Gone Girl (2014)
It is ironic that a popular use of a term can form someone's opinion of a piece of art before they get a chance to view it. The term "gone girl," typically used as a verb meaning to make one's female romantic partner vanish off the face of the Earth, came about due to the name of this movie. So, of course, I expected the movie to follow a pattern I have seen in real life with people like Scott Peterson, only that the main character was probably going to get away with it, despite everyone's suspicions, and the audience would be left knowing that fact, perhaps with a bit of a coda showing him moving on to his next victim. Basically a big-budget Lifetime movie.
I was about as wrong as I could be on that point, as Gone Girl, with a script by Gillian Flynn (who wrote the source novel) and direction by David Fincher, may hint that it will go in that direction. It then decides to head off into another entirely and spends a lot of time trying to make that direction as believable as possible. Although at times it feels like Fincher and Flynn are trying to convince even themselves on where the story is going it largely works and doesn't go for a pat Hollywood ending.
On the day of his anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) heads to the bar he owns with his sister Margo (Carrie Coon). At the time he is considering what to do about his marriage. However, the situation quickly changes when he returns home to find his wife missing and the signs of a struggle. He is initially cooperative with local police detective Boney (Kim Dickens), but as evidence mounts that he may be the one responsible for her disappearance the press becomes increasingly hostile. His affair with one of his students (Emilty Ratajkowski) comes to light, and he hires famous lawyer Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) to handle his case. Despite what it may look like, however, as the situation develops it becomes apparent that the true story may be something quite different.
One of the elements I liked about the story is that it doesn't try to make anyone that is wronged appear to be the victim. Nick has been largely unmotivated since losing his job and death of his mother, and definitely does the stereotypical aging professor move of getting with the first student that gives him the eye. Amy, meanwhile, is standoffish with most people, and has completely alienated Margo. Margo is about the closest it gets to a character who is ideal, but it is quite obvious from the beginning that both her and nick share a burgeoning alcohol problem.
While it may seem strange to have such a story coming from a female author, she does have some points about how certain types of female characters are noticeably absent in modern literature and movies and deserve to be brought back and presented through the female gaze. Also not lost is the fact that Amy is the typical "pretty white girl" that the cable news networks go bonkers over whenever they are missing, as they know it is a ratings bonanza, especially if there is a cheating sociopath involved. It's a popular narrative that has largely gone to the wayside recently due to the pandemic, police shootings and race riots, but is destined to turn back up once the public gets bored and wants the nes to be a reality show once more. Usually they follow the same narrative time and time again. What is great about Gone Girl is, once we get into it, the whole narrative is turned on its head.
Beyond that there is not a lot I can say without giving away a good chunk of the film. Affleck may seem like he's sleepwalking, but it's the character he's playing rather than just being him. Pike is kind of there, but, then again, it's Amy's personality that she puts forward to others; true aspects of her are not revealed until much later in the film. A big surprise is Carrie Coon, in her first feature role, and it is nice to see Tyler Perry doing something other than a Madea movie. David Fincher is the perfect director for this kind of tale as he is used to taking his time setting up the story in a literary fashion. It definitely helps that the author of the book wrote the script and, even though the ending is changed a little, it still holds the same impact.
Gone Girl (2014)
Time: 149 minutes
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Carrie Coon, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens, Neil Patrick Harris
Director: David Fincher