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Gone Girl

29 October 2014 Film

Gone Girl

David Fincher’s faithful adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling thriller novel, Gone Girl, opens with an image that sets a disquieting tone. A man’s hand strokes a woman’s hair, but any tenderness is obliterated by his voice over: he imagines “cracking” her “lovely skull” and “unspooling” her brain to see what’s inside. Already, romance and cruelty are snug bedfellows.

From the outside, Amy and Nick (played by Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck) look like a dream couple. She’s blessed with wholesome beauty, all the right Ivy League degrees and a sizeable trust fund (royalties from the Amazing Amy children’s book series she inspired). He’s a corn-fed Missouri boy with a chiselled jaw, who’s making it in The Big Apple as a writer for a men’s magazine.

The fairytale has already ruptured by the time we meet them and, with Fincher the misanthropic godfather pulling the strings, it soon becomes a domestic nightmare. They’re both laid off in the recession, Nick’s mother gets sick and they trade in the brownstone terrace for an oversized McMansion in his hometown. This could be anywhere in small-town America, long past its former glory. Even the clock in the main street has stopped ticking; the American Dream has died there, too.

When Amy goes missing under suspicious circumstances on the couple’s wedding anniversary, all eyes turn to her husband. Under the spotlight, Nick doesn’t come across well. The cameras want a broken man, but when the paparazzi are clicking, he flashes an all-American grin. And as the investigation by Detective Boney (Kim Dickens) proceeds, the evidence doesn’t look good: mounting debt, infidelity and a host of suspicious clues left in Amy’s annual anniversary treasure hunt.

Fincher has a solid reputation as a stylist, but slickness can come at the expense of character. While the director nailed the machinations of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network (2010) and the deranged Tyler Durden in Fight Club (1999), there’s a certain callousness at the core of thrillers like Panic Room (2002) and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011).

Amy and Nick fall into the second category, seeming more like types than living, breathing beings. That doesn’t mean Gone Girl isn’t a riveting ride, including a clever twist to rival The Sixth Sense (1999) or The Crying Game (1992). It’s just that the couple doesn’t garner much sympathy. For Fincher, it seems marriage is a fight club built for two.

>> Gone Girl is out now.

This article was first published in #Ed469.

Rebecca Harkins-Cross