Gone Girl

Review: Gone Girl

24 Oct 17

... and stay gone!

An eminently frustrating film. Ben Affleck is a smug lump of clay I just cannot empathize with - granted, his character is meant to be less-than-lovable, but a better actor could have embodied both the charm and coldness this role needed. This is especially grating because the rest of the cast is rather good: Rosamund Pike really sinks her teeth into the female lead, while Carrie Coon and Kim Dickens make strong impressions in supporting parts. Another big turn-off for me was the machine-gun paced editing by Kirk Baxter. Don't get me wrong, it's technically impeccable, but entirely wrong for this material: each shot whips on and off the screen so quickly I could hardly register what was being shown half the time, never mind lose myself in a moment long enough to invest in what I was seeing. Why did they do this? Did Baxter feel obliged to use a clip from every single set-up that was filmed? It certainly does nothing to reduce a criminally swollen running-time - 150 minutes for this premise is indefensible. But... even if I found the leading man even remotely interesting... even if the editing were less obnoxiously frenetic... there's the problem of story. More specifically, the problem of tone and intent.

Gillian Flynn adapts her own novel here. Having a novelist adapt their own work for the screen may sound like a solid bet but, as often as not, they can't bring themselves to ADAPT so much as TRANSPOSE - I haven't read the source material but I get the feeling this is a case in point. Gone Girl should have been a comedy instead of a