Phoniness is on Trial in Fincher's Dark, Disturbing Gone Girl
- Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2014 3 Oct
DVD Release Date: January 13, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: October 3, 2014
Rating: R (for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language )
Run Time: 149 min.
Director: David Fincher
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, David Clennon, Lisa Banes, Missi Pyle, Emily Ratajkowski, Casey Wilson, Lola Kirke, Boyd Holbrook, Sela Ward
CAUTION: The following review contains discussion of mature and explicit subject matter. Parental caution is advised for younger readers.
As ubiquitous as a Starbucks in suburbia, it’s practically impossible to pass a bookstore or airport kiosk without spotting Gillian Flynn's bestseller Gone Girl. It’s the novel everyone's been reading since its release back in 2012, and with good reason. It was the rare pop fiction title where elegant prose and twisty storytelling peacefully co-existed.
And considering just how popular Gone Girl has been, it's no surprise that Hollywood quickly came calling with a veritable who's who of actors and actresses willing to star. But for it to get the full-on David Fincher treatment, well, that's another level entirely. Instead of merely hitting all the plot points for your standard-issue potboiler, a Fincher film typically offers something more, an unsettling truth about our culture dressed in various shades of gray.
While Fincher doesn't quite have his finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist like he did with The Social Network four years ago, Gone Girl, a story of supposed domestic bliss gone very, very wrong, has takeaway value of a far more universal variety. Simply put, it puts phoniness on trial, whether it's the sensationalist bent of today’s 24-hour news cycle, the lengths people will go for worldwide fame and monetary gain or how in the most sacred of bonds, husbands and wives can seamlessly morph into someone their partner wants him/her to be, rather than who they really are.
It's the stuff of compelling post-movie banter, no doubt, but in Fincher's hands, Gone Girl isn't just a capable cautionary tale. With almost a fiendish glee, Fincher taps into his inner Hitchcock and delivers a deeply unsettling thrill ride that's rotten to the core. While it's never quite as clever as it thinks it is because, unlike the book, it lets the audience in on the big secret much too soon, Gone Girl has barely any likeable protagonists but still manages to pack a punch.
Speaking of which, anyone squeamish about blood, explicit sexuality or a story lacking much in the way of redemption, justice or a happy ending will likely want to avoid Gone Girl altogether. There's a huge difference between experiencing a story like this in print and viewing it on the big screen. There are scenes where every part of my body recoiled in disgust, and I suspect that's exactly how Mr. Fincher envisioned it. That's also the reason Gone Girl will probably score big when awards season rolls around again.
Bleak and depraved is the stuff of Oscar glory, and Ben Affleck (Argo) and Rosamund Pike (The World's End) both give extraordinary, career-defining performances. For Affleck in particular, someone who has always seemed more confident and comfortable directing rather than acting, playing a scoundrel of a husband who may—or may not—have killed his wife is a perfect match for his camera-friendly looks and slightly smug stage presence.
Despite his character Nick Dunne's many flaws (and there are many, trust me), he still manages to come off as surprisingly sympathetic in contrast to his totally unhinged other half. What dramatically helps Nick's case are his interactions with the woman who truly knows him best, his twin sister Margo (a scene-stealing newcomer Carrie Coon). Even as the evidence mounts against Nick in the disappearance of his very blonde, very pretty wife, and yes, that’s the only plot information I'll supply here (skip the Cautions below if you wish to remain spoiler-free), 'Go' is the only person willing to stand by his side, for better or worse.
In a movie filled with dark edges, even darker deeds and a creepy soundtrack to match, Go is the moral compass. Where little morality is found, her little beam of light in a total gut-punch of a dark noir film exposes the folly of being phony, something Nick Dunne didn't have the good fortune to realize until his wife Amy was gone.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
- Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking and cigarette smoking depicted. References to prescription drug abuse and people who'll break the law to procure illegal drugs.
- Language/Profanity: The f-word is used multiple times, along with other profanities including a-word, s-word, b-word, etc. Derogatory words such as cu-- and whore are also used. Two misuses of God's name.
- Sex/Nudity: Oral sex is performed on a woman; no nudity, but it’s very clear what’s happening with the man’s head shown between her legs and subsequent moaning. A man and woman have sex in a bookstore; no nudity, but we see the man thrusting and hear groans while she lies on a table. A woman says her husband only uses her for sex when he needs it. In one scene, he's penetrating her from behind, and she's clearly not happy about it. A man has sex with his young mistress; we see her take off her top (breasts are revealed). When she wakes up in the morning, there’s another quick shot of her bare breasts. References to infidelity, rough sex and a very rude comment about the aforementioned mistress's breasts. A woman uses a wine bottle to masturbate herself and give the illusion that she'd been raped (we see her reach under her nightgown but what happens is strongly implied rather than shown). The same woman also uses rope to create the appearance of bondage during a presumably violent sexual encounter. A woman has sex with a man who isn't her husband (rear male nudity and later, a very brief view of his genitals). It's strongly implied that she performs oral sex on him first before rough intercourse ensues. The woman continues to have sex with him even as he's dying. A man and a woman join each other in the shower (we see the side of her breast and very briefly, the man’s genitals). A brief reference to painful female pubic hair grooming. A couple of jokes about incest and guys with a hand down their pants.
- Violence: A couple of scenes where a woman is thrown to the ground or handled very roughly by her husband. References to a woman losing a large amount of blood and that blood being mopped up poorly in a crime scene. A woman bashes herself in the head with a hammer to give the illusion of being a battered wife. A woman is robbed of her money by a man and woman and hit in the process of doing so. A decaying body is shown floating to the bottom of a river. A woman draws a large amount of blood from her body, puts in a bowl and throws it on the floor. A woman slits a man's throat during sex, and we hear the agony of the man as he dies. In one of the film’s most disturbing visuals, the woman is shown with lots and lots of his blood all over her in a couple of scenes. A woman has "kill myself" sticky notes on her calendar.
- Spiritual Content/References: Margo says Amy enjoys playing God—the "Old Testament" God. References to prayers for Amy's safe return. A proclamation of "prayers being answered" and "The Miracle on the Mississippi" when it’s uncovered that Amy is no longer missing.
Publication date: October 3, 2014