FlixChatter Review: GONE GIRL (2014)

GoneGirlBnrFew films this year got as much feverish anticipation as this one. To be honest, I got a bit worried this film wasn’t going to live up to the hype, but I’m glad to report that I wasn’t disappointed. I’m also glad that since I haven’t read the book, I managed to avoid any spoilers about the plot so it was nice to be surprised by the twist and turns as I’m watching the film.

The opening is quite provocative, as it opens with a shot of a beautiful blond woman, along with a male speaking voice saying how it would be nice to crack open her skull to see just what’s inside her head, to see what she is thinking. There’s an air of mystery around her which sets the tone of the entire film. Now, on a different film, we might chalk that narration up as a figure of speech. But in this case, given the title of the film, it definitely makes you think the worst. Well, Gone Girl definitely keeps toying with our perceptions throughout, and that’s part of the fun.

GoneGirl_Still1In case you don’t know anything about the basic plot, here’s the gist: On his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) left his home in the morning to a bar he co-owned with his twin sister. When he came back, he couldn’t find his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) anywhere in his sprawling house, and there’s obvious signs of a break in. So he reports his wife missing and before he knows it, there’s a growing media frenzy on his case that puts extra pressure on him on top of the also-growing suspicion from the police that he’s killed her.

Instead of a straight who-dun-it type of thriller, this film deals more about the psychological aspect of the crumbling of a seemingly-blissful union and how Nick & Amy deal with their mounting problems. The issue behind the marriage dissolution itself isn’t at all uncommon, lots of us can relate to the issue of layoffs and growing apart when expectations no longer aligns with reality. But of course, this story takes a sinister turn that leaves you wondering just what the heck happens. The beauty of the film is that, it doesn’t rely on the twist [a la M. Night Shyamalan’s films] to shock or entertain you. Instead, it’s more of a character study of a married couple – who probably shouldn’t be married in the first place – as well as a commentary of the worst side of media frenzy that toys with the public’s perception about a given story.

GoneGirl_Still3Despite the dark subject matter, this film isn’t overly bleak or depressing. Thanks to the taut screenplay by first-time screenwriter Gillian Flynn, who happens to be the author of the best-selling author novel it’s based on. I’m glad David Fincher agreed to work with her instead of hiring a more experienced screenwriter. I think having been ‘living’ with these characters on her head for so long definitely help make them more fleshed-out. Apparently Flynn actually studied his films as she’s writing the script which explains the synergy going on here. Fincher’s direction is solid all around, the story is clearly tailor-made for him. I like the timeline marking of how many days Amy has been gone, and the use of flashbacks are seamless and effective. The journal entries from Amy’s diary gives us a bit of insight into Amy’s side of the story, yet it wasn’t overdone that it’d actually grind the film to a halt. Fincher’s almost surgical precision is apparent in how he sets up every scene. Just like any real-life crime investigation, painstaking eye for details is absolutely critical.

Fincher’s longtime collaborator Trent Reznor provides a cool and eerie score to go with that somber color-scheme. At first I felt like his score was a bit intrusive in the first scenes when Nick & Amy met, but I think it might’ve been intentional. In some key moments, the vigorous & ominous score definitely gets your heart pounding! Another longtime Fincher collaborator is cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, whose visual sensibility works with Fincher’s style and therefore helps set the mood. The naturalistic style used here fits the tone of the film and the Midwest setting nicely.

GoneGirl_Still2Bringing the story to life are Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, two beautiful people forming a marriage from hell. For once, Affleck just might get some accolades for his acting instead of directing. I do think he was excellent in Hollywoodland, and in a way there’s some similarities between Nick and George Reeves as he was also at his lowest point professionally. The film however, belongs to the girl in the title role. Pike was nothing short of well, amazing. I’ve seen her in about five films so far, but mostly in supporting roles, and I’ve never seen the kind of range she displayed here. She was perfect as ‘Amazing Amy’, a brilliant ice princess type, the embodiment of her parents perfect image in the book series named after their daughter. At times she reminds me of Nicole Kidman’s character in To Die For, but there’s still a vulnerability about her that keeps you from truly despising her. I knew the British beauty could handle the sinister aspect of her character, but still I was floored by how good she was and her American accent is pretty convincing as well. I so hope she’d get some nominations come award-season, she’s definitely the breakout female performer of the year for me.

