There’s something rotten in the state of Missouri. Amy and Nick’s picture-perfect marriage has soured and, on the morning of their fifth anniversary, Amy has disappeared in a violent manner. Now Nick must try to find his wife before the police begin to suspect that he was the murderer. Gone Girl is, next to Zodiac, the clearest indicator of what interests director David Fincher. It is a movie about the roles we inhabit in order to woo a mate, and what happens when those roles become a reality. It is a long, hard look at the cracks that form when performances start to break down and reality sneaks in.
David Fincher has always been an obsessive (see Zodiac) and a game player (see, uh, The Game). Gone Girl is no different. It’s his funniest movie in a good while – funnier than The Social Network, even – and it’s there that he tips his hand as to what he thinks of all the gaming and plotting and playing that happens over the course of the 2.5 hour run time. It’s all kind of a joke. It’s a joke on the media, which heightens and examines every detail to the point of absurdity, and it’s a joke on marriages, which often force the couple to change for each other in ways that seem fine at first but soon lead to resentment. And, most importantly, it’s a joke on crazy relationship thrillers. It was a popular genre, once, in the glory days of Fatal Attraction and the crazy-dreamy Eyes Wide Shut, and it resurges here with a delightfully nutty third act that tips over into an insane, supremely dark comedy with plenty of bloodshed. Nick and Amy aren’t every-people, made to be held up as the way normals would act in a given situation, they’re cartoonish funhouse mirrors which reflect only our darkest impulses and desires. In the blame game that will be played by most audience members at the conclusion of the film, the finger needs to be pointed in all kinds of directions.
It’s a fun game to play, the blame game, because the rest of the film is so well made that it’s hard to talk about the technical aspects outside of praising them for their perfection. David Fincher is a calculating and exacting director, and it’s no surprise when a flashback to a gift exchange involving sheets cuts immediately to Nick’s sister, Margo (excellently portrayed by Carrie Coon, whom you should all be watching in The Leftovers), setting up certainly less-comfy bedding for Nick on her couch. Fincher never misses a beat and, although the movie is lengthy, it never feels slow nor do any scenes stand out as unnecessary. The praise for this smoothness also goes to Gillian Flynn, who adapts her own novel for the screen and does so in a superb manner. Nothing in the film feels novelistic, everything works cinematically to tell and adapt this story in this medium. Fantastic stuff. It would all be meaningless, though, if it weren’t for Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike giving career-best performances throughout. Affleck is suitably subtle and the not-so-hidden anger under his surface seems always ready to bubble over. Pike is astounding as she uses her soft but firm voice in the narration that dominates the opening hour or so to make us feel all the right emotions. She also uses her physical presence as well as I’ve seen anybody do in the last five years or so. These four are operating at the peaks of their artistic prowess and it all gels fantastically into an astoundingly fun neo-noir movie.