GONE GIRL: STYLISH BUT ULTIMATELY HOLLOW

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GONE GIRL
Directed by David Fincher. 
Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris & Tyler Perry

When you are watching a movie, you want to like it – after all, you are spending time and money to watch the movie so… wouldn’t you want to like it? I find that increasingly, the more visual eye candy the movie throws my way, the more amenable I am to accept the story flaws that inevitably crop up. But in the case of Gone Girl – director David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best selling novel, there are no special effects to distract from the plotline and thus, one would think that it would be easier to determine how successful the story-telling was.

Not necessarily so. The thing about Gone Girl – the novel and the movie – is that it is about perspective. In the novel, the device of the unreliable narrator is used extensively and effectively by Flynn but this is harder in a film adaptation. Sure, Fincher attempts to build up two character viewpoints (married couple Affleck’s Nick Dunne and Pike’s Amy Elliot Dunne) and then reveal them to be somewhat unreliable but it’s not that well executed.

Part of the problem is the acting performances of the leads. Nick is to be portrayed as a buffoon of sorts, disconnected from his wife but lacking the initiative to end the marriage – Affleck manages to look clueless throughout but his blank expression is probably more a result of under-acting. Pike, on the other hand, tries too hard to seem impenetrable. Amy’s devious behavior seems plain as day and her facial expressions telegraph an evil intent and is the result of Pike trying too hard and over-acting. The scenes with Amy’s ex-boyfriend Desi Collings (Harris taking the creepy ex cliche to the hilt) are simply ludicrous.

To Fincher’s credit, the movie is well-crafted and very stylish. The manner in which the plot shifts in time to focus on the two main characters is rather seamless. The scenes whereby the ugliness of the media in these kinds of situations are well-constructed. There is even a nagging suspicion that the real antagonists of the piece are the reporters on the fringes waiting to pounce on every juicy detail of the sordid affair and making it much worse then it is. However, as technically proficient these elements are, the weakness in the narrative cannot sustain the illusion that there is a story worth telling here.

And even as the narrative races towards it’s implausible (and ‘nod and wink’ knowing) denouement, one seriously wonders what the whole point was. Is the movie saying that the marriage relationship is so dysfunctional that two fucked-up personalities can somehow compromise to make it ‘work’ – as emphasized by the framing sequence (see photo above) or is it cynically implying that ‘bad’ people do not get their just desserts and even win? The fact that the conclusion is so unsatisfying may even be the thematic core of Gone Girl – the story seems incomplete and maybe that is the damning summary of almost every long-term relationship.

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