The supporting cast includes some rather off-the-wall choices playing against type. Tyler Perry is quite amusing as Nick’s top-notch lawyer, and Neil Patrick Harris as Amy’s creepy ex-boyfriend. The latter threw me off a bit as I somehow didn’t know he was part of the cast. Given Harris’ personal life, it took me a while to see him as a straight guy being obsessed over a girl, but I think he pulled it off. I also have to mention Carrie Coon and Kim Dickens as Nick’s sister and the detective, respectively. Both were excellent playing key roles in the story. Interesting casting of Sela Ward as a TV reporter here given that she played the murdered wife in The Fugitive where the husband was accused of killing her.

GoneGirl_Stills4Spoiler alert [highlight text below if you want to read it]
I feel that Amy might’ve gotten away w/ murder too easily. There’s a moment at the police station when Nick immediately knew she had deliberately killed Desi. “How did she manage to find a box cutter when she’s tied up all the time?” He quipped, but the male cop who’s always disliked him brushed him off. But also there’s the issue about all the blood that was mopped up in the kitchen. If she said she had been hit by her abductor, wouldn’t the cops at the very least try to corroborate her story and find some kind of proof that her story checks out? It’s not a huge quibble but it did bother me after I saw the movie.

So what’s the verdict? Well, Gone Girl definitely lives up to the hype. It’s more entertaining than I thought it would be. This will likely end up in my top 5 favorite Fincher films, perhaps between Fight Club and The Social Network which also have some humorous moments sprinkled throughout. I love it when a movie sparks a lot of discussions and makes you ponder about your own life situation. As I haven’t read the book, I can’t comment if the film is better than that or not, but I think it works in the big screen format. Props to Fincher and Flynn for making a story that might not translate well to film into something cinematic, gripping and wildly entertaining.

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So what do you think of Gone Girl? Did it live up to YOUR expectations?

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78 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: GONE GIRL (2014)

  1. Glad you enjoyed this, Ruth! I did too. Of course, I had some quibbles with the adaptation, and I think the fact that I read the book first altered my opinion of the movie. Regardless, I still enjoyed it, and I thought the cast was the major selling point of the story. I also agree with your spoiler! I thought the same thing when reading the book as well.

    1. Hi Kris! You gave me lots of insights from the book from your post so thanks for that. I think lots of people might’ve thought the same about Amy getting off easy but at the same time, I get that the cops probably just glad she was *found* and clearly the main cop felt sorry for her even though Boney did suspect something weird was going on.

  2. Excellent review, Ruth! I know how hard it can be to boil down your thoughts on a film like this, especially when it stays with you for days after. I did read the novel before seeing the film (a few years ago, mind) and I have to say I enjoyed the film better. I think it was mainly because I could sit back and enjoy watching the story unfold, rather than trying to wrap my head around what was happening.

    I agree with you on the casting and acting, it was primarily spot on. Although, I have some qualms with NPH’s performance. I just didn’t buy the supposed attraction between Amy and Desi.

    Overall, it was a strong film and I wouldn’t mind seeing it again!

    1. Hi Ashley, this one was surprisingly easy to write actually, not sure why. I enjoyed our discussions about the film/novel, interesting that you enjoyed the film more. I’m the same way about Neil, I guess his real-life persona is quite overpowering for this role that it was tough for me to picture him being obsessed over a girl!

  3. Ted S.

    I only skimmed through your review there since I plan to see it sometime this week/weekend. Still disappointed that I couldn’t make the press screening last week. Good to hear it’s another winner from Fincher, like Nolan he has yet make a bad film.

  4. Nice review, Ruth. As to your spoiler part, I did have a friend who shared the same opinion that she got off too easy without a proper investigation, and as far as the movie’s concerned, it did feel that way a bit as well (wasn’t quite so noticeable in the book). That said, I still thought this was great, and the twists were even crazier to see play out on the screen. Very impressive stuff all around here. 🙂

    1. I figure the book might’ve gone into more details about all the alibis she left to support her innocence. I think though, in terms of psychologically, the cops probably just too happy she’s ok they’d rather not pursue it further. The fact that Desi was a stalker probably didn’t help his case. Yep, that one brutal scene definitely got me on the edge of my seat!

  5. Great review Ruth! I agree this one definitely doesn’t depend on it’s twists and gives audiences plenty to think about – I think it will stand the test of time for these very reasons. I absolutely loved the score – the way it drowns out Nick and Amy’s early conversations really got me thinking. It’s such a neat, subtle way of getting us to think that this might not be real, it might be embellished, those conversations might not even matter. Amy suggests herself that those flirtations were largely fake – it’s the ‘cool girl’ talking – and by drowning them out Fincher hints at their superficial nature. I will definitely watch this film again!

    1. Hello Natalie! I saw that you gave this one a full score. It’s not quite so perfect for me but still VERY good and I think I wouldn’t mind watching this again which I don’t usually say about Fincher’s movies. Oh I like your reasoning about the loud music during Nick/Amy’s courtship, I knew it was intentional but yeah it totally make sense that it was some sort of a clue into their superficial relationship.

