Monday 20 October 2014


This is a review written from the point of view of someone who hasn't read Gillian Flynn's original novel. Which, as a moviegoer, can only be a good thing, because foreknowledge of the plot would have weakened my enjoyment of the film. However, this review does include spoilers, so don't continue further if you haven't seen it yet and wish to remain in the dark.

It's a powerful film, directed with style and restraint by David Fincher. There's a strong feeling of discomfort throughout, almost every film feeling just a little off, due to direction, performance or dialogue. We feel quite voyeuristic as we see the underbelly of the failing marriage, as it unravels from the first thrills of romance to the depths of a marriage characterised by mutual loathing. Rosamund Pike is exceptional as Amy, convincing both as the beautiful perfect wife and the frankly terrifying sociopathic individual she is revealed to be. Ben Affleck is also very good; he's frequently the target of jibes for his acting ability but he has matured into a very fine actor indeed. His is a very naturalistic performance, excepting those moments when he is deliberately projecting a facade, particularly as his character, Nick, becomes more media savvy and learns to tailor public perception.

The lead couple threaten to overshadow the other actors, the majority of whom are equally excellent in their roles. Everyone is perfectly cast, from the always entertaining Tyler Perry as celebrity lawyer Tanner Bolt, to Neil Patrick Harris, veering between quiet class and dangerous obsession as Amy's one-time lover. Carrie Coon, primarily a stage actor, is new to me, but her screen career seems assured on the strength of her brilliant performance as Nick's twin sister Margo. Not everyone is an acting great, though. Emily Ratajkowski, from that awful music video, plays Nick's bit of stuff Andie. She mostly has to look good with her top off, which she does, so fair enough. Missi Pyle perhaps goes a little far as the obnoxious scandal show host Ellen Abbott, but she's faultlessly entertaining.

The film is plotted beautifully, although there are some small elements that appear to be oversights; clues that are introduced that should alter the police view aren't picked up. I imagine in the novel they are dealt with, but some trims are inevitable when adapting work to film. For the most part, though, it is immaculately structured. What's most satisfying is that there is no big twist to this story. Revelations come a several points that change the way we understand the plot or view the characters, the most significant being, of course, the truth behind Amy's self-enacted disappearance. In so many stories this would be the grand twist at the end, whereas in Gone Girl it occurs before the halfway point and alters the way we look at the story as a whole.

Gone Girl is a fascinating exploration of relationships, emotional and physical abuse, media sensationalism and demonisation. If there's one element that sits poorly with me, it's the two incidents of Amy falsifying her own rape. While I do not imagine this is intended as a comment on rape survivors at all, there is a worryingly common view that many, if not most, rape accusations are false and conjured up by vindictive women to hurt men. In reality, of course, very few accusations are false, but a manipulative woman like Amy is exactly the sort of character rapist defenders imagine all women to be. It's just something that made me, personally, feel uncomfortable about the film.

Then again, that is rather the point of the film, that uncomfortable truths exist behind supposedly happy and well-adjusted people's relationships. Outlandish in its plotting, perhaps, but nonetheless a fascinating and disturbing exploration of human relationships.

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