Gone Girl

Gone Girl Movie Review20th Century Fox
Rated R for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language.
Running time: 145 minutes.
Three and a half stars out of four.

There’s a particular kind of narcissism that comes with being an only child. You are the confident center of your own universe. You are beyond independent — you’re protective of your self-sufficiency in a way that’s almost primal. Why shouldn’t you be in control of your surroundings? Why shouldn’t you have whatever you want? It’s your birthright.

I speak from experience as an only child who’s also the daughter of an only child and the mother of an only child. Rosamund Pike’s character in “Gone Girl,” the brilliant and bewitching Amy Dunne, also is an only child, as is Pike herself. It’s the prism through which the actress found this elusive character, this precise and quintessentially icy Hitchcockian blonde who serves as the unattainable center of a constantly shifting narrative.

And indeed, “Gone Girl” is David Fincher’s Alfred Hitchcock film. It’s sleek and sexy, a twisty mystery that’s both dark and darkly funny — surprisingly so, given the subject matter. I found myself laughing way more than I expected — sometimes at a sardonic one-liner or a biting quip, but often as a release during moments that were just unbearably suspenseful or macabre.

Part thriller, part meditation on modern marriage, “Gone Girl” moves so smoothly and seems so effortless, it positively glides. Fincher has always enjoyed exploring the more unsettling elements of human nature, from “Se7en” to “Fight Club” to his remake of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” but this time it feels as if he’s dancing while he’s doing it. Shot beautifully by his usual cinematographer, Jeff Cronenweth, edited fluidly by two-time Oscar winner Kirk Baxter and scored hypnotically by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, this is the most elegant, exquisitely made trash.

You could take it seriously, though. Based on the novel by Gillian Flynn (who also wrote the screenplay), “Gone Girl” is dense thematically, and it certainly offers a lot to chew on: marriage, identity, trust, truth. While it may not be saying anything new about the notion that you never truly can know another person — not even your spouse — it does so cleverly and with great wit and verve. But “Gone Girl” is also just massively entertaining as a stylish, lurid escape to a place you probably would never want to go yourself in real life.

Everything looks lovely on the surface, though — at first. “Gone Girl” opens in a wealthy suburban enclave on the morning of a gorgeous couple’s fifth wedding anniversary. But the husband, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), has discovered that his wife, Amy (Pike), is missing. As the investigation gets underway as to Amy’s whereabouts, Flynn’s scripts bounces back and forth in time and perspective to bring us up to speed.

It returns to the night Nick and Amy met cute and bantered beautifully at a hip Manhattan party; both writers, they’re naturally quick and hyper-verbal. It follows their flirty, frisky courtship. It revisits the very public way Nick asked Amy to marry him. And, eventually, it captures some of the down moments in their relationship: the complacency Nick felt once he lost his job, and her disappointment in him in response. Once Nick’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, prompting the couple to move back to his hometown in Missouri, it seemed their fate was sealed.

Back in the present, the days pass without a trace of Amy. But the usual hysterical machinery that builds during the disappearance of a beautiful blonde woman gathers steam: volunteer searchers, a hotline and a website, old friends, judgy parents, freaky hangers-on and non-stop media scrutiny. (Missi Pyle is dead-on as the strident and shrieky Nancy Grace figure.) “Gone Girl” really nails the almost predatory way in which television news pounces on this kind of story, as well as the relative ease with which the media can be manipulated; between this and the upcoming “Nightcrawler,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a skeevy freelance cameraman prowling the streets of Los Angeles, it’s a reminder of how eerily prescient “Ace in the Hole” was more than 60 years ago, and how relevant it remains today.