      1. Thanks Ruth. I love how you can read so much into this one – it has tons of layers to unpeel. I’m almost excited to see it again! Glad you liked it too – I think it might even improve on a re-watch. I’ve read a few posts though that say the ending was rushed in comparison with the book but although it was a tad unrealistic I found it very compelling.

  6. So glad you liked it and didn’t find it too dark/violent! i know there is one very bloody scene which wasn’t decribed in the book.

    as for SPOILERS TO FOLLOW
    Amy’s case already made the entire police force look awful. So when she showed up they were more than happy to just believe her story and not look too much into it. That’s why they didn’t try to explain some of the stuff. In the book, I’m not sure if it’s in the movie, Amy gave them more to back her story – she even rolled around in Desi’s truck to leave some samples for them to think she was indeed held there

    1. Hello Sati! I’m glad I enjoyed it, I think I got even more excited for this after reading your Fincher’s marathons 😉 The one brutal scene did make me cover my eyes a bit, boy it’s quite bloody. You said it’s not described in the book? That’s interesting that Flynn chose to put that in the film then.

      Yeah I think that’s a very plausible explanation that the cops just wanted the case to be over with. Of course a good detective like Boney would still be curious, hence she seems to be on Nick’s side in the end. Oh boy, Amy did give lots of alibi against Desi in the book, that girl is one smart psychopath!

      1. Yeah in the book it’s just Fugit’s character saying ‘she cut him, right through the jugular!’ the scenes with the killing and surveillance tape are all movie additions, not the bottle though – that was in the book and made me squirm and from what I gathered it’s even less….anatomically all right in the movie 🙂

        1. Ah I see. Well I think it’s a given they’d show that scene of Amy killing Desi, I mean it’s a Fincher film after all 🙂 Oh yeah, that bottle scene did make me squirm, as well as some other ones that Amy did to herself, sheesh!

  7. Great review, Ruth 🙂 CBS Sunday morning featured a Gillian Flynn interview. It was interesting to hear her and Affleck and Fincher discuss the film. I am super-jealous of Flynn whose success with the book and her ability to create a script first time out which appears to please all movie-goers.

    1. I admire her ability to be able to write the same story as a book and script and does it well! I’d imagine it’s such a different style.

            1. Well I have all my cast picked already for this particular story, so Timothy Dalton & Helen Mirren as the main leads. I’ll have Toby in my next pitch I’m making… it’ll be a blogathon I hope you’ll take part. Stay tuned 😉

  8. Tom

    Gone Girl is a seriously compelling drama that I could watch again and again. As long as Fincher films are, this one was white-knuckle interesting the entire time. What a feat that is. And I thought you brought up a great point about Affleck: after all his accolades as a director it’s good to see him shoring up his previously lacking skills in front of the camera too. Never thought he was a bad actor, per se, but not a very great one. But he’s great here. And Rosamund Pike, even better. Truly hope she gets recognition in February. 🙂

    1. Hello Tom! Sorry about the whole Spam snafu.

      I didn’t think Ben is a bad actor per se, it’s just he seems to pick a lot of bad materials. I think w/ the right director he can be a compelling actor, as he does here. Pike is just phenomenal. This is a career-making turn I think. Yeah hopefully she gets the kudos she deserves!

      1. Tom

        Haha no problem. WordPress has done it on my page before. I had to retrieve several of Chris’s comments (from Terry Malloy) from the trash! 😦

        Ben Affleck has never been an actor I’ve said, yeah I’m going to definitely see this movie b/c he’s in it. I’ll go to see him in something but he’s not my main priority. There’s no denying his greatness here, though. But yeah he’s not quite as good as Pike. Wow.

        1. Now I better go back and make sure there aren’t more legit comments that end up in Spam 😛

          Yep, I feel the same about Affleck. As for Pike, I’ve enjoyed her in supporting parts but because of this role, she now makes it to my Honorable Mentions of my Top 10 Actresses list. You did a list like that recently right? We might have a few in common 😉

    1. Yeah, I had to be VERY careful not to say anything, that’s why I had to hide the spoiler. I’m glad I wasn’t spoiled beforehand 😀

  9. Hello again my old friend! Wonderful review of a film I’m very much looking forward to. I was slightly disappointed in Fincher’s last couple of films but this seems more up my street!

    1. Hello, hello!! Glad to see my ‘ol buddy Mark here! Are you back blogging again mate? I hope you’d see this soon, I have a feeling you’d like this one.

