In a Missouri neighborhood, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) visits the bar he owns alongside his sister Margo. It’s his fifth wedding anniversary and it’s clear that his marriage to Amy (Rosemund Pike) isn’t playing out like a fairy tale. The couple moved to his hometown of North Carthage after they both lost their jobs and Nick’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. Events like these are bound to dampen the mood of any marital union. He leaves the bar, preparing himself for the tedious annual treasure hunt his wife prepares to celebrate their marriage, but finds her missing from their home. To make things worse, the living room is in a state of disarray, prompting Nick to call the police. So begins “Gone Girl,” a movie centered on the disappearance of Amy Dunne.
Once Nick places that phone call, it’s safe to say that the characters in the film and the intense camera work scrutinize every minute detail to cast doubt on our male lead. A blood splatter on the edge of a kitchen cupboard is amplified using a few still shots and frames. It also doesn’t help when our leading man fails to share all the necessary information with the authorities and has his own bizarre eccentricities. I mean, who smiles for the camera when posing alongside a picture of your missing wife?
The mystery is further piqued by the narrative structure, which has a “him and her” perspective that only makes us question the characters even more. The present day is usually broadcast from Nick’s viewpoint, while the days, or rather years, prior to the disappearance are chronicled through Pike’s character, channeled through the journal kept by her and aided by her voiceover. The constant shifting of time between past and present only increases the number of unanswered questions the viewer has and answers them intermittently, making sure that the intensity of the movie is sustained throughout the running time.
The color palette in the movie is much different from what I expected. I strongly associate director David Fincher with his movie “Se7en,” where the dull, gloomy filters captured the ever-present rainy weather. “Gone Girl” doesn’t go for a mood that depressing however, and rightfully so. While the soundtrack features a trademark eerie electronica, thanks to usual Fincher collaborators Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the color scheme for the movie is lighter to allow humor to seep through the story. And there is plenty of that in this film, attested by the frequent outbursts of laughter erupting in the audience. It’s astonishing how Fincher’s direction makes the same sequence scary and funny at the same time, a dichotomy that is extremely difficult to produce.
The marketing campaign of the movie must be credited in abundance. For those unfamiliar with Gillian Flynn’s 2012 novel on which the movie is based, the trailer and the opening sequences of the movie point the plot in one direction, but later on there will be more than a few swerves away from the expected path of our story. Even for a movie that would initially seem to provide Rosamund Pike with a one-dimensional character, there is a spectrum of emotions for her to display, and I would be surprised if she were not to receive an Oscar nomination for this gem of a role.
Another breakout point of the film is its portrayal of the news media. From the time Amy’s disappearance airs on television, it is evident how the media is instrumental in shaping the public’s perception of Nick Dunne. How the forces of mass media manipulate and influence the characters borders on the diabolical, bending their wills to the norms prescribed by our society.
I was told that “Gone Girl” is the worst date movie to come out of Hollywood, and that may be true. The movie dissects the manner in which a man and woman change over the course of their marriage while also being exposed to external catalysts. Nick and Amy tied the knot hoping to strive towards their ideal selves when it was clear that this only made a significant departure from their actual identities, something many people realize too late.
“Gone Girl” thrives on the theme of dishonesty, with characters being deceitful in their relationships and with themselves; the characters are encouraged in this endeavor by what society and the media machine deem acceptable. Fincher’s latest entry should encourage inward reflection, perhaps allowing you to shine a spotlight on your own relationships, which I doubt is ever a bad thing.