Gone Girl

In theatres now

I was very entertained by Gone Girl. I want to make that totally clear, right off the bat, because I have a lot of thoughts about the film, and a lot of them aren’t positive. Do I think people should see this movie? Definitely. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s kind of a mess.

Based on the Gillian Flynn bestseller, Gone Girl is the story of a man (Ben Affleck) who comes home one morning to find his wife (Rosamund Pike) missing. He reports her absence to the police. Soon, he’s the prime suspect in her potential murder. His role in her disappearance is initially ambiguous, and the whole case soon becomes a Scott Peterson-esque media frenzy.

The direction and the script are totally at odds here. David Fincher’s visual approach - as always - is dark and austere. The dialogue is snappy and self-aware. This contrast worked in Fincher’s The Social Network, because that script was smart. But Gone Girl is trashy and kind of dumb (not necessarily a bad thing). As a result, the tone is all over the place. One minute it’s Psycho, the next it’s Desperate Housewives. The movie thinks it’s doing two things at once, but it’s only ever one or the other.

I can’t help imagining a bizarro alternate-reality version of Gone Girl directed by a Hollywood hack like Chris Columbus. That version might work better, because that’s the sort of treatment that this script warrants. When you have Missi Pyle playing a Saturday Night Live version of Nancy Grace, rote direction is appropriate.

This is still a great, fun yarn of a murder mystery. I think the filmmakers thought that adding Fincher, the king of murder mysteries (Se7en), would elevate the script. But instead of Fincher elevating the material, Gone Girl feels like the material is lowering Fincher.

Published in Volume 69, Number 7 of The Uniter (October 15, 2014)

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