As Amy mentioned in the previous post, the Gone Girl novel was a gripping ride, even if it wasn’t high quality literature.  I would say something similar about the film—gripping but, on the whole, not a strong film.  Director David Fincher and screenwriter Gillian Flynn (also the author of the book) follow the novel’s plot line pretty closely, but the adaptation to film brings a few surprises.  (For a plot summary see Amy’s previous post.)

As for the acting, Rosamund Pike turns in a superb performance as Amy (who bears no moral resemblance to my wife of the same name).  But Ben Affleck’s performance as Nick seemed flat to me, lacking the emotional dimension needed for a character under such an immense amount of stress.  This was just one aspect of the film that prevented me from fully entering into Flynn’s otherwise intriguing action mystery.  A marginal script and numerous flaws in terms of realism were other features that pulled me out of Flynn’s world.  220px-Gone_Girl_PosterBut the most distracting thing of all was the soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.  In many scenes, the music was jarringly mood inappropriate.  I liken film score composers to umpires in baseball.  When they’re doing their job well, you don’t consciously notice them.  It’s only when they fail somehow that their work intrudes on the viewer’s experience.  For me, the Reznor-Ross Gone Girl soundtrack was definitely intrusive.

As for other flaws, in referring to them I cannot avoid giving away key aspects of the plot.  So if you haven’t seen the film and would like to do so . . . SPOILER ALERT.  The flaws range from a lack of plausible motivations for the characters (for example, what would motivate Amy to go to all the trouble to frame Nick for murdering her?  She had nothing to gain—and much to lose!—in doing this rather than simply divorcing him) to the emotionally unbelievable (Affleck’s Dunne is not sufficiently angry with Amy after she returns home) to random unrealistic oversights (after killing her ex-boyfriend, which she made to look like self-defense, Amy goes to the hospital and is examined, but she leaves the hospital still covered in the blood of the man she murdered.  In real life, don’t you think she and/or the hospital staff would ensure that she got cleaned up before she was dismissed?)

In thinking about all of these flaws of realism in Gone Girl, I was struck by the directorial inconsistency of failing in these ways and yet being so meticulously realistic with regard to the portrayal of sexual content and brutal violence.  One pivotal scene at the film’s climax is so grotesquely graphic that even I found it appalling (and I’m not one to shrink at violence in films—Quentin Tarantino is my favorite director, so ‘nuff said there).  I would like to ask Fincher, why be so excruciatingly graphic (I would say gratuitous) with the violence, especially when you maintain such a low standard for realism in other aspects of the film, some of which are central to the narrative?  I don’t get it.

One positive thing I can say about this film, however, is that the southern detective, played by Kim Dickens, was not represented as a complete idiot, as southern characters in Hollywood films so often are.  However, in the end, the detective does blow the case, so elements of the Hollywood cliché are indeed there, but at least she wasn’t represented as a thoroughly detestable hypocrite, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been in this regard.  And this is probably my prevailing thought regarding Gone Girl the film as a whole—it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  That’s about as much praise as I can muster for this one.  Good riddance, indeed.


5 Responses to “Gone Girl: A Film Review”


  1. Abby

     

    (Spoiler alert) I could be remembering wrong but I am pretty sure Amy called Desi after she was robbed and that’s how she ended up meeting him at the casino. So it wasn’t just a chance meeting.

    Reply
    • Jim Spiegel

       

      Thanks, Abby. I have my doubts about that. But just in case, I have edited the post, replacing that criticism with another (that is actually a more serious flaw in the film). So many to choose from!

      Reply
  2. Kat Forbes

     

    This is an accurate and good review of the film. I agree with both Amy’s review of the book and this review of the film. I especially agree with the assessment of Affleck’s portrayal of Nick. I thought Pike far outshone Affleck. She was the perfect “Amy”…which I thought would be the harder character to pull off. The one thing Affleck had going for him was the idea that Nick was a regular shlubb with a pretty face. Affleck has a limited acting range, but I do appreciate his work behind the camera.
    After reading this review I wondered if you (Jim) and Amy have seen the tv series “Fargo” yet? It’s inspired by the movie of the same name but is a different story. It’s amazing—like Breaking Bad level of quality storytelling…and it has Martin Freeman. Basically it has all the things Gone Girl was missing…

    Reply
    • Jim Spiegel

       

      Thanks, Kat. No, I haven’t seen the “Fargo” TV show (though I loved the film). Will have to check that out.

      Reply
  3. pat summerall

     

    Thank you for your interesting review; I respect your opinion on the matter. “Spoilers”, of course.

    I find myself compelled to defend the filmmaker and his choices having “read” the book and seen the film and finding appreciation for both. One of the core, overarching aspects that you seem to have missed out on was the power and hubris that Amy had. She believed she could not only get away with making the men in her life “pay”, but that she could even get away with murder and saw it as a personal challenge to do so. Would you have liked the movie better if she simply divorced Nick?

    I, too, was surprised at the lack of anger on display when Amy came home and expected violence, even, when Amy first arrived. It surprised me, too, how Amy could be sent home still covered in her victim’s blood.

    Regarding the latter, I presume Fincher chose to film it that way to be symbolic or dramatic and gave Amy/Nick a chance to have their first secret conversation. Which was amazing to me how Amy was so confident as to bare all the details of her illegal activities.

    However, I believe the former (lack of anger *on display*) to be justifiable based on how afraid Nick ought to be. Yes, he would be angry, but he rightly chose not to become immediately aggressive and act on that anger. His wife was dozens of steps ahead of him throughout his whole ordeal (even more crazy steps revealed in the novel) and while he was suddenly able to confront her, he still had no idea what she may have planned or ‘up her sleeve’! Perhaps she hired someone to install hidden cameras, etc. The character in the story needed to bide his time and try to deal with his anger in away-from-Amy ways so as not to trigger some new trap!

    Additionally, Nick did display the anger under the surface against Amy before the end! I was so startled by that moment and made all the more realistic to have waited for it.

    I found the twisted nature of their relationship and its improbability a puzzle to figure out. Can they really be the “perfect match” for one another? Could they come back together after all they put one another through?

    Fincher was probably constrained to honor Flynn’s story and keep its unbelievable premise and without the extreme and controlled (dichotomous) nature of Amy, the story wouldn’t be nearly as compelling or as shocking. I also found the gore and sexuality gratuitous, but it displayed a lot of talent on the actor’s and crew’s part in making it believable! I wonder if other film-making techniques (cutting away, misdirection, out of focus, hinting, showing the aftermath instead of the act) would have been as cathartic to Amy’s story arc.

    The biggest complaint (plot hole) I have about the story would be that if Amy was so confident, careful, etc. that she did a “tell all” with Nick, then she would have talked about all the places she went and her meet-up at a casino with Desi. Even if she left out explicit details about when and where, meeting at a casino is the *worst possible idea* and extremely out of character due to all of the video cameras that could create huge problems with her story — regardless of how she expected it to turn out. This would be a great place for the detectives and Nick to go searching for evidence. I also think Desi’s security cameras should have captured some lies before she figured out what to do. She needed them to mysteriously disappear but this was glossed over.

    This is a story that requires a little suspension of disbelief and I thought Fincher and crew did an amazing job casting, writing, and bringing a really wild and complicated story “to life” on the big screen. Thanks for your review of the film!

    Reply

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