Written by: Gillian Flynn
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens
Having a loved one go missing can be one of the most frightening experiences one could have. The lack of knowledge of what happened to them only gets worse because of the lack of closure and the undying hope they may still be out there gnawing away. Gone Girl certainly begins with this fear but what results from this feature masterfully displays a battle of perceptions, manipulation, and how the power of the media can be utilized for one’s own gain.
Living back in his hometown and co-owning a bar with his sister, Nick (Ben Affleck) returns home and sees his wife is missing from what appeared to be a break-in. After getting the police involved, a search for his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) commences where the evidence begins to mount that he’s the suspect behind the disappearance.
There’s simply no experience like the first time watching Gone Girl. Knowing nothing and then watching this feature allows all of the reveals to hit with such a resounding smack in the face with its moral complexities and shocking affronts meant to force mixed feelings from the audience. Despite everything happening in this feature, it makes one thing explicitly clear, which is that both Nick and Amy are not good people in their own different ways. As the first act of this feature plays out, Amy receives the proper sympathy because she has gone missing. Obviously, in any normal circumstance, sympathy must be spared for the missing person, especially if fears of kidnapping come to play. The way the feature navigates information about Amy from her journal entries and the other people around her until ultimately outlining her true character delivers a masterstroke of manipulation.
As a whole Gone Girl works as a piece of manipulation. From the characters’ behavior towards each other, the filmmakers to the audience, and even the utilization of media. It becomes difficult to comprehend exactly who to believe in all of this partly because of how it sets up the dominoes ultimately to fall. In the beginning, we experience everything along with Nick and the police as they try to figure out what might have happened in the end, but not until the second act do we get the omniscient view of the entire story where we know more than every character with a bird’s eye view. Everything becomes clear and we just wait for the truth to become apparent for all of the characters for the sake of some of those put in harm’s way because of the manipulation at hand.
As the story progresses going through Nick’s perspective of this story, it puts the audience in a place of trying to distinguish what they would do in his circumstance. He certainly is no saint as the film makes perfectly clear but what occurs as the narrative progresses may be a bit too much as a consequence for his actions. Simple gestures get amplified to explosive degrees, mostly by the media. The utilization of talk shows and interviews to push forward narratives becomes a weapon in this film. In the court of public opinion, scant evidence can be used as a match to light fires and this becomes evident within this narrative. Little gestures draw plenty of inferences for exploitation in an aggravating but realistic manner. It truly makes you question the point of having any sort of opinion show out there masquerading as actual news when you can see the amount of nonsense that can be peddled and protected by the first amendment. This film plays with your emotions in the best of ways and you just have to enjoy the wild ride it takes you on.
Casting for any film carries importance as the actors are the front-facing pawns of the story and decisions made in this feature cause nothing but a giant chef’s kiss. Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne works almost too perfectly as a combination of character and an actor’s public persona. Nick Dunne has a handsome face but a douchebag nature to him, which inevitably makes him generally disliked by many, which has been ascribed to Affleck as a celebrity. Whether it’s fair to Affleck or not based on his actions as a human, the casting worked perfectly and everyone behind this production knew it. I honestly cannot fathom any other actor where they could have pulled off exactly what became necessary in portraying and exuding the character of Dunne. Appearing to be equally innocent and guilty makes for this to be such a moral quandary throughout.
While Affleck gets cast perfectly, Rosamund Pike owns every inch of the screen wherever she appears. Delivering one of the best monologues in film history, she harnesses everything about Amy in such a gratifying manner. With bits of information given from her diary entries, Pike successfully paints a picture of the pain she has from her youthful upbringing, the joys of her relationship with Nick, and then eventually revealing her true nature in the latter two-thirds of the feature. Everything works seamlessly together to both build sympathy and then see the truth of her harmful actions in this motion picture.
The key in the presentation of this film and what makes it incredibly effective comes from the shifting of sympathy it elicits from the audience. At different moments, an audience member can find themselves rooting for Nick and then Amy as more information gets revealed but if one fully aligns with one or the other then they missed the point. They’re both terrible people and the actions they commit in their past and throughout the feature seek to display just that, almost solidifying why they deserve each other. Even if someone sides more with Amy, they must acknowledge she crosses definitive lines here where she loses credibility as a good person.
Serving as a beautiful marriage of writer and director, Gillian Flynn and David Fincher combine their sensibilities to perfection here. With Flynn’s massively popular novel, she successfully adapts it to the big screen and then Fincher does what he does with his slick filmmaking style to truly create the steely mood flowing throughout this feature. This type of story fits right into what Fincher does best and the collaboration of these two comes together like a match made in heaven (or hell) in all of the best ways.
Shifting perspectives and all-out manipulation, the pair of Nick and Amy combust on-screen and lay it all out for us to experience in amusement and horror. Entertainment at its finest and a story unafraid to make the audience uncomfortable with its content and put them in a place where no safety lies in believing any characters in this story. You just have to have to go for the ride and discover which one of these turns will eventually bring a conclusion to the story.