DIRECTOR: David Fincher
CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS!
David Fincher is one of my top directors and his latest Oscar nominated hit, Gone Girl certainly maintains his style. But what of the substance? Based on the bestseller of the same name this is more in the vain of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2008), rather than his best works, The Social Network (2010) or Se7en (1995).
The visual style is pristine, sharp and stylish, glossy like a magazine but the story is seemingly drab, posing as a thriller about a man whose wife disappears leaving him as the prime suspect for her apparent murder, victim of a media witch-hunt at the whims of the fickle mob but this plot is a distraction.
Borrowing its prose and tone from Hitchcock in many ways, it feels very much as if it has been inspired by the classic, Vertigo (1958), which begins as straight up thriller only to become something much, much more. A profound thesis on relationships and the manipulation there in.
So, as the major twist is revealed at the mid-way point, which it turns out that Ben Afflecks wife, Rosamond Pike, has in fact spun an elaborate plot to frame her cheating husband for her murder, the plot ends up somewhere quite different and disturbingly bizarre.
The ending leaves me both disappointed with a sort of anti-climax and fulfilled with a realisation that the thesis’ conclusion is very plausible, demonstrating a very real yet uncomfortable truth about relationships. After being mugged, Pike’s plan is on the brink of failure, she heads straight into arms of an old flame, Neil Patrick Harris, who is playing a slightly more serious version of his moustache twirling narcissistic character from A Million Ways To Die In The West (2014), only to frame him for her rape and murder him in so-called self-defence.
Then, she returns home claiming to have been kidnapped after all, playing her husband, forcing him to play along in order to cash in on their fame. And after a few weeks of fearing for his life, we are expecting a showdown which never comes, only for him to break, play along.
The ideas here are simple. In the beginning of a relationship we all try to be the person that our partner wants us to be, only for us to then try to change our partner into the person WE want them to be. And if we learn to the ugly truth about who our other-halves are and can live with it, then the relationship will probably work as we eventually stop lying to both them and ourselves. Bleak but I believe this to be true.
The problem here is that this film uses as sledgehammer to clack a nut. The story is so polished and extreme that it feels almost detached from reality, a dreamy vision with slowly turns into a nightmare whilst trying to make a very mundane point. But even Hitchcock knew that if you are trying to use extreme metaphors to explore the human condition that it is wise to play the game and give the audience what they expect every now and again.
We were expecting a third act confrontation but we don’t really get one. We are given a slow burn conclusion which shows that women are bad, almost psychotic in nature and it can seem that this story is somewhat misogynistic, but I don’t think that it is. The men are weak, succumbing to women’s charms and falling victim to their vengeance and whilst this does but men on a weaker footing whilst portraying women as the villains, I feel that message is that “it takes two to tango”.
But I do feel that our lead, Pike is portrayed as a drama queen, spoiled and will go to extremes to simply trap her man into fathering a child in order to have a purpose. Not exactly feminism but she makes the decisions and the men in her life are her victims so there is a much larger debate to be had.
In the end, this glossy, stylish film fails to live up to its potential, offering and interesting Hitchcockian thesis of the dark nature of relationships and then inherent possessive nature there in, but going along way around to the houses to do so.
Good but NOT Fincher’s best work.