Gone Girllives up to the hype. The column miles trumpeting its arrival – the debate surrounding its purported misogyny and claims to be a portrait of modern marriage – have all been hashed and re-hashed ad infinitum. The bottom line is that it is a film noir that self-consciously echoes the very best of the genre: Hitchcock, House of Cards(also Fincher), Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct, and the queen of them all, Highsmith’s Talented Mr Ripley,among others.
Fincher is back on form after his disappointing adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo(the Swedish original was far better), as was the book. Here he is helped enormously by Gillian Flynn taking charge of the screenplay for her novel (which I only finished the day before seeing the film, probably making me a potential über-critic) and she effortlessly transforms the page-turning thriller into a taut and mesmerising celluloid experience, with refreshingly few changes.
Sophisticated New Yorker and ‘cool girl’ Amy Elliot (Rosamund Pike), exploited by her horrible parents for the successful Amazing Amyseries of children’s books, meets and marries fellow writer, Missouri hick (Ben Affleck). Their first two years of marriage – according to her diary – are blissful and erotic. Then – bam – the recession hits and they both lose their jobs; the slippery slide is completed when Nick moves them back to his down-and-out hometown to help look after his mother, who has cancer.
As the money begins to run out – the unscrupulous parents have taken back Amy’s trust fund to bail themselves out of their own declining fortunes – the pressure builds up until, on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy disappears.
So begins the ‘Where’s Amy?’ campaign, which sees Nick swiftly move from pitied husband to prime suspect: the problem is he’s just not emotional enough and is adept at presenting the wrong image to the media, who pounce on it with a ferocity that we witness only too often. A nice side swipe at US celebrity culture.
The story is told from the perspective of the two combatants in the marriage – but who is one to believe? Amy who, in her diary claims she fears for her life and even tries to buy a gun, or Nick, who woodenly and repeatedly claims, ’I did not kill my wife’, as the evidence stacks against him. And, boy, is there compelling evidence and motive…
But what really makes this story so gripping are the impeccable performances from the two central characters. Rosamund Pike perfectly portrays an icy, beautiful woman, a control freak teetering on the verge of insanity, caused by the construct of her life, her aspirations to be the ‘cool girl’ cardboard cut-out of the modern woman.
Ben Affleck manages to bring a slightly more simpatico personality to Nick than I think the character deserves – he is, it has to be said, annoyingly thick, given his desperate situation. Interestingly Flynn says she quite likes him; I found both characters utterly objectionable when I read the book and wondered if I cared: something that makes me want to stop reading normally but, to quote Amy, ‘I am not a quitter’. At just under 500 pages and 149 minutes, both film and book are long.
Carrie Coon as Nick’s long-suffering and devoted twin sister, Go, adds depth, while Tyler Berry as the lawyer, Tanner Bolt, injects some much needed humour to puncture the almost unbearable tension. Kim Dickens, as the lead detective Rhonda Boney, echoes Marge Gunderson in Fargo, another nice homage to the genre.Fincher and Flynn keep us guessing right till the end in a movie that is taut with surprises and plot twists – some less credible than others, especially in the film, where there’s no time for the detail of a novel. Whether the much disputed treatment of rape, the cool girl model of the modern woman, or marriage – ‘we resent each other… control each other. We caused each other pain. That’s marriage’ – are true reflections of the world we live in, I leave to you to decide. Whatever your conclusion, this jaundiced world-view dominates the movie; without it Gone Girlwould not engulf us in its rising tide of horror.