Stephen’s 2 Line Review – Gone Girl

Ludicrously silly, bloody fun to a point. Far from Fincher’s finest but worth a look..

Having not read Gillian Flynn’s best-selling novel of the same name before heading into David Fincher’s much anticipated adaptation, I had absolutely no idea of the rather bizarre plot twist that catapults the film in a zany, impossible to sell angle that’s at least fun to a point because of its daftness and blatant signposting.

Having caught up with the book since, it’s telling how poorly written the source material is and how unsuited to the task of adapting it film the inexperienced Flynn was.

Opening rather startlingly with a close up of Rosamund Pike, starring as child book series inspiration Amy Dunne, a voice over from Ben Affleck as her husband Nick casually asserts that he would gladly crack open her head and unspool her brain in order to know what she was thinking. This worryingly violent image sets the tone for a decidedly strange, if a little slow-paced, mystery centred on Amy’s disappearance one morn and the implication that Nick knows more than he’s letting on.

Flynn’s dialogue wastes no time in throwing doubts on Nick, as he moans about his marital troubles while knocking back hard liquor before midday in the bar he runs with his sister Margo (Carrie Coon) but that was paid for by Amy’s trust fund. When he returns home, Amy’s gone, with a broken glass-topped coffee table suggesting a struggle.

What ensues is, at first, a small-town pot boiler sparked by Nick’s seemingly unsympathetic, goon-like grin at a press conference standing beside Amy’s parents – Lisa Banes chews the scenery with glee as her mother. This attracts the fury of a brilliant Missi Pyle as a trashy talk show host on local TV. The town residents en masse begin to pin Nick as a brutal murderer, even as he foolishly continues a secret affair with a young student (Emily Ratajkowski). His frustrated sister desperately attempts to cover for his gaffes.

Kim Dickens works overtime e as a dogged cop rigorously pursuing the truth, and Patrick Fugit is also fun as her wisecracking partner. They’re the strongest elements of this rather OTT, whacked-out affair. Less convincing are flashbacks revealing Nick and Amy’s early days of bliss, but perhaps that’s part of the complex charade being unravelled here. Whether or not there was ever anything sincere about their ‘perfect’ match is unclear.

Both of these people are fairly vacuous and more than a tad obnoxious, pining for lost economic comfort, care of the US recession, though it’s quite clear they’re hardly doing it tough. Affleck and Pike, neither of them particularly gifted actors, are alarmingly good at playing cold, unlikable sorts.

Gone Girl doesn’t trouble itself too much with a broader commentary about the institution of marriage itself, or vague criticism of the 24/7 news cycle, instead it soon drops its uptight veneer in favour of a fairly raucous descent into dark and simultaneously ridiculous comedy once the plot twist kicks in.

What follows is utterly ludicrous, and brimming with the malodorous whiff of  misogyny and yes, a woman can write appalling sexism. The ending in particular relies on a hoary 1950s view of the world long gone for folks like this.

Let the logic slide and its ludicrousness elicits some fun, if lightweight and hysterical, with more than a subtle stench of Fatal Attraction. Iffy gender politics and silliness aside , the excellent Fincher does his best to handle the jerky tonal shifts, but the poor source material makes this his least impressive offering to date. The Social Network collaborator Jeff Cronenweth backs him up with handsome cinematography and lots of glacial tracking shots of suburban normality.

While I’m not sure this stands up to all the hype, it is a bit of a hoot nonetheless. Neil Patrick Harris has a fun cameo as Amy’s nutty ex, with both he and Affleck getting their bum cheeks out, for those swayed by that sort of thing, and Tyler Perry oozes charisma as the kind of lawyer OJ Simpson has on speed dial. I’m sure, for many, this will be a guilty pleasure.

Stephen A Russell

★★★