Never have I been so uninterested in an interesting story. Gone Girl from the outset has a lot of promise, and the trailer would lead you to believe it’s all there. You have a story based on a New York Times bestseller; David Fincher at the reins directing; Ben Affleck handling the lead role; and even has Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross teaming up once again for the soundtrack. Too bad it just never comes together.
Gone Girl tells the story of married couple Nick Dunne (Affleck) and Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike). Nick goes out one morning to share a drink with his sister at their bar and comes back to find that Amy has disappeared. Worse than that, it appears that a genuine crime has taken place. Kidnapping? Murder? Signs point to all of the above, and too bad for Nick because the signs also point to him.
The juice of the film’s narrative is potent stuff. It tells an intriguing story and it fills its dioramas with mirrors that reflect on modern society. It manages to comment on our need for facades, our need to inject media into our veins, and our unintelligible simultaneous need and desire to deceive. There’s a substantial flip in the middle that, whether you see it coming or not, is wholly gripping.
That grip, though, is rather ephemeral. There are several points in Gone Girl where it has you almost irrevocably by the throat and all you want is more. But it never quite sustains that momentum in any meaningful way, always slumping to the floor before it hits the throttle. The beginning opens with an impressive and cold heft, and then fails to hide any of its mystery. And towards the end of the first third, more intrigue emerges, but is swiftly snuffed by a blatantly revoked curtain.
A lot of what the movie can claim as engrossing moments can all be attributed to its cast. From top to bottom, both the casting immaculately syncs with the roles and the actors fulfill their potential. Affleck plays the oddly disaffected, shady husband with aplomb, and Pike goes through the whole film navigating banks and turns with a fantastic deftness. And from larger supporting roles like Nick’s lawyer (Tyler Perry) and the lead detective (Kim Dickens) to smaller parts like the annoying neighbor (Casey Wilson), it seems as if the characters fit their portrayers like a glove.
The same goes for Fincher as the director. This movie, for the most part, tells the story of a cold and calculated deception, precise as a laser, and what more does Fincher do best than coolly and rawly showcase characters in slow-burning scenes. His signature style is on full display here, and combined with the similarly matched music from Reznor and Ross, it slides over the plot and covers it all like a nice, murderous blanket.
That’s why it makes the film’s failure all the more puzzling. The writing isn’t terrible by any stretch; the story is proven and critically well received in its novelization; and the cast and crew are complementary to its material to a fault. But it lacks so much in providing any sustained or noteworthy amount of suspense. Even guessing the truth and ending to the movie failed to interest me.
Sitting through the film at around the 120th minute mark (yeah, it’s a doozy), I found my mind wandering. It drifted off to the realm of trying to figure out why it’s failing to grab me and hold me, or unraveling my curiosity for how boredom was so effectively distilled into a single movie, and then scolding myself for not trying hard enough to like this film. But oh how I tried.
The portrayals of Nick and Amy are likable in the beginning. That’s not the problem. The problem is that likable doesn’t get viewers invested. We are all standing on the cliff, wanting to be pushed into caring and wanting to find out more. But the movie takes us by the hand and leads us astray. We are first introduced to the idea of Nick as a drinker with no emotions, overriding a sweetly romantic retelling of their first encounter. And it focuses on arousing suspicion just enough to where our inclination towards Amy is also overshadowed.
So without a personal investment in the leads, we are left with the mystery, but from the get-go, whether what the movie tells you is true or not, it leaves very little curiosity to be mined. Then, without both drama and emotional attachment, we are left with just a shell that sounds good and looks good with some nice allegorical analyses taped to the front.
Gone Girl is not a bad movie. Far from it, it’s well-made and well-acted. But somewhere along the way, it forgot to include several critical elements that tie those two halves together. There’s a lot of well-earned boredom to be had here but also more than a handful of incredible performances. But for all the competence thrown your way from Fincher’s hands, Gone Girl still fails to deliver.
+ Great performances from Affleck and Pike
+ Soundtrack, casting, and directing all fit the film like a glove
– Present an interesting story as so incredibly boring
– Fails to dramatically capitalize on dramatic source material
Final Score: 5 out of 10