There isn’t much more I can say without giving away spoilers, which I wouldn’t dream of doing. You really should go into “Gone Girl” knowing as little as possible, and I actually hope you’re reading this after you’ve seen the film. But I do need to rave a bit about the inspired casting. Affleck is always underestimated as an actor — even in his Oscar-winning “Argo” — but he and the extraordinary Pike both rise to the challenge of playing characters who are constantly evolving in our eyes as we learn more details about them, and about their supposedly idyllic marriage. We, in turn, are in the deliciously uncomfortable position of having to reassess constantly how we feel about these people: whom we believe, side with and even like.

Affleck also gets to have a little fun toying with his off-screen persona, and the perception that he’s smug or shallow. Pike, meanwhile, finds a way to be both beguiling and chilling, and after years of standout supporting work in films as diverse as “An Education,” “Made in Dagenham,” “Jack Reacher” and “The World’s End,” it’s a joy to see her finally seize upon such a meaty starring role with total gusto.

Also defying expectations: Tyler Perry as the high-powered attorney Nick hires as he goes from pitied victim to potential suspect. Perry is shockingly good in this, and he should make other people’s movies more often. Carrie Coon finds an appealing naturalism as Nick’s twin sister and the grounded voice of reason, and Kim Dickens is a consistent scene-stealer as the straight-shooting detective in charge of the case. If there is even a vaguely weak link, it’s Neil Patrick Harris’ character, a hilariously arrogant former boyfriend of Amy’s who comes back into the picture years later.

Then again, who he is isn’t as important as what he represents. It’s Amy’s world, and we’re all just living in it.

29 Comments on “Gone Girl

  1.  by  Exec.Walls

    Wonderful movie – finished indulging in it this afternoon. Fincher is a masterful director who added so much support to a movie that could have easily crumbled under its own weight (there was so much going on, so much story to tell in what seemed like a relatively brief amount of time).

    All in all, it was incredibly sensational in the way the characters gravitated towards the most extreme behaviors, yet it remained fully enjoyable and easy to engage. A+

  2.  by  JozieLee

    I read the book before the movie came out because of all the positive buzz surrounding the film.

    Like so many who remember the Scott Peterson case (beautiful young couple, pregnanat wife goes missing, cheating husband prime suspect, wife/fetus’ bodies found 1-yr later) I felt like I knew this story, but early on it veered into new territory (into the mind of a sociopath) which I found compelling, yet frightening.

    Flynn’s descriptive writing had held my attention, and watching her haunting vision come to life on screen was like experiencing it in color.

    I’ve read lots of message board discussions about casting. For me, Ben Affleck with his laidback charm and Rosamund Pike with her flawless beauty fit my mental picture. Bravo.

    Gone Girl is one of the most intriguing movies I’ve seen this year. I’m surprised it’s not doing better at the box office. Maybe it’s a slow burn.

    •  by  Maxi

      Why should it do better at the box office? It does pretty well actually .

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  5.  by  Christian Toto

    Your RottenTomatoes.com teaser was more accurate … ‘exquisitely made trash.’ So far fetched and cartoonish … yet handsomely made in all the Oscar-bait ways we expected. What a letdown. And that ending … rubbish.

    •  by  dede

      I totally agree. This movie was really really good for the first hour and a half, then after three days missing or so, it felt like I had been in the movie theatre more like three years! I loved the acting. They all did a great job, but I saw about 4 different endings that would have played out much much better than the one they went for. It made it seem more like a cartoon! (That’s how I felt about “Con Air,” great movie until the STUPID STUPID ENDING). I really think this movie could have been a masterpiece. Take about 45 min off of it and change the ending to one more believable. That’s all she wrote!

      •  by  Barbara

        I’m glad I’m not the only one disappointed at the ending; I’m still trying to get my head around it. And this is one movie in which I was anticipating a really surprising ending!

    •  by  SharonScholl

      I totally agree – what the hell was the premise of this movie and the big let down at the end? Totally Trash to me – filming good – story – HYPED!

    •  by  CFriis

      Far fetched?
      How exactly is it far fetched?
      Doesn’t seem any more far-fetched to me than any other thriller movie ever made.
      Female sociopath uses emotional manipulation to ruin someone’s life and gets away with it?
      Seems pretty damn close to real life to me.

