Well, folks, Oscar Season has officially begun. Jump-starting the best time of the year when it comes to the movies, Gone Girl debuted to a $38 million box office and won the hearts and twisted minds of audiences and critics alike. Its reception is more than enough reason to see the film on your own (if you have not already), but in case you were on the fence about seeing this David Fincher R-rated masterpiece, here are a few reasons why you need to go to the theater as soon as possible. We can’t have spoilers now, can we?
Right off the bat (get it?), you are drawn to the character of Nick Dunne, played by Affleck. Immediately we question everything about him- his intentions, his alibis, his whereabouts, his history. Going into the film, we have an idea of the plot. A wife goes missing. All evidence points to the husband, and just like that we completely agree. He did it…right?
Affleck, who has slowly become America’s new favorite comeback story, is phenomenal as Nick Dunne. He fits the role exceptionally well. He’s charismatic enough that we can believe he can fake it. He’s smart so we know he could get away with it, yet he’s just dimwitted enough that any cover-up would have its holes and loose ends. This is no insult to Affleck, by any means, he just simply fits in the role like the last piece of a puzzle and does so brilliantly. Even with the accusations placed upon Nick, we continue to hold onto some hope that it’s all a lie, simply because it is Affleck in the role. The familiar face (and chin) make us all too comfortable, almost to the point of being oblivious to what could happen next. And it is wonderful.
And as Vivek puts in his own review, anything before Affleck’s directorial debut (which also made him a better actor) in Gone Baby Gone should be considered null and void.
We cannot have a murder mystery surrounding a woman without the woman being compelling enough to care about, right? Pike shines as Amy Dunne, in a role, that after viewing the film, could really not be played by anyone else. Beautiful, wickedly intelligent, and just innocent enough to love a little too much, Pike becomes Amazing Amy. She captures the heart of America in their search for answers and every flashback and moment shared with Pike is scrutinized in every way possible way in order for us to solve her mystery as well. She does not deserve bad things happening to her and we want to fight the good fight to bring her back. And with every revelation, we grow even more curious and obsessed with what really may be hiding underneath it all.
Pike pulls off a multi-layered and complicated performance and gives us one of the most compelling performances from a woman in quite some time. Every moment she is on the screen, we lean in just a little further to soak in every bit of detail, and every word that rolls off of Pike’s lips is seen as crucial to our own understanding.
Meticulous and obsessive in his approach to film-making, Fincher has proven himself time again as a master of the craft. In Gone Girl, his style and method is on full display, as his attention to detail, his darker tones, and his precise editing take the front seat of the roller coaster. From the opening credits, which flash across the screen with images of North Carthage, the setting of the film, we instinctively view everything as a crime scene. Fincher sets up everything exactly how he wants us to see it, and drags alone to feel specific emotions and question specific intentions. Without even being aware of it, he has us exactly where he wants us, and any change of pace or plot is all the more jarring. He’s a master of setting us up and knows exactly how to use a camera to show us what he wants us to see. The video below, void of any information relating to Gone Girl, breaks down the master’s ability to inject drama into anything.
Although I mentioned the details above, I wanted to hone in on just a specific moment that stuck with me. In the beginning of the film, as the audience witnesses the introduction of Nick and Amy at a party, the dialogue is slightly muted. The two are talking in a crowded room and all of the background noise clutters their conversation and not many of the words exchanged are audible to the audience. This continues as they embark on a walk through New York City, only to end with a kiss in an alleyway. At first, I thought this may have been a mistake in the editing, but then I remembered how careful Fincher is with his films. Every bit of information I gathered from the scene was through body language and whispers. I realized that during these moments, I leaned in a little further, wanting to hear every word. . My attention was completely won over and nothing else in the theater distracted me. I was sucked in and I never looked back.
Gone Girl has a handful of these moments that bring you closer and closer for a reason- so the aftermath of what unfolds hits even closer to home as it unravels, literally, just beneath our noses.
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are the most perfect compliments to Fincher and his films. Quiet, yet always present, their scores are the underlying heartbeat to three of Fincher’s films. These heartbeats, however, are far from your usual rhythms. They are dissonant droning noises that unnerve and unravel the audience, leaving them even more vulnerable to peaks of violence, suspense, or drama. Consider Reznor and Ross the scalpel cutting into the flesh. Once enough of the body has peeled away, the surgeon (Fincher) has free reign inside the organism to do as he pleases. In the case of Gone Girl, the jagged edge of the scalpel slowly cuts inside of us, bit by bit, with each new revelation being the nerve that the blade purposefully nicks.
Adapting your own novel has its perks. You can trim the fat, add what you may have missed, or even change the ending. Gillian Flynn, the author of the book as well as the screenwriter, carries over on to the screen her unusually dark sense of humor and fascination with morbidity. The script is tight, even with the film having a run time of two and half hours, but manages to tell each bit of the story necessary for us to feel. The film, in a sense, is comprised of five acts, with particular revelations coming sooner than you’d expect. Having your story reach its peak at the mid-point of any story shows a confidence very few have, and executing as brilliantly as Flynn is able to is even rarer. And yet, even with all of its twists and turns, Gone Girl‘s strongest asset is the characters. Flynn builds them up with just enough details to make them relatable and believable as real people in real situations, and then the games she plays with them makes us all the more nervous and afraid.
If everything I stated above did not sell you on Gone Girl, that is completely okay. The film is not for everyone, nor is the subject matter or style. Fincher is an acquired taste that many may enjoy, but only a few truly appreciate. I am not considering myself an elite “critic” who can dissect a film, frame by frame, but if you watch the film fully aware of what is playing on the screen, there are so many surprises in store. Just as in any missing persons case, every little detail matters, so does that in Gone Girl. Every thing, sound, and person has a purpose. Finding what those purposes are, however, is where the movie watching experience really begins.