The one thing about David Fincher that has established him among the premier directors of his era is that he has a way of finding the truth of the human condition no matter what the material. From our desire to want to prove ourselves as men in Fight Club to the burgeoning changes in our world from social media in The Social Network, and all points between, Fincher likes working with material that allows him some insight into the human condition. He may not hit it out of the park all the time, of course, but there’s always something about the nature of human beings that he finds in cinema.
There’s a fundamental truth in humanity that Fincher likes to explore and Gone Girl, this time about the nature of relationships between men and women.
Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike) have an interesting but happy marriage on the outside, a pair of writers from New York City living in an affluent town in Missouri. He owns a bar with his sister (Carrie Coon) and teaches creative writing at the local junior college while she has causes she adopts. Amy has a past of being the daughter of a pair of rich writers, who used a character called “Amazing Amy” as both a way of correcting her perceived failures and a novel series. When she disappears the case slowly goes from missing person to potential wife killing, as Nick’s attempt at covering up many things about the nature of his marriage lead many convinced he had something to do with her disappearance.
Throw in Amy’s unreliable narration in flashback form, painting a much different picture of their marriage than the one Nick presents, and you’ve got a genuine issue of whether or not Nick did it. It’s a brilliant set up and we see the way it plays out as the national media story something like this could become. Everything Nick does is scrutinized by media members as he watches on, nearly helpless to change the narrative, as even the audience doesn’t know whether or not he did it for the film’s first half.
It’s a brilliant set up as we see Nick cover up things that he had been doing, and the general state of his marriage, as Nick is set up to be a character we can see being the killer of his wife and also being completely innocent. Fincher sets it up brilliantly so that we genuinely don’t know for the first half of the film’s running time, as well. Ben Affleck is game for the part, a failed writer unable to figure out what to do with his life after his writing dreams failed. He’s a flawed man and Affleck is spot on with what the film needs. We can believe the Nick killed his wife … and we can also think he’s just a bad husband with a wife who decided to take off. He walks that line perfectly as Fincher knows exactly how to push him to bring it out.
The film’s revelation, though, is Rosamund Pike. She’s been in a number of high profile films but this is one where she’s got some room to dig deep into a character. Amy is a wildly interesting character and without Pike walking a fine line, especially with the film’s substantive twist, and Pike has a rote perfect performance. She’s absolutely brilliant and the film works because she’s so adept in the role. This should be a star-making role for her and earn her considerable awards consideration. This is potentially a career defining role as she is exceptional in every possible way.
She and Affleck make a great couple, as well, as they have just enough chemistry to allow us to think they could’ve had a great marriage at one point. The problem with the film is that for these two fairly brilliant performances, and Fincher’s normally solid direction, the film sputters during the final 20 minutes. After the disappearance of Amy resolves itself the film, and the novel it was based on as well, have a hard time coming to a conclusion that feels natural and organic.
It feels forced and the film just can’t hit that right note to conclude. The novel felt the same way, as it has a hard time knowing how (and when) to finish up and it’s not all that shocking that the film would feel the same way. Gone Girl is going to be an Oscar contender, bank on it.
Director: David Fincher Writer: Gillian Flynn based on her novel of the same name Notable Cast: Ben Affleck, Tyler Perry, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Carrie Coon
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.