  6.  by  Arlene

    I absolutely agree about the first hour and half. I was jumping out of my seat and as I was waiting for the ending it happened. No crescendo no ending. Terrible for such an intense beginning.

  7.  by  Amy

    So glad to see I’m not the only one that thought it was bad. Wonderful acting by all, just bad storytelling that could have been so easily improved!! Can’t imagine that any FBI agents enjoyed it, since they came off looking like idiots. Maybe I’ve just seen too many crime-solving stories, but this one had way too many glaring holes to be plausible.

  8.  by  Jonathan W. Fink

    I recently saw Gone Girl. For me, the movie was a let down, like War of the Roses without irony. The only part I found memorable was the “Cool Girl” riff. I was equal parts fascinated, perplexed, and amused.

    Accordingly, I read the entire “Cool Girl” passage from the book:

    Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

    Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: “I like strong women.” If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because “I like strong women” is code for “I hate strong women.”)”
    ― Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl

    I followed up my reading with a web search. Sure enough, as is usually the case, I am the last to know that the “Cool Girl” has become an indelible topic of pop culture. According to the blogosphere, The “Cool Girl” is apparently equal parts Jennifer Lawrence, Mila Kunis, and Cameron Diaz, with all their negative pop culture stereotypes.

    I have one question about the “Cool Girl”: All kidding aside, does anyone beyond the age of 21 actually think this way about women? I know I’m dating myself, but when I was growing up, the “Cool Girl” was the strong girl who did her own thing, couldn’t care less what anyone else thought, and laughed off her own foibles and those of everyone else. I remember Esquire Magazine designating Diane Keaton as the ultimate embodiment of the “Cool Girl” by naming her as woman of the year. In fact Esquire named Diane Keaton the woman of the year, in part, because she was strong.

    I have always dated strong women, who do their own thing, who couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks, and who laugh off her own foibles and those of everyone else. For myself, when I say I like strong women, it DOES NOT mean I hate strong women and I will fuck somebody else. In fact, I will fuck the strong woman because I actually like her. In fact, I married such a woman.

    When I read things like the “Cool Girl” riff, it spooks me. The passage contributes to the genderfication (I know, I made up a word) and, subsequently contributes to, sexism in our society. Are men and women really that different. Not to me. I think gender (NOT SEX) is an entire social construct based on power relations.

    Now, I realize that I am really dating myself. However, I believe the proof that gender is a social construct based on power relations is all around us: Look at gay marriage. To me is shows that the roles of “Husband” and “Wife” are entirely socially defined and have nothing to do with sex. Another illustration may be found in the work place. Plenty of studies evidence that CEOs, regardless of sex, behave the same way. A final example hits particularly close to home for me. As a single male parent, I believe that I am as capable of raising a child by myself as any female.

    So, while it may be amusing, I find the concept of the “Cool Girl” in Gone Girl sexist, regressive, and, ultimately destructive. Moreover, I doubt most men, and women for that matter, actually think this way. Tell me your thoughts.

    •  by  Adam

      Forgive me, I have not read the book, only seen the movie. But in the movie, this monologue is postulated by a particular character. Without saying too much, but taking the actions of this character into consideration, I would say that some of her concept of the “cool girl” is regressive and, as you say, destructive. But that sounds like her doesn’t it? I don’t think that’s the same thing as the movie being sexist.

      Within the context of the film, I think it’s a compelling monologue because it speaks to the character and rings of some truth. Perhaps not the whole truth, but some of it.

      •  by  gina griem

        I concur..the ending felt soo unfeeling and unbelievable..It was hard to ingest!!! And the acting grew on me..in the beginning it felt staged.Like the actors were just saying lines.

