NYFF: Gone Girl Review

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Gone Girl (2014)

Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris
Director: David Fincher
Country: USA
Genre: Drama | Mystery | Thriller

Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage of the New York Film Festival. For more information on the festival visit www.filmlinc.com/nyff2014 and follow NYFF on Twitter at @TheNYFF.

Adaptations are a tricky art to perfect but that shouldn’t necessarily apply to someone like David Fincher whose body of work includes some of the better print-to-screen transitions over the past two decades. However, Gone Girl isn’t exactly an easy book to adapt largely because of the challenges posed by its changing tone as it unravels with its numerous twists. Despite being adapted rather competently by the original author, Gillian Flynn, the screenplay often comes into odds with the tone of the film. Tonal inconsistency is however the least of the problems plaguing Fincher’s latest adaptation.

… the screenplay often comes into odds with the tone of the film. Tonal inconsistency is however the least of the problems plaguing Fincher’s latest adaptation.

Set around the mysterious disappearance of Amy Dunne, the film explores the institution of marriage and the pretences people put up for the society through a darkly humorous lens and merges that in a larger context with almost a farcical comedy of sorts featuring the media circus, which we are all too familiar with in this day and age. What results out of this is a narrative that plays out like a pulpy thriller designed to shock with surprises and laughs rather than deliver an intriguing whodunit let alone any substantial social commentary.

Gone-Girl

Saying Fincher nailed the casting aspect would be an understatement. Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck are brilliant in different ways as the Amy & Nick Dunne, the two central leads while the supporting cast are equally strong with Neil Patrick Harris being cast against-the-type and performing with solid results, while Carrie Coon is great as Nick’s sister, Margo and Tyler Perry is suitably empathetic and commanding as Nick’s lawyer.

Pike particularly impresses more than everyone else because she excels in playing a complex character with shifting personalities which are often opaque to audience due to the narrative’s structure. Affleck does a good job playing a character that’s difficult to empathize with particularly since the structure of the narrative works against his character’s arc but he makes a solid return to being in front of the camera.

Besides the lead performances, the other highlight of the film includes Fincher’s sense of atmosphere which is complemented by the superb background score of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The subtle ambient piano with sinister industrial samples rising to a boiling point is used to a really good effect in building up intensity of certain scenes. Technically, the film is as impressive as most of Fincher’s previous works and one that would almost certainly attract attention of Academy Awards.

Gone Girl is also a bit problematic in a social context largely because it subverts gendered violence in a way that runs into issues especially when it goes ahead to paint one character as the innocent and the other as a deranged.

Gone Girl is also a bit problematic in a social context largely because it subverts gendered violence in a way that runs into issues especially when it goes ahead to paint one character as the innocent and the other as a deranged. Within the narrative and its’ universe, it is rational but as a viewer who doesn’t belong to that universe, one can’t help but wince at some of the many contrivances the film comes up with to paint a good-bad side in order to channel audience sympathy for one character.

The film’s twists, much like the book also fall a bit on the contrived side and that might especially seem to be the case for those Fincher fans who are expecting another sophisticated mystery. It’s important to understand that Gone Girl never really tries to become a whodunit and is more interested in dark comedy and shallow cultural critique even if the film’s overly-grave tone suggests otherwise. It’s a pulpy thriller with over-the-top, often contrived twists that’s sometimes missing a complementing aesthetic tone.

Despite the fact that it feels like Fincher is having fun filming the story’s demented twists, for the viewer Gone Girl ultimately feels like an empty experience. One where you are reasonably entertained during its 150 minute runtime but can’t ignore the problems it runs into because the film has no depth to support it. As a dark comedy, Gone Girl is a decent film at best with caricatured characters populating its universe. As a pulp thriller, it feels tonally at odds with its grave aesthetics and the numerous contrivances dampening the effect of the twists, problems which are present in the film’s source material itself. Even if the performances from the cast particularly Rosamund Pike eventually save the film, that’s hardly an achievement you’d expect from a David Fincher film.

5.5 MEDIOCRE

Despite the fact that it feels like Fincher is having fun filming the story’s demented twists, for the viewer Gone Girl ultimately feels like an empty experience. One where you are reasonably entertained during its 150 minute runtime but can't ignore the problems it runs into because the film has no depth to support it.

  • 5.5
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I'm Ansh, a student living in Mumbai who moonlights as a developer of experimental games and writer of short stories. I also write an occasional review of music albums and games.