Movie Review: Gone Girl is a Head Scratcher
First of all, let me say how hard it will be to review this movie without spoilers, since it’s a plot-twist-apalooza spoiler minefield. But here we go:
Nick and Amy Dunne live in suburban Missouri, a couple settled in to mid-marriage unhappiness. Their lives haven’t turned out the way they predicted, but things are about to flip upside down when Nick comes home to a ransacked house, and the police investigation into Amy’s disappearance begins.
I can’t say more without spoiling too much, so I’ll cut the synopsis there.
Fresh off my own review of the book, I’m not sure how I feel about this movie. It’s getting great reviews and awards-season buzz already, but there were things that bothered me that I’m not sure how to reconcile. Let’s break it down into pieces:
- The Directing: David Fincher makes movies that are eerie and unsettling, to say the least. Fight Club, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo… his films make you feel icky, but in a good way. They focus on depravity and the worst in people, which is the perfect tone to set for this film. Sometimes his reliance on natural lighting for scenes makes elements on the screen hard to see, but I can’t fault him for his style.
- The acting: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike play Nick and Amy (respectively…obviously) to perfection. In the novel, they’re layered characters whose hidden selves will surprise you, and that kind of complexity couldn’t have been easy to portray onscreen. Again, I have to be careful what I say, because there are so many twists and turns that I shouldn’t venture beyond the first twenty minutes of the film.
- The music: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross know how to create unsettling industrial music that pairs with Fincher’s films like just the right wine and cheese. It’s so non-traditional, yet fits right in with the rest of the tone.
- The twists: Since I’ve read the book, it’s hard to say how surprising the plot twists would have been if I’d gone in blind, but if you don’t know, I think you’re in for a wild ride. Nothing is as it seems here.
- The timeliness: Not that the filmmakers could have done this on purpose, but with the recent events among certain NFL players, the movie’s examination of violence against women comes at a key time in our society.
What Didn’t Work:
- The screenplay: Gillian Flynn, who wrote the novel, also writes the screenplay for the movie. I’m not convinced she should have. Purist fans of the book will appreciate that seemingly everything from the novel made its way onscreen, but there’s almost too much story here. Lots of characters to keep track of, and too much dialogue. Which leads me to:
- The exposition: There’s an enormous amount of information to this story. Nick and Amy move to Missouri from New York because of Nick’s ailing mother, and the characters discuss this in the opening minutes. This information is marginally important later on, but do they really need to discuss it? The excessive packing information into a movie bothers me. Let’s see it played out instead.
- The length: It’s about twenty minutes too long. It goes a half an hour beyond its big climax, and I kept fidgeting in my seat, waiting for something interesting to happen. Again, this is a screenplay problem, but I had hoped for a stronger ending.
Based on my objective analysis, it would seem that the Pros beat the Cons by a score of 5-3. So I must conclude that I liked it. And I think you will too, especially if you haven’t read the book. Just don’t let anyone spoil it for you.
My rating: 7/10
Gone Girl is playing at the Century Boulder Theater