We live in a spoiler-phobic culture. And we do so with reasons that, I sometimes, can understand. The pros and cons of that are something we can talk about another day, but I tell you this because the below piece is full of spoilers. It is an article I wouldn’t write for a movie that is newly in theaters, but with “Gone Girl” prepped for a home video release next week, it’s a different situation. Or, it’s different provided that I say, SPOILER ALERT.
And away we go…
About 30 minutes into David Fincher’s take on Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” I was, I will admit, unimpressed. After the full two-and-a-half hours, however, I was completely enthralled. Why that change? Because of the twist after the first hour.
The cutting back and forth between Amy Dunne’s diary entries and the present day disappearance of Amy (Rosamund Pike) and suspicion of her husband, Nick (Ben Affleck), didn’t work for me. Specifically, I didn’t like the shift from the happy relationship in the diary to the sad one. I didn’t buy it.
To be clear, I had no inkling at that moment that the diary was a fake, I just figured that it was a question of not being able to include every entry. In other words, I thought the problem was the filmmaking and not the diary.
Perhaps it is the filmmaking and that a 300 entry diary would be better at charting the downhill trajectory of the relationship. After learning it is fake though, it ceases to matter. If the diary is fake, it could just be a bad fake. Sure, it could still be less than great filmmaking—in my world, the movie really needs another entry or two to chart show the descent of the relationship—but whatever the issue, after the twist, it disappears.
What we find ourselves left with is a brilliant story about two bad people. I know that we make a lot in our world of the anti-hero television shows and movies which have come to the fore. However, both Nick and Amy are anti-heroes, and I think that’s why it’s different and that’s why it works.
Who do you root for, the crazy woman who gets so angry at the slightest wrong from someone else that she’ll go to the ends of the earth to destroy them or the cheating husband who actually does have an anger issue? Every time you start to root for one of them, Fincher and Flynn offer up something that makes you think twice.
Perhaps the best example of this is right at the end of the movie, when Amy is back with Nick and we’re all feeling bad for him, He then slams her head against the wall. If you are at all pulling for Nick at that moment, the slam puts a halt to it – oh yeah, this is the horrible guy who has been cheating on his wife.
“Gone Girl” isn’t the first movie with where a once-in-love couple treat each other badly, but there is something in the darkness of the tone and richness of the performances that push it past a lot of those other works. It isn’t just Affleck and Pike either, although they are both great. It is Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry and Carrie Coon and Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit and so many more. “Gone Girl” offers one interesting take on standard character tropes after another.
One of the other reasons the movie works is the way it spins the character types we have all seen before. Ellen Abbott is a thinly-veiled Nancy Grace, but the way in which Missi Pyle’s character is handled, from miles away, by Amy makes her different. Also, offering up the robotic cat at the end makes her different. Is she deplorable? Certainly, but in this movie who isn’t and what makes Abbott worse than anyone else?
The person who gets off easiest here is Margo (Coon), Nick’s sister. Even there though, she comes off as rather abrasive and potentially a user as well. Remember, she is part-owner of this bar which was bought with Amy’s money and Margo deeply hates Amy. It may be somewhat more difficult to put one’s finger on it, but there’s something unsavory about Margo as well.
Once again with “Gone Girl,” I find myself admiring David Fincher. I don’t like every movie he has made, but even when I don’t there is still something interesting to be found in them. Things in a Fincher film tend to be more complicated than they seem at first and when I don’t like his movies I want to see them again because he’s earned my trust and consequently I wonder if I’ve missed something.
And so, here I am, hundreds of words later, back where I started. “Gone Girl” is an incredible, wonderful, movie, and one I definitely want to see once more. I do wish that it could have worked a little better than it does in that first hour, but it’s that hour which sets up the rest of the movie and I understand why that hour shouldn’t be another 30 minutes and the movie shouldn’t go to three hours.
It hits DVD on January 13th, and definitely goes on my wish list.
photo credit: Fox Home Entertainment