Gone Girl tells the story of a marriage that’s rapidly disintegrating. Ostensibly happy couple Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike) Dunne have fallen out of love. After an exciting beginning in New York, Amy and Nick are plagued by financial difficulties, leading the pair to relocate to downbeat Missouri – where they are bored and unfulfilled. The qualities they first enjoyed in each other have become bones of contention: she’s nit-picky and needy; he’s complacent and lazy.
Then Amy goes missing, with the police believing her to have been abducted. But throughout these events, Nick remains eerily calm. His ambivalence concerns cops and neighbours, who quickly conclude he’s murdered her.
The film jumps back and forth in time, showing the different perspectives of Amy and Nick throughout their five-year marriage. Over the course, you sense that neither has been perfect in their conduct, and it becomes harder to work out what’s really happened. Is Amy dead? Is Nick a murderer? Or is there a missing part of the jigsaw?
The meatiness of this introduction creates the impression that Gone Girl is going to provide a satisfying, mind-blower of an ending. But, like the novel on which it is based, what you actually get is something that’s slightly hysterical and overcomplicated; where characters are forced to narrate what is happening to them because actions are insufficient.
Had the plot been more believable, this could have been an excellent watch – especially with Fincher’s archetypal moody and unsettling directional style. But with its dubious twists and turns, Gone Girl becomes something like Downton Abbey – albeit shot a hundred times better – that is simply too melodramatic to be as haunting as it intends. People talk about the film and book as if its story paints a profound picture of marriage’s intricacies, but I doubt many couples will relate to the situations Nick and Amy deal with. If anything, Gone Girl owes a lot to films such as Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction that are about sociopathic women.
In terms of performances, Affleck and Pike capture the parts well, as does Carrie Coon – as Dunne’s emotionally-involved sister Margot (irritatingly nicknamed ‘Go’) – and Neil Patrick Harris as Amy’s possessive ex-lover. There are also some compelling issues tackled in the film, such as media invasion and the impact of economic conditions on relationships.
That being said, Gone Girl struggles to be anything more than lowbrow entertainment. Bloody, sexy and shocking, audiences should see it for a bit of fun, rather than a penetrating insight into relationships. There is only so much David Fincher can do with a novel as mad as its protagonists.