Gone Girl: Spoiler-Free Edition

Posted: October 9, 2014 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized

MV5BMTk0MDQ3MzAzOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzU1NzE3MjE@._V1__SX1391_SY638_Gillian Flynn’s third novel, Gone Girl, skyrocketed to the top of the New York Times bestseller list in 2012, amassing both critical and popular acclaim. The daughter of a film professor, Flynn was soon tapped to write a screenplay and adapt her book for the big screen. David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club, and The Social Network) was brought on to direct and Ben Affleck cast as the lead; the project immediately began piquing the curiosity of fans of the book and generating Oscar buzz. Gone Girl was, from the outset, destined to garner copious amounts of attention. Now, nearly a week after its theatrical release, its overwhelmingly favorable reception by both critics and the moviegoing public, indicates that the attention was justified. Gone Girl has officially kickstarted the Oscar race.

Fincher’s film opens to the foreboding voiceover of Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck). Nick is a struggling writer who comes home one day to find that his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike), the titular gone girl, is missing. He is subsequently subjected to intense scrutiny, as the evidence suggests that he may have murdered his wife. It’s difficult to say much more about the plot without giving too much away. Still, suffice it to say that in Gone Girl, “you may think you know what’s going on, but, believe me, you don’t” —to borrow John Huston’s famous lines from Chinatown, a classic film that is, incidentally, not unlike Fincher’s latest in terms of tone and overall mood. While it’s not a thriller in the traditional sense, Gone Girl is, at times, practically unbearable as Fincher relentlessly increases the tension.

Gone Girl is characterized by this unsettling aura precisely because its subject matter is incredibly intimate and, thus, makes for uncomfortable viewing. Marriage plays a central role in the film. In fact, Gone Girl is essentially a marital drama, wherein the viewer has to unravel the mystery of Amy and Nick’s marriage in order to solve the mystery of her disappearance. [1] It raises questions about the nature and purpose of marriage and its ability to change you, or—an even more sobering thought—reveal who you truly are.

MV5BMTQyNjUxMjU5Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDk5MzM5MDE@._V1__SX1394_SY638_Adding to the already-intense relational conflict at the heart of Gone Girl is the film’s nerve-racking score. Trent Reznor’s work challenges the way we think about movie music. He includes noises, like the humming of a floor buffer, into the soundtrack in order to shatter cinematic convention and heighten audience anxiety. That these noises are not stationary—but travel throughout the theater, behind, beside, and in front of the viewer—is even more disquieting.

In terms of subject matter and sound, Gone Girl feels like a Hitchcock film (Vertigo comes to mind); but because of the aforementioned subject matter —and Fincher’s unflinching portrayal thereof—it is far from an easy film to watch. What makes Gone Girl especially unique in this era of filmmaking is that while it is gritty and grim, it does not seem to rejoice in it. However, these things are better left undiscussed until more people have seen the film.

[More on Gone Girl in a few weeks.]

  1. Gyllian Flynn made a statement to this effect at an interview with Peter Travers for the NY Critics Film Series. I was unable to locate the exact quote.  ↩

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