Stars: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Emily Ratajkowski, Neil Patrick Harris
Released: 2nd October 2014 (UK)
David Fincher, with Gone Girl, continues his methodical destruction of the symbols of an ideal America. In this suffocating atmosphere’s thriller, the themes of the couple and the media machine are dismantled and dissected with cynicism. His feature film is also, thanks to the excellent Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, a new opportunity for the film director to give women power. Just after The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the film embarks a “mister nobody” in an enormous vicious spiral after the mysterious disappearance of his wife.
Throughout his filmography, David Fincher was both praised by the public and criticised for the thriller. Like Alfred Hitchcock in his time, Fincher constantly worked on the genre, brining each film its own lot of findings that clearly set him apart from the competition. For his sixth adaptation of a novel on the big screen, his gaze is on the best seller of 2012 Gone Girl written by Gillian Flynn.
If the story, about the disappearance of a woman in a peaceful suburb of Missouri, already provides a good basis for an effective thriller, what can be said about Fincher’s directing? How did this filmmaker make the story his own? Gone Girl fits perfectly into the universe of Fincher and shares many themes and obsessions that are present in his other movies.
Whilst Fincher is true to the original work of the book, the film is notable for its chronology of the events. It opens on the most fundamental moment of the story: the morning of the disappearance of Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike). This then descends into revelations of a disintegrating couple, putting in parallel the beginnings of the investigation with flashbacks in the voice of Amy.
A life that promised to be idyllic, between this young New York princess and a good guy from the countryside of the Middle West, that gradually turns into a nightmare ultimately resulting in the drama of July 5, 2012.
We see the small town of North Carthage wake up. With soecific digital ice photograph, already developed by David FIncher and Jeff Cronenweth in previous movie collaborations, director and conductor establish a blanket of secrecy for this world.
Because whilst Gone Girl is the story of Amy Dunne’s disappearance, it is specifically the story of suspicion towards Nick (Ben Affleck), her husband, whom many quickly name as responsible.
The rumor and clues accumulating against him, Nick Dunne will have to confront the media, portrayed by David Fincher as a power eager machine desperate for the slightest scoop, regardless of frenzy or human emotion. If the media are considered (and consider themselves) as the fourth power, its power has increased tenfold as the race for the ratings has become an addiction for all media, turning into a real amnesic machine to crush human beings.
Fincher uses the media as a commentary on the US addiction, like most societies, to instantaneous information, regardless of the original role of journalism, supposedly there to take a step back and give thoughtful and objective advice on the facts. But the great journalists have given way to the newswires, in search of an easy-to-understand story: an innocent victim and a cold-blooded murderer.
The intelligence of Fincher in this, his last feature, is the extension of this reflection outside the frame of the film. In fact the movie’s promotion also played this game of oversimplifying information, feeding us with clues against this clumsy, fugitive, and ultimately bad-tempered figure beautifully embodied by Ben Affleck. This criticism of American society fits well with the rest of Fincher’s filmography, adding Gone Girl to this corpus of another America.
It seems David Fincher has an obsession with a malignant and systematic destruction of the great figures of America, those values on which the United States has long relied on. In 1999, Fight Club tackled front-end consumer capitalist society. In 2010, The Social Network portrayed the society of isolation of elites from the major universities that control the country. And with the series of House of Cards, where the image of Washington politicians is cynically chipped under the guise of Kevin Spacey.
However, David Fincher’s vision has gradually become more mature. While in Fight Club he was proposing to remake the world with the naive ardor of a young alter globalist, Gone Girl focuses on a couple, but possesses as much, if not more, strength in his speech. The staging of the filmmaker reflects this evolution. Fewer effects and more editing seem to be the key to his latest film, playing with overdrive and fades to black.
In this film, Fincher dispensed with long sequence shots, or crane shots, useless to tell his story. The story of a man who is the victim of a media harshness, but especially the story of a carefully prepared revenge, revealed as a surprise to all except those who read the book when Amy Dunne appears alive and healthy in her car after the first hour of the movie. If the presence of women has always been strong in Fincher’s films, it has recently transformed into a seizure of power over men. Nick Dunne finds himself alone, mistreated in a world of women who have power, and all the men he meets will only be able to attest to their inferior position.
Even worse for the poor Nick, while he has to repent in public about his own private behavior, he turns out to be the target of a machination orchestrated by his wife. With his adaptation of the book by Gillian Flynn, David Fincher turns the image of a weak woman, always the victim, to an icy and calculating predator. Ready for the worst sacrifices to achieve her ends.
Ultimately though, Amy Dunne is a woman overwhelmed by a fictional character invented by her parents. This “Amazing Amy” who has succeeded everywhere she has failed. Pushing her to invent her own extraordinary story where Nick Dunne takes the role of the villain. However, the denouement of Gone Girl breaks here another key value of the “Perfect America”, and its American dream. According to Fincher, the figure of the ideal couple seems to exist only in falsehood and unspoken. Once the terrible truth breaks out between the two, only the malaise and sadness persist behind this artificial image of triumphant love.
This is the Machiavellian vision of America woven by the filmmaker during the whole movie. The talent of storyteller is no longer to be demonstrated, and the direction of his casting is quite brilliant. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike literally steal the screen. The same applies for Neil Patrick Harris, whose game is completely purged of the automatic mimics for which he is known. Ben Affleck has finally found the perfect role for his plasticized beauty, curiously neutral. And no one has ever played a “missing” person as present or as memorable as Rosamund Pike, the divine revelation of the film. In this waltz, it is her who sets the place.