make more cohesive sense but whats on screen looks to be the shot for shot what makes up the novel.
Although, I can’t say that with 100% accuracy as I have never read the book, but I firmly believe Gillian would stay true to her work. For a first-time screenwriter Gillian does a pretty damn good job hitting the emotional highs and lows that any mystery film would be expected to have. Add to that the sometimes unconventional and stylized storytelling of Fincher, the two pairing up make it work for the entirety of the 149-minute runtime. Gone Girl is just another example of how well Fincher tackles a thriller with more twists and turns than straight and narrow pathways. Fincher also handles the big moments – the moments that take your breath away with ease.
It may not be the confusing Fight Club or The Game which requires 2 or 3 viewings to fully understand what is happening, but Gone Girl is slightly predictable and with a good guess you may figure out whats coming before it happens. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that can take you out of the film or even stop the momentum that builds from once scene to the next. My guess goes back to the screenplay – the novel is 432 pages long and things must be cut to fit the adapted story that’s being told on screen.
“When I think of my wife, I always think of the back of her head. I picture cracking her lovely skull, unspooling her brain, trying to get answers. The primal questions of a marriage: What are you thinking? How are you feeling? What have we done to each other? What will we do?”
Like Fincher’s previous films, Gone Girl is an amalgamation of different perspectives, motivations, storytelling cues all mashed together to make one slightly cohesive film. It also features a cut and dry three act structure. The first act is a straightforward murder mystery of ‘Amazing’ Amy Elliot Dunne (Rosamund Pike). If you think this mystery stays straightforward, you’re in for a rude awakening. Amy’s husband Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) is looked at as the main suspect in the murder. His body language alone raises red flags along with his apathy toward assisting the police in finding his wife.
This is where the brilliance of Fincher comes into play. Gone Girl takes place both in the past and present frequently switching between the two time periods. For the context about Amy and Nick’s identity as a couple, it’s a brilliant storytelling tactic because of the character who is telling their story in the present. Almost everything Nick says to detective Boney (Kim Dickens) is a lie which never helps his innocence. The only people that truly believe Nick didn’t murder Amy are Nick’s sister Margo (Carrie Coon) and his attorney Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry).
Nick lacking any type of emotion fits a guilty person’s M.O. It’s reminiscent of actual murder case’s where the husband was cheating on his wife and lacked any kind of empathy toward his missing wife. Nick constantly shoots himself in the foot but he knows his wife and all her dirty laundry. The problem is, no one will listen to his sob story nor believe it.
“I swear, you two are the most f***ed up people I’ve ever known and I specialize in f***ed up.”
At its heart and soul, Gone Girl is a story about manipulation among the murder, betrayal and deceit. How the media manipulates a story to put their viewers blinders on and focus on one person, How Nick manipulates the those he cares about to maintain his not guilty plea while also hiding his mistress Andie (Emily Ratajkowski), how Amy manipulates her ex-boyfriend’s including Desi (Neil Patrick Harris) and how Nick and Amy manipulate each other.
With all the chaos going on both past and present, the performances by Affleck and Pike cannot be understated. Both performances drive the film forward. All the momentum and progress gained can be credited to these two among other things.
Sporting a quick pace, Gone Girl breezes by. One minute Nick is being taken in by the police and the next, credits are rolling. Fincher is a master at understanding where each scene’s sweet spots are and how long we should stay with certain characters. It certainly helps with how the typical “thriller” is set up – creating that panic and anxious feeling when the plot unfolds. You can’t look away and if you do, you’ll be sure to miss an important detail that may or may not come back to haunt a character. Adding to that anxiety inducing feeling is the score by frequent collaborators Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Gone Girl is their 3rd film scored of Fincher’s and the three men seem to have an understanding to how the music affects whats happening on screen.
By no means is Gone Girl a perfect film, it’s a strong debut for a first-time screenwriter and another masterclass in directing and storytelling by Fincher and acting by its leads and a strong supporting cast. Some moments are puzzling as to why they made the final cut, and some scenes could have been left out altogether that halt any momentum. As far as a book adaptation goes, Gone Girl is as faithful as possible with a predictable twist and some unnatural personality types.
So, tell me, have you seen Gone Girl and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.
Gone Girl is written by Gillian Flynn, directed by David Fincher is Rated R and has an 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. Gone Girl was released on October 3, 2014 in the United States and has a runtime of 2 hours and 29 minutes. Gone Girl can be bought by online retailers like iTunes, Amazon and Google. 4.2 out of 5.