Gone Girl

In Watch

Director: David Fincher
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Kim Dickens, Carrie Coon, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris

David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel Gone Girl is a bit of a mixed bag, and you really need to see it to understand why, but in this review we’re going to avoid too many specifics in order to preserve the mystery.

Nick (Ben Affleck) returns home on the morning of his wedding anniversary to discover his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) is missing, with signs of a struggle. Immediately alerting the authorities, Nick finds himself drawn into a living nightmare as he uncovers dark secrets at the heart of his marriage and faces a public hungry for both gossip and justice. Flashbacks detail the couple’s initial encounter, happy days and decline, and halfway through we get a blandly executed twist which complicates matters.

The film is at its strongest in the first half, only let down by being a bit dry. Once the twist comes, the slightly po-faced opening gives way to a Wild Things-style ride, pairing awkward laughs with trashy jumps. As with another film that recalled Wild Things, Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects, Gone Girl devolves into a The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest-style game of schadenfreude, where we as the audience know everything there is to know and can be content in sitting back and watching the baddies suffer. Here, at least, there is a pleasantly ambiguous finale to counterbalance.

It must be said that the plot is utter bobbins. None of it makes a lick of sense; logic is hurled out the window very early on. However, in the hands of David Fincher and cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, it is frequently beautiful bobbins, with a team of very good actors gamely glossing over the nonsense. Affleck is spot on as the confused husband, and keeps the character just on the right side of likeable, perfectly matched by Carrie Coon as his down-to-earth twin sister. I have never seen Rosamund Pike having as much fun as she does in the role of Amy, mostly delicately nibbling the scenery but threatening to go full Olivier at any second. The supporting cast are equally good, with top marks going to Tyler Perry for his hilarious lawyer who specialises in defending husbands accused of killing their wives.

At times feeling like Gaslight for the Facebook generation, Gone Girl is a curious beast. It seems to want to have some quite profound things to say about contemporary gender dynamics, and the institution of marriage but, by the end, the focus falls squarely on the camp and the carnal.

Gone Girl is definitely worth a watch, if only to enjoy Affleck and Pike and company at the top of their game, but it’s a messy, uncertain affair that feels somewhat half-baked.

Martin Parsons

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