Based on the hugely successful Gillian Flynn novel of the same name, director David Fincher’s adaptation of Gone Girl was without doubt one of the most hotly anticipated film releases of the year. The advertising and PR campaign has been colossal, and there are already loud (very loud) whisperings of Best Picture nominations.
As one of the biggest Flynn fans going, as well as someone prone to negatively judge adaptations of books with the all the conviction of somebody watching their local Waterstones be burned down to make way for a Vue, I was more than a little concerned that the film would fall neatly into the trap of not living up to its own hype.
In an attempt to summarise the plot without giving away too many spoilers, the story focuses on Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) a teacher and ex-journalist who, on the day of his fifth wedding anniversary, discovers that his wife, Amy, (Rosamund Pike) is missing. He returns home from the bar he runs with his sister Margo (Carrie Coon) to find a crime scene in his living room. It looks like a break-in, although the police, when he eventually gets around to calling them, don’t seem so sure.
As his reaction to his wife’s disappearance grows increasingly out of synch and bizarre, and with him seeming to have little to no clue about her life when he’s out of the house, the finger of suspicion of both the police, represented by a truly excellent Kim Dickens as the wonderful Detective Rhonda, as well as the media begins to point to him.
Is he just a mam struggling to come to terms with his missing soul-mate, or is something more sinister at play here? Throughout, we gain insight into their, perhaps not quite as idyllic as it seemed, marriage via extracts from the diary of the missing Amy. Largely taken directly from the book, these give us a window into the darker side of Nick Dunne, but can we trust this either?
There are plenty of complex ideas to deliver here, with crime, the recession and marriage all coming under the spotlight, but Fincher ticks every box with immense style. The cinematography is a dream, perfectly capturing the slightly patched-together nature of mid-west, small-town Americana that is Flynn’s calling card, and using colour beautifully to suggest the different perspectives and time periods as we move between the present day of Amy’s disappearance, the diary pieces and the early days their relationship.
This is complemented by a slick, darkly comic script, adapted by Flynn herself, as well as some truly brilliant performances from the key cast. Rosamund Pike presents an arrogant absent-ness to the character of Amy, a character who has all her life been fictionalised by her doting parents in their ‘Amazing Amy’ series, a character who knows other way but to play pretend her own life. Both Fincher’s subtly brilliant direction and Pikes performance expertly realise the creepily unusual, the almost Carter-esque fairytale anti-heroines that are Flynn’s speciality. There is a certain head movement from her, in a certain scene (I’ll give you a clue, the scene is the reason the film is rated 18), which I really think is the most effective moment in the entire film.
Neil Patrick Harris shines as Amy’s creepy, unavoidably camp ex-boyfriend, and Ben Affleck is perfectly cast everyman Nick, caught up in events he doesn’t quite understand, although with sinister undertones. I do think, though, that his character could have been pushed further. He could perhaps have benefited from more anger, the stress and dislike of those around him, particularly women, running closer to the surface than it is here. In the book, Nick is really our central perspective, but here he is outshone, appropriately enough, by his dazzling wife.
Haunting, and unsatisfying in all the right places, Gone Girl gets its tone exactly right.
Certain elements could have been taken further, in order for it to make more of a statement about its key ideas. Character rather than theme seems to be the key focus here, but it would have been good to see slightly more of a mix.
All in all, though, this isn’t one put on your 'wait for Netflix' list. It looks gorgeous on the big screen, and hearing the discussions of your fellow cinema-goers on your way out will be a highlight in itself.
It’s so, so much more than the crime thriller it’s been marketed as.
But then, so was the book.