The 400-Word Review: Gone Girl
By Sean Collier
October 6, 2014
Nineteen years ago, David Fincher made one of the most dark, troubling mainstream movies in film history. Se7en was an unflinching, brutal take on the serial-killer genre, forcing the viewer into an intimate and detailed familiarity with inventively disgusting crimes; that it was widely seen enough to earn $100 million domestically and remain atop the box office charts for a full month is a credit to the director’s nearly-unparalleled storytelling acumen.
This year, he went further.
Gone Girl is disturbing on an even more basic level. It does not require a deranged psychopath — as Seven did — or a sinister aristocracy and criminal underworld, like Fincher’s most recent feature, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In Gone Girl, the evil is perfectly plausible, pedestrian and living right next door.
Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) begins the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary in the bar he co-owns with sister Margo (Carrie Coon), bemoaning the unsustainable state of his marriage to highfalutin Amy (Rosamund Pike). On returning home, he finds his wife missing and a suspiciously-constructed crime scene; as the small, Midwestern town mobilizes to find Amy, suspicion turns to Nick almost immediately.
At no point do the twists and turns of Gone Girl pass into the territory of TV-docudrama whodunits; calling this a missing-persons story is like comparing Silence of the Lambs to an Agatha Christie yarn. Very little else can be revealed spoiler-free, so I’ll quote Trent Reznor, co-composer (with Atticus Ross) of the film’s excellent score: “It’s a nasty film.”
As strong as it was, Fincher’s The Social Network now feels like a pleasant practice round for Gone Girl. The pervading sense of unease and sinister intention painted over every frame of that film is brought to bear here, in a much more appropriate context. The powers that the director has cultivated over the course of Social Network, as well as fine films like Zodiac and Panic Room, are deployed at full strength in Gone Girl.
If the film has a flaw, it is a willful one; Gone Girl is perhaps so eager to be rotten to the core that a solid argument could be made in favor of an offensive, if not outright misogynistic, reading of its text. I’m sure this is exactly what Fincher intended, but it will make elements of Gone Girl challenging for general audiences. But that’s what he does. Like Reznor said: nasty.
My Rating: 9/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark