‘Gone Girl’ is a terrifically entertaining motion picture – twisted, bloody, satirical, inventive, and brilliant. I want to see more movies like ‘Gone Girl’, and ‘Nightcrawler’, please. Usually, my reviews are intended for those who haven’t seen the movie I’m talking about. Not the case here.
If you have not seen ‘Gone Girl’, do not continue reading!!! (Though if you have read the book, you should be fine – I haven’t read the book, but I’m told that the film is a very close literary adaptation.)
The first hour of ‘Gone Girl’ will have viewers accepting scenes at face value. This includes the couple’s first meet at a party, the perfect proposal, and the inevitable disintegration of their marriage.
The characters are established as the types in which they appear – the distant husband, and the educated and ambitious wife who just wants to be a mom. Sixty minutes into ‘Gone Girl’, this all changes. Rosamund Pike’s character is alive and well and has gone to comically ridiculous lengths to fake her own murder (along the way, faking a pregnancy to the degree it is possible, and leaving Ben Affleck’s character in financial ruins).
David Fincher is very much a cause-and-effect type of filmmaker, showing how one thing leads to another and another and another (almost always against a haunting, beautifully photographed backdrop). Just yesterday, I revisited Fincher’s ‘The Game’ and to me it was clear that Fincher is a “how” director rather than a “why”. A “why” director would have created a tidy ending for ‘The Game’; Fincher less so – he is more interested in process as opposed to resolution. And in ‘Gone Girl’, we’re able to see just how Pike fakes her death before returning home. With Fincher being a “how” director, the “why” is left to us to figure out. Which leads me to a few questions.
Who in the hell is Rosamund Pike?
The Queen of Femme Fatales. Any other movie would have ended with Pike’s character getting away with the perfect crime and sipping a martini on a beach somewhere. We’re not even halfway through the film when this big twist is revealed.
Fincher’s “how” method is explained by Pike taking on a number of varied stereotypes – we see her on the run as she has her own interior monologue; her fake diary paints her as a woman victimized by her cold-blooded husband; when she’s at the motel, she is a Southerner on the run from a violent boyfriend; and eventually, she resurfaces as a survivor who is comfortable enough to give a version of her story on talk shows. She is constantly shifting, and we’re constantly guessing, and that’s part of what makes ‘Gone Girl’ a perversely fun cinematic experience.
At one point, we discover that Pike has manipulated and severely toyed with not just Affleck, but a couple of former boyfriends as well. Neil Patrick Harris’s character is supposedly a stalker, but when we meet him, he doesn’t appear all that creepy. He isn’t a fully fleshed out character, but that isn’t a criticism, merely an observation. I think it is because everything we’ve heard about NPH has been from Pike’s viewpoint. And so, when he is brought on screen, he doesn’t seem real; instead, he appears as a manifestation of all these conflicting thoughts and ideas we have of him. Whatever disharmonic past these two had, they keep in touch through direct mail. Why? She needed an ace in the hole for this prodigious scheme. It is only when Pike and NPH connect that we are able to see Pike plot and scheme while she’s doing it. Here, she is in a situation where she ends up feeling as entrapped as she felt in her marriage with Affleck’s character. She’s too confined, she can’t go anywhere, and so she breaks out of it in her own ridiculous way. This leads to the film’s disgusting, bloody, Verhoeven-esque climax.
Why does she return home?
When Affleck’s character went on the talk show to tell his side of the story and apologized for his failures as a husband, he was able to turn around the public’s perception of him. The public is sympathetic towards him, thus messing up Pike’s plans. She didn’t buy into Affleck’s sad speech. But, when she saw him on television, she realized that this is the person she could be with. That he has it in him to be as manipulative as she is and they can make the best out of the situation they are in together. Returning home wasn’t part of her initial plan – she didn’t anticipate being robbed in the motel and having to resort to contacting NPH. In her mind, if she is able to return home, she is in full control of everything and the two can be honest about the manipulation – honest about their lies. Affleck has no choice. What is he going to do: breakup with the victim of a horrific kidnapping who was repeatedly raped?
Is her story error-free?
Lord, no. But viewers of these talk shows accept it because her story is comprised of elements people want to believe. Or like to believe. Her market research consists of watching television and reading bestsellers. She knows that American audiences love pregnant women. So, she fakes her pregnancy and then commits the seemingly perfect crime by concocting the perfect rocky marriage.
Why does she do what she does?
Can we blame all this on Amazing Amy, the book character her life was the inspiration of? Amazing Amy has it all, does it all, and is always right. Could these books be encouraging Pike’s character to be more amazing – be the one to outsmart everyone else and win the day?
So, what is ‘Gone Girl’ really about?
Those calling ‘Gone Girl’ the worst date movie in the history of the cinema are mistaken. It isn’t about marriage or relationships. It’s about how people take on a number of different roles, whether it is to reach a level of compromise with another person, manipulate them, or implicate them. The movie opens and ends with the same question – “What is really going on in your head?” There is no answer. QED.