The Skinny (No spoilers)
I could not take my eyes off of this movie. Based on the bestselling book by Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl tells the story of a husband (future destroyer of the Batman franchise Ben Affleck) accused of murdering his disappeared wife (Rosamund Pike). The pacing, score, and acting were solid. The revelations were…well, a revelation! I have not been so intrigued during a movie this entire year. Problems? Oh, two pretty big ones: 1) The last 20 to 30 minutes dragged. Badly. Came damn near close to hurting the overall film and, 2) While it was probably a solid adaptation, I feel that the movie left out a number of character development pieces that would have helped the viewer understand the principal’s motivations.
The single folks will say “This is what I have to look forward to when married?”, while the married exclaim “Wait, murder is an option? Why did no one tell me!?!” Go see it, now. But make sure you do not talk to someone who has read the book. Trust me, I have my reasons.
The Deep Dive (Spoilers)
Warning: If you don’t want to know how this plays out, do not read any further
Nick Dunne: F*ck. You’re delusional. I mean, you’re insane, why would you even want this? Yes, I loved you and then all we did was resent each other, try to control each other. We caused each other pain.
Amy Dunne: That’s marriage.
I apologize in advance for the length of this review, but the complexity of the plot requires it.
The movie opens with the disappearance of Affleck’s wife. We get a quick description of a bad marriage which has just hit the five year mark, but soon afterward we are deep into investigation mode. Clues pointing to foul play start appearing. Affleck, while concerned, does not show the “pulling his hair out hysteria” that one would expect after a spouse abduction, thus making him look even more suspicious. All the while, the audience receives flash backs from the point of view of the missing wife, telling cute stories of how they met and fell in love but also tales of marriage disintegration and physical abuse. Oh, side note: We also learn that Affleck is a cheater, the wife was pregnant when she disappeared, and Affleck just so happened to bump up the life insurance a few days before the disappearance. Needless to say about an hour into the movie, Affleck looks like a murderous tool, the media is eating him alive, and the entire theatre is ready to break out the pitchforks.
And then… the entire movie changes
In a flash, we are shown the wife alive and well. As we see her driving away into the proverbial sunset, we are taken through the painstaking work she put in to fake her own murder: fake blood splatter, deceitfully increasing her own life insurance, leaving numerous clues that point directly to Affleck. In fact, all of the flashbacks that we were presented with in the first half of the film, from the love birds meeting to their marital strife, were all based on a fake diary planted for the police. In other words, a good portion of the last hour was a complete fabrication! We the audience, like the police in the movie, have been played. Affleck and others suspect that the wife is still alive; eventually using the media to rehabilitate his image and send a message and apology to his wife. Seeing this, the wife realizes that back home is a better situation than the place where she is currently shacking up, and proceeds to slit the throat of the ex-boyfriend she is staying with, fake her own rape, and (while covered in her dead ex’s blood) present herself to the cops as the victim of a kidnapping. Soon after returning, she demands that Affleck stay with her because 1) she is pregnant with his child; 2) she will do far worse than fake her own death if he tries to leave.
Whew…damn that was a lot. I’m gonna be honest, I don’t think I have been that impressed by the twist and turns in a movie in years. The way certain elements were introduced was a work of art.
Due to this film having more themes than Wall Street has prenup’s, I am going to cherry pick those that I find most important. The biggest one was alluded to in the aforementioned quote: marriage is multi-year project of trying to make a person, against their will, someone they are not. The movie forces the viewer to ask, “To what lengths would some spouses go to achieve the change they desire?” and “What would you do to punish the person that did not submit to your demands?”. Yes, Gone Girl takes these questions to their absolute extreme, crossing into “bat shit crazy” territory without skipping a beat. However, the extreme actions of the movie’s characters serve as almost a parody of the struggles that take place in every marriage, a fun house mirror for the ridiculousness that a lot of couples experience every day.
The second theme has to be the ravenous and hysterical nature of the media. They are out for blood, demand heroes and villains, and use the lives of ordinary people as fodder for ratings. The social commentary that Gone Girl is making is almost Hunger Games-esque: While the media is doing these horrible things, are they really to blame? They would not be televising it if no one were watching. Who do we blame? The person showing it or the person watching it?
The third theme, which is connected to one of my problems with the movie, is the wife’s motivations. The movie gives a few hints as to why she is willing to go to such extremes, but it is left somewhat vague. It makes the viewer feel that if they had read the book, maybe the fog would not be so thick. Is it because Affleck cheated? It is because she was not a “cool girl” and resented the fact that she was being asked to conform to that mold (as multiple online commentators have alluded to)? Is it because she has always been compared to her fictional literary alter-ego “Amazing Amy”, created by her parents, that always succeeds where the real life version fails, thus creating a goal for the real life Amy that can never be achieved but always desired? All of these, and none of these, could be true. Unfortunately, the movie is packed so full of plot that we are unable to get a clear indication of motivations. This trait, unfortunately, makes the movie seem a tad thin at times.
The last 15 to 20 minutes drag horribly. After such an “on the edge of your seat” two hours, the finale is a clear disappointment and took me right out of the movie. That being said, it did not ruin the film. Gone Girl is simply too strong. Everything you have read about this movie is true: It is wonderful. Go see it. If you are married however, you might want to prepare yourself for an awkward ride home depending on the state of your relationship. No…seriously.