After a stunning 38 million dollar debut, Gone Girl has proven that audiences are interested in the hype. The combination of a mega-star (Ben Affleck), mega-director (David Fincher), and mega-book (8 week best-seller) is an irresistible draw. But do audiences get what they ask for? And will the success of the first weekend last or fizzle out?
It depends who you ask. For one thing, Gone Girl is poised to have legs at the box office. The movie – with it’s twist and turns – is custom built to generate word-of-mouth ticket sales. Critics are generally positive, as are most audiences members. But as I alluded to before, Gone Girl is a divisive film. Those who don’t like it, probably hate it. I may be in the minority who finds it good, but not great. It takes some cognitive damn dissonance to think about this picture!
Gone Girl is a mystery and a thriller, though the defining feature may be its pitch black comedy. The film is about Nick Dunne and the search for his missing wife, Amy. Over the course of a long 1st act, we learn about their failing marriage and Amy’s interesting past. After Amy is presumed kidnapped, Nick is the prime suspect. He cooperates with the police, but the media portrays him as a sociopath, wherein his real troubles begin. Whether Nick did it is never really a concern, only if he survives the ordeal outside of a jail cell.
At the core of the film is a sharp satire of media culture. It’s easy to see a bad reaction from Nick in front of a camera become a TV talk show host’s best bit the next day. Of course, it’s all ludicrous. Exasperation is a constant state of being for everyone. For entire scenes, all the lines delivered with a sarcastic twinge, just shy of an outright punchline. Affleck is excellent at portraying Nick, a man who’s worried about his wife, even if he can’t admit to loving her. The movie also benefits from a host of great supporting players. Tyler Perry shines as a slick lawyer, as does Kim Dickens, who plays the town’s wry detective. Much has been said about Rosamund Pike in her turn as Amy, and in many ways the movie rests on her portrayal of a purposefully hard-to-define character. Connected to the concept of the media, the film is concerned with who people are vs how they present themselves. The media it seems, gets it wrong. But do married couples even know their spouses?
On a technical level, it’s damn near perfect. Well shot, paced, and edited, you can sit back and focus on the performances and the chuckles. When it gets going, it is everything a movie should be. The beats deliver moments of tension, humor, sexiness like a slowly increasing heartbeat. The only technical choice that bugged me is also a brief narrative break. There are rules that the movie establishes on its voice over and then changes – for convenience and over-explaining. The subtle nature of the movie goes down the tubes to hammer home one point. Perhaps I’m touchier than most, but I don’t like to be condescended to.
I know I’m skirting around the plot developments, but I don’t want to spoil the surprises. The only thing I can say is that the first big twist is quite obvious for a well-versed viewer, so don’t lose faith in its ability to entertain early on. The movie is 148 minutes and is a gradual acceleration into its most insane bits. Which leads us to the ending…
When I finished off the book, I wanted to throw it at the wall. The movie is no different. There is no denying that the ending wants to provoke a reaction, stretching the themes to a breaking point. Some may find the result too ridiculous to support while others may applaud its gall. In retrospect, the ending is a form of punishment. We’ve sinned by enjoying the movie, and we can’t learn its cynical lesson unless we suffer too.