By Eoin Molloy
Directed by Hollywood book-to-film wunderkind, David Fincher (Fight Club, Zodiac),
Gone Girl is surely going to be nominated across the board at this year’s Oscars. But that doesn’t mean that it’s any good. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl stars Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike as Nick and Amy Dunne who for all intents and purposes seem to be a happy couple.
Gone Girl is your everyday mystery/thriller job. The plot is relatively simple. The first act goes like this: wife goes missing, husband is suspected of murdering her and trouble ensues. The plot is so wafer-thin that it barely lays enough ground work to support the big reveal of the second act.
Let’s start with the positives. The casting for the main roles was pretty solid. Rosamund Pike was excellent at portraying the seemingly-empty yet deranged Amy.
It’s remains to be seen whether Ben Affleck was actually acting or not, but his nonchalant attitude and casual demeanour makes us believe that he is the killer. He did not seem too bothered by his wife’s disappearance into thin air. However, he barely switches it up in the second act, when the drama begins to unfold. Affleck retains the same wanton sense of apathy throughout the entire second act, even though his character’s world is crumbling.
Carrie Coon and Kim Dickens were refreshing in their roles as Margo Dunne and Detective Rhonda Boney respectively.
The film works extremely well as somewhat of a cautionary tale against marriage. The film opens with Nick Dunne fantasising about cracking open his wife’s head to see what she is thinking. A bit hyperbolic, sure, but his frustration can really be felt.
Amy’s diary gives us great insight into their fantasy-land, sexually-charged courtship. Amy is from money, and Nick is her prince charming who sweeps her away at a fancy New York party and the two never look back. Bless.
Five years down the road, however, and they have both lost their jobs. They are living off of Amy’s trust fund (because of course she has a trust fund) and have moved from upmarket New York to North Carthage in dusty Missouri. It’s far from fairy-tale and Amy seems disappointed with what her life has come to. She is the nagging wife she promised never to be.
There are many faults with Gone Girl, and over-writing is one of them. They let Gillian Flynn adapt the book for the screen, and she was exceedingly faithful to her original work. She failed to recognise that print and cinema are different mediums. What works in prose will not always work onscreen.
Take for example Detective Boney’s perpetual coffee cup. This would probably be a cute little character trait to have in a novel, but when you can see it on screen it just looks like a god-damn hindrance. It would have been fine if she was seen drinking coffee here and there, but it was so ever-present that, for me, it became the defining trait of her character. At what point does the coffee get too cold to drink?
The dialogue exchanges are too lengthy at times. This may seem picky, but filling a script with too much descriptive dialogue bloats the film and deflates tension in scenes where there should be minimal dialogue.
At one stage of the film, Neil Patrick Harris’s unnecessary character waffles on for a good forty seconds about the intricacies of under floor heating and other such luxuries. This works well in a book, where one needs everything to be described in order to fully ‘see’ the scene unfolding as you read. However, on screen you can see that his place is pretty swanky, and describing every single inch of the apartment in detail is overkill.
The script is quite given to clichés here and there. I mean, both Nick and Amy are professional writers. Why can’t he be an insurance salesman and she a lawyer? Come on, you’ve got to stick to the ‘one writer per family’ rule of thumb. The main characters are stereotypical archetypes. She is the ‘nagging wife’ and he is the ‘lazy husband.’ These archetypes are overdone and out-dated, and there is nothing new about Gone Girl to make up for that. It feels entirely formulaic.
There is a serious lack of subtlety about the film. Emily Ratajowski is reduced to her body parts. Sure enough, her character is your stereo-typical home-wrecker, but that does not mean that she should have had to expose her chest three times in the space of a minute. Once was enough to get the point across.
This lack of subtlety is most obvious when the film attempts to be political. We all know that scandal-mongering tabloid TV is a serious problem, particularly in the States (TMZ, I’m looking at you), but there is far too much of a focus on Ellen Abbott’s show, which features in every second scene like a Greek chorus.
It’s as if Ms Flynn doesn’t trust the audience to think. The audience just feels spoon-fed.
All in all, watching Gone Girl was a semi-enjoyable experience. The plot-twist midway through the film does just enough to prevent this film from being completely unwatchable, but it still didn’t fulfil its potential.