GONE GIRL (2014, David Fincher)
“Ernest Hemingway once wrote, ‘The world is a fine place, and worth fighting for.’ I agree with the second part.”
W. Somerset, SEVEN (1995, Fincher)
With the cynical, mean-spirited GONE GIRL, I’m not sure Fincher even agrees with the second part anymore. This is a cold and nasty film, using the lurid subject matter palette he’s been employing for a while (especially with HOUSE OF CARDS and DRAGON TATTOO) to pick apart the scabs of human relationships. Not only is marriage a fraud in GONE GIRL, but none of the characters have any healthy or well-adjusted romantic relationships at all. Not the married man and his mistress, not the divorced detective, not the lonely twin sister, not the disgustingly rich douchey bachelor, not the trailer park trash, and seemingly not even the high-priced independent lawyer. If there’s such a thing as romantic love, Fincher doesn’t know where to find it, and it’s no coincidence this film is set in the state of Misery.
But Fincher’s adaptation of the Gillian Flynn novel (which I haven’t read, sorry), using a script from Flynn herself, doesn’t stop at eviscerating relationships — it sets its sights on the media too. With a pretty easy softball aimed at Nancy Grace (the least controversial media vulture — seriously, does anyone not hate that woman?), it explores how easily the masses are manipulated by such shows, how quickly the cycle operates, and how tenuous and fickle social sympathy is. But it also goes deeper, arguing that the best way to win at anything, to get ahead, or get what we want, is to lie and be phony and play the game.
Formally, there’s nothing really new here for Fincher, who still manages to put the camera exactly where it needs to be, with no superfluous movement. Teaming with longtime DP Jeff Cronenweth (FIGHT CLUB, THE SOCIAL NETWORK, etc.), the director’s cool, icy angles create sharp textures and meticulous frames — look at how he composes two women relaxing by a pool on lounge chairs, shooting up from the ground behind the chairs putting the angles of the reclining backs in the foreground. The talent in front of the camera is pretty strong, with Affleck giving one of his better performances to date (and this is material he must be drawn to, as the real-life subject of media scrutiny, lack of privacy, and mob-like rush to judgment). Fincher has cast and styled the Amy role to strangely resemble Deborah Kara Unger from THE GAME (seriously, Rosamund Pike is a dead ringer for a 15-years younger Unger). He definitely has a type for characterizing devious blondes forced to “act a part” for the powerful men in their lives. I liked newcomer Carrie Coon as Affleck’s sister, but was less impressed by Kim Dickens as the cop. Harris is reliably good, as is Tyler Perry in the first role I’ve ever seen him in, but almost everyone in the cast is upstaged by the perennial MVP Scoot McNairy, doing in one scene what most actors fail to do in their careers. Can he be in everything, please? (Actually, after ODing on him this year from NON-STOP, FRANK, and HALT & CATCH FIRE, it seems like he already is).
But everything comes down to Affleck and Pike, who have tricky roles and manage to somewhat let you empathize with deeply unlikable characters. To borrow an overused phrase from the superhero Affleck will be playing in a couple years, Nick and Amy Dunne are not the white American couple we need, but they’re the white American couple we deserve.
* One exchange between Fugit and Dickens is a little too close to a MATCH POINT dialogue for my tastes
* Casey Wilson is always funny; bring back HAPPY ENDINGS please
* Did anyone else think of SIDE EFFECTS a lot?
* There are a dozen cat reaction shots, and each one is funnier than the last. And I could have used a dozen more.
* I’ve been reading charges of misogyny. Really? I don’t see it at all — protestations against any female character being manipulative sound more patronizing and condescending than Flynn’s plot does misogynistic. Also, what about the Coon and Dickens characters?