      1. Good to once again chat with you, Ruth. I’m hoping to ease myself back into the blog again. I posted today but I’ve yet to do my rounds among my favourite bloggers. Thought I’d comment on yours first. 🙂

        Trying to get a feel for the whole thing again as it can be quite easy to give up entirely when you distance yourself for so long. I’m still enjoying writing, though. So I hope to slot back in without too much fuss.

  10. I was supposed to see this on Sunday but things beyond my control prevented me from seeing as I had to skim the review to avoid the spoilers as I am eager to see this.

    1. What a bummer Steven. Well I think this will be around in theatres for a while so hope you get to see it this weekend. No worries, the spoiler section is clearly marked 😉

  11. Great review Ruth! We’re FINALLY getting Gone Girl this weekend, so I am hoping to take a few minutes and go see it. I thoroughly enjoyed the book (despite not really being a fan of Flynn), and I have been waiting to see how this comes together. Looking positive so far, so I am rather optimistic!

  12. Abbi

    My book club read this about a year ago so I’m really jealous you got to watch it without knowing the twist because I’m struggling to extricate my experience of the film from the book.

  13. Excellent review Ruth. I’m on board with practically all of your thoughts. The cast and crew have really pulled it out of the bag with this one, it’s great to see a film live up to its hype!

    Adam.

    1. Thanks Adam. Yeah, not only did it live up to the hype in general but also my lofty expectations. I’m impressed by Pike obviously but I think Affleck did a nice job too. I never thought I’d praise his acting, ha..ha.. but to be fair, he’s actually better than most people give him credit for.

  14. Stu

    I’m looking forward to seeing this – probably next week – and appreciate the whited-out spoiler text! I’ve read a few reviews and have so far managed to avoid finding out what happens (and obviously I haven’t read the book either, so hopefully that will remain the case!). Sounds great.

    1. Ahah well I was lucky enough I wasn’t spoiled by the time I saw this so I had to make sure I do the same courtesy 😉 I think not knowing the plot does enhance the experience. Thanks Stu!

    1. Oh interesting, I’ve only done that a couple of times but in a story like this I’d rather be surprised so I prefer NOT to know about the plot. Hope you enjoy this one Eric!

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  18. Yeah, 4/5 for me too. It was a fun, stylish movie with great lead performances, but I didn’t love it. Glad to hear you’re also a fan of Affleck’s Hollywoodland performance. He often seems too underrated as an actor.

    1. Yeah, I didn’t love it either, but I appreciate it. That’s why it didn’t make my fave of the month as I probably won’t see it again. Yeah I think Affleck got a bad rap, but he’s actually quite good.

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  21. Well I’m way late to the party but I finally saw the movie and it’s great as I expected. This film only worked because of Fincher’s direction, it would’ve been just another run of the mill TV movie style had someone else directed it. I thought everything in movie worked especially the media and people’s obsession’s with real life drama. I mean this is kind of “news” that CNN and Fox News would broadcast non-stop if there’s a pretty girl goes missing, especially if she’s white and blonde, lol. Great performances by every actors and I agree that even Tyler was even fun to watch, I don’t for his other work but here’s good.

    As for your spoiler, that sort of bothered me a bit after I watched the movie. But then I thought of how real cops are kind of stupid and will accept anything the “victim” tells them so then it just didn’t bother me that much. Another “plot hole” I thought of was that, wouldn’t the cops look at the camera footage at Desi’s lake house? She got into the house with him and didn’t look like she’s being forced. Again, only small quibble and most movies has those kind of holes.

    All in all, another winner from Fincher.

    1. Hi Ted! Yeah it could’ve easily be a Lifetime TV movie if it weren’t for Fincher. I really like Tyler Perry here and I never even seen him in anything other than catching a glimpse of his Madea movie at the gym a while ago.

      Oh yeah, that camera footage would’ve easily gave it away, I mean if he were to rape her wouldn’t he turn those off? It made no sense.

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    1. Well hello Vinnie! That’s cool that you finally saw the film. Did you specifically wait to see it until you’ve read the book? Yes I think it’s a good mystery thriller, better than the recent ‘Girl on a Train’ I think.

      1. Yes, I decided to read the book first and I honestly couldn’t put it down. I also wanted to catch up with movies I missed the past few years. Hope you like my review.

        1. That’s what I heard from ppl who have read it. I actually haven’t read it but still impressed w/ the film. I’ll check out your review later today. I’m about to post a review of an indie film I absolutely love that I hope more people will check out.

                1. It doesn’t always work well though, the Fantastic Beasts movie was written by JK Rowling and I think she should stick to writing novels instead of screenplays.

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