      •  by  gina griem

        Perhaps in the obsessive perspective of wanting to be validated ,accepted, and loved as the cool girl.It contributed to poor Amy’s unstable mental condition.The disloyalty of her hubby, sent her over the edge and made her question all that she was and what they had.And after all her efforts to be perfect in his eyes,he must pay for his unappreciation and abandonment!!!! OMG.. her character felt so empty and shallow.How horrible to live and breathe for anothers approval and not have anIity identity.

      •  by  Tony Seliquini

        It was the monologue of a sociopath. Not the general public common consensus. So relax.

    •  by  CFriis

      Methinks someone is jealous and bitter over not having an attractive personality (being a cool girl).
      The concept of the “cool girl” is no more sexist, regressive or destructive than the concepts: cute guy, dude-bro, frat-boy, etc.
      They are all colloquialisms used subjectively by people to help describe other people.

    •  by  John Doe

      Well, this might hurt a little — try to remember, you asked for it. My thoughts? After seeing the film, my thoughts re: yours & others’ disappointment with the film is this: if you’ve been so fortunate to never have had a troubled marriage, then you will have predictable trouble grasping the point of the film’s finale.

      The brilliance of the conclusion is in it’s resistance to being a typical “Hollywood ending”, posing the troubling questions that every struggling married couple faces: “What have we done to each other? What WILL we do…?”

      She’s a narcissistic psychopath, he’s a lying cheat. But because we humans are endowed (or plagued) from time to time by oversized egos, we make lots of excuses, rather then face the truth. In the rotting relationship at the heart of this film, both participants are actually resurrected — though not in desirable form. Now the dilemma — which is worse, to remain in the lie, and hope for some Deus ex machina, or blow it all up and face the inevitable consequences?

      Still think it’s far-fetched…? Talk to some divorce counsellors…or better yet, to divorce attorneys.

  9.  by  Nina

    Good movie in the first half but ending VERY disappointing

  10.  by  gina griem

    I concur..the ending felt soo unfeeling and unbelievable..It was hard to ingest!!! And the acting grew on me..in the beginning it felt staged.Like the actors were just saying lines.

  11.  by  Ronson

    Rosamund Pike was indeed a great actor in this film. She played her character wonderfully and I was truly frightful of her and what she’s capable of. I think the ending sucked… the guy is stuck with his wife, who’s a sociopath… THE END. But I kind of enjoy the idea of the film: appearances and impressions mean everything, but they are not accurate representations and those impressions can be easily sculpted. Even better, the idea is applied to something liek our idea of marriages, where the assumption is that the couple are happy predestined lovers, when in fact, they might just be scared to be alone or pre-arranged marriages or looking to marry due to social pressures or because they fell in love with the idea of marriage rather than the person they’re marrying.

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  13.  by  Joey

    HORRIBLE ATTEMPT AT MAKING
    A MOVIE. NO MORE WORDS NEEDED,
    UNLESS YOU WANT TO PRINT THIS OUT AT 10,000% SIZE, GLUE IT TO SOME CARDBOARD, AND THEN USE IT TO FURTHER PROP UP THE CARDBOARD
    CUTOUTS THAT WERE IDENTIFIED AS ACTORS IN THIS “FILM”. MY ONLY FEAR WHILE WATCHING THIS “FILM” WAS THAT IT WAS NEVER GOING TO END. 145 MINUTES TO TELL THIS “STORY”. THE END. FINALLY.

  14.  by  Jez

    I don’t want my money back just my time, … That was the greatest load of garbage I have ever had the misfortune to sit through, I was gob smacked, my friend and I commented on how it felt like a grade 10 film. Unbelievable.

  15.  by  deepseagirl

    I liked it. I think it’s a masterpiece. Who cares if it’s unbelievable or impossible? It’s a story! I don’t hate the ending, the both of them (Nick and Amy) got what they deserve and that seems fine to me.

    •  by  Jeff

      I completely agree, this movie is awesome and the ending is perfect. Neither of them deserved to come out of it better than than the other. The ultimate hell on earth scenario for them to be forced to stay together.