BY VARUN KUMAR
The main protagonists of Fincher’s films almost never get a happy ending, whether or not they deserve one. Since Se7en, there has always been a brooding and cynical tone in Fincher’s movies that build up from start to end until we are left with the protagnists often drowning in their own sorrow and mistakes. There are clearly different levels of this throughout, where in Fincher’s scale, a 0 would be Benjamin Button and a 10 would be someone like David Mills. Nick Dunne would probably be closer to Mills in this scale. However, does he truly deserve what he gets?
Gone Girl starts almost right away with what most people can take away right from the title: The wife goes missing. However, from the start of the movie, the viewer knows that this is not a happy marriage and from a series of changing perspectives between Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike) Dunne, we learn more and more about their dynamic relationship and also more about what happened.
David Fincher is clearly one of the great directors of our time, delivering such classics as Fight Club and The Social Network. Where he looks to explore the themes of identity and self-freedom in Fight Club or greed and betrayal in The Social Network, in Gone Girl he looks to explore the themes of judgment and the media. Despite the mystery thriller vibe of Gone Girl or the fact it is about a dysfunctional marriage, the biggest thing to take away from the film is how the media is able to form conclusions on people based on very little public observations. In that way, there are often many humorous moments in Gone Girl based around interviews that the characters give which come off as so fake because the viewer knows who they truly are behind the scenes. Gone Girl is a statement on how first impressions can be deceiving, whether its social interaction or learning about somebody and their actions online or on TV. It is also a crazy (multiplied by 100) satire on marriage.
Fincher recently has been able to take very questionable casts and have the performances turn out great, as recently seen in The Social Network. Ben Affleck, normally a very wooden actor, actually gives a very subtle and ambiguous performance, which is just about what is required of a character that could be guilty of what he is accused of. Tyler Perry, one of the most questionable casting decisions of a Fincher movie, is actually a standout in this film. His charm and confidence really elevates the scenes that he is in and is also a nice way to elevate the mood of a very serious and dark film. Kim Dickens and Neil Patrick Harris also do good jobs with the characters they are given, but the true standout of this film is Rosamund Pike. It is incredible how great a job she does, considering that this is the first major role she has received. She perfectly embodies the notion of how first impressions can be deceiving, considering the massive 180 she pulls as more and more is revealed about her character. It is sickening to watch some of the stunts she pulls in this film, which can only be attributed to her magnificent performance. Pike will definitely be a Best Actress contender for Oscar season.
Two things to never leave out of a David Fincher film are the actual direction and the score. When it comes to the direction, it is pretty obvious that this looks like a David Fincher film. This means that it is very grainy, dark, and filtered to make the browns and blacks stand out more. Obviously, Gone Girl is magnificently directed, although perhaps not to the magnitude of Zodiac or Se7en. What is truly worth commending is the score. Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails) and Atticus Ross, both composers of Fincher’s last two films, do a magnificent job at creating a very intense, creepy, and at times nauseating score. There is a particular scene involving a box cutter in this film and the music playing during it is so perfect and enormously elevates the disgust and intensity of the scene and its actors.
The thing about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Fincher’s last movie, was that while it had an intriguing mystery, it just wasn’t very fun or intense. Gone Girl absolutely corrects that, and elevates itself to one of the best Fincher movies. That isn’t just because the movie is very intense and very interesting. Or that the performances are great and the twist (which surprisingly happens in the middle) is mind-blowing. There is a substance and soul to this film that says a lot about modern culture and their habits of judging people they have never met because of what people in the news say about them and their actions. It is that substance that makes this film something more than a standard mystery film and what makes the characters a lot more riveting. Some reviewers have criticized the last 15 minutes of this film for meandering away from the plot, but I feel that it is actually one of the most important parts of the film. It gives it the true reasons of Amy and Nick’s motives and it also makes a statement of the media’s infatuation with celebrities, something that feels natural as we shift from the limelight to behind the scenes.