David Fincher strikes a nerve with ‘Gone Girl’



David Fincher strikes a nerve with ‘Gone Girl’

By Film Critic Josh Weitzel

“Gone Girl” opens with Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) laying her head on the chest of her husband, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck). Nick narrates that he wants to bash in his wife’s head to see what is going on in there. It is unclear whether he is speaking literally or metaphorically, and this brief glimpse into Nick’s mind perfectly sets the stage for the events to come. Both Nick and Amy narrate the story, but it soon becomes clear that neither can be trusted, separating “Gone Girl” from other run-of-the-mill thrillers. 

On the surface, Nick appears to be an ordinary guy, but on the couple’s fifth wedding anniversary, he comes home from a bar to find Amy missing. The national spotlight turns to Nick after detectives find evidence that may link him to Amy’s disappearance. Nick must prove his innocence with the help of his twin sister and confidant, Margo (Carrie Coon). 

Amy narrates her side of the tale through a diary she has kept since she met Nick several years before. She writes in depth about her unhappy life, from her early childhood to her relationship with Nick. Her cryptic voiceovers suggest that Nick could be responsible for her disappearance. However, it becomes apparent that Amy also may not be as innocent as she claims to be.

Chicagoan Gillian Flynn, author of the book that inspired the film, adapted her own work for the screen.  Critically acclaimed director David Fincher, known for films such as “Zodiac” and “The Social Network,” brings his distinctive filmmaking style to Flynn’s meticulously crafted script. He brings back his usual collaborators to help bring his vision to life. Cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, who shot Fincher favorites “Fight Club” and “The Social Network,” helps deliver the dark and moody visual style Fincher’s films are known for. Similar to his previous work, the frames are composed of dark lighting and use a very specific color palette of dark brown and blue. The film is very similar to “Zodiac” and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” in this regard. Even daytime shots look darker than they should, providing a constant feeling of anxiety that perfectly fits the tense narrative. With music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, both of whom scored “The Social Network,” the somber and moody tones perfectly complement the dark visuals.

The film becomes less about Amy’s disappearance and more about the Dunnes’ toxic marriage. Despite the conflicting narratives, glimpses of truth become clear when their stories overlap. 

Upon reading Amy’s diary, Nick confirms with the detectives what is true and what is false. The truth goes as far as their early days together, including their first kiss and their financial situation after they both lost their jobs. In addition, Nick’s conversations with Margo reveal just how unhappy he was with his marriage. On the other side of the coin, Amy is displeased as well, expressing fear for her safety at home and a need to purchase a gun for her own protection. The gradual confessions of their sociopathic tendencies reveal the demented nature of the marriage and creates a strong basis for which the murder mystery is established.

The cast is equally as brilliant as the filmmakers. Affleck and Pike expertly create the sociopathic couple and have excellent chemistry not just with each other but the rest of the cast. The supporting cast is also impressive. Neil Patrick Harris plays Desi, a former lover of Amy’s whom Nick decides to investigate. Desi’s attitude toward Amy is that of an eerie stalker, a stark departure from Harris’ typical roles. 

Despite some subtle nuances being lost in translation from book to film, the joint artistic visions of Fincher and Flynn mesh with the moving performances to create a spectacularly dark, introspective film. In the book, Nick narrates his internal dialogue, keeping readers up to date on his side of the story. In the film, viewers are left to wonder what is happening in his head.

Despite a few differences from the book, the unreliable narrators and Fincher’s impeccable directing style help make “Gone Girl” one of the most exciting films of this year.