About Grant

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New York, NY, United States
Film director and screenwriter. Cinephile since birth. Director of DREAMS OF THE WAYWARD (2013). Film Studies MA student at Columbia University.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Film Review: David Fincher's "Gone Girl" (2014) 3.5/5

     It's been three years since David Fincher's brooding, wintery adaptation of Stieg Larson's novel The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011), and his latest film enters what may appear on the surface to be similar territory.  The menacing and chilling tone of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is replaced by a simmering atmosphere of unrest and Sweden is substituted for Missouri in Fincher's mechanical film Gone Girl (2014) - an adaptation of the novel penned by the book's author, Gillian Flynn.  
     Like a police procedural, the film unravels as information is revealed.  However, working against that is another thread to the story - the inner mechanisms of its protagonists.  Beginning with a point-of-view shot of the top of Amy Elliott-Dunne's (Rosamund Pike) head from her husband Nick Dunne's (Ben Affleck) perspective, the film is already introducing ideas of identity and motive.  One can never know exactly what another person is thinking, and its ideas like that which fuel this film.  Over the opening credits, we see all of the locations that we'll eventually encounter as the film progresses.  Right now, these locations are meaningless, but they're about to be given value as characters interact within them and clues to this mystery become attached to individual locations.  Starting with Nick Dunne leaving his home to go to a bar, simply called The Bar, we're already on edge as it is revealed in dialogue that it's Nick and Amy's anniversary and he's having a morning drink with the female bartender – who he seems to know pretty well.  The identity of the bartender becomes one of the first reveals of the film as the audience is essentially tested to look at a character from the outside and make assumptions - the bartender is not a romantic interest but is actually Nick Dunne's twin sister, Margo (Carrie Coon).  Gone Girl is filled with these blurred lines within relationships, and no one is ever who they seem.  When Nick returns home from The Bar, he finds that his house has been broken into and he can't find his wife.  He calls the police, and the investigation into where his wife is (and what happened to her) begins.  Suspect number one: Nick Dunne.  As these kinds of cases go, the suspect is put under heavy scrutiny from the media and those within the Dunne's circle, and as Nick's secret personal life is exposed it fuels suspicions that he killed his wife and covered up the evidence.  Though we have no reason to think that Nick Dunne actually killed his wife, we're never totally sure.
     What makes these two interweaving elements (investigations and motivations) not entirely effective is the use of voice-over.  The film is structured in a non-linear fashion with Amy Elliott-Dunne's diary as a guide.  This diary is read aloud, primarily, throughout the first half of the film by Amy, which asks the question of why we are hearing from a dead girl.  She is not introduced as being dead (as in Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard (1950) where we are guided through a dead man's journey by himself), so it sets up an odd feeling as though she is speaking from beyond or is still among us.  This is setting in motion a reveal that could've been much more effective, even at the middle of the film (much like Hitchcock's 1958 film Vertigo).
     Further, there's a level of artifice that finds its way into many aspects of the film: a small example being, what's probably an aesthetic choice, to have pay phones used several times even though the film takes place in 2010.  Additionally, the performances are taut, and the dialogue is perfected to the point of sounding insincere at times - similar to Fincher's The Social Network (2010), but lacking Aaron Sorkin's touch.  All of these details of artificiality build toward the theme of Gone Girl - artificiality in people.  There may be obnoxious crane shots looking down at Amy reclined beside a swimming pool, but Amy is a highly artificial person, as nearly everyone in the film is revealed to be.  Even the casting of Gone Girl plays with audience assumptions as actors like Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris are all playing roles that disagree with the way viewers usually perceive them.  Nothing is as it seems on the surface.  Beyond casting and details within the mise-en-scène that express artifice, Gone Girl has an element that brings it close to many of his previous films in that the film appears to be one thing, but is actually something else.  Zodiac (2007) is essentially split into two parts - the first being a history of sorts, and the second half being a character study on obsession and failure.  Once the mystery has been solved in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the story keeps going but in a more personal direction.  Similarly, Gone Girl begins as a mystery but transforms into a film about being trapped in a bad marriage.
     Though this film is not as successful as Fincher's more recent work, it is a tightly wound film that usually unravels in dramatically satisfying ways.  It's a film that fits into today, where people wait outside of courtrooms to be in the same room as Casey Anthony, or where news correspondents jab at the way a suspect in a trial carries themselves.  Who are these people who end up in the spotlight?  Who is telling the truth?  These questions are on everyone's mind (as no one can truly know everything about someone), and those questions carry Gone Girl all the way to the end.

My rating: 3.5/5
IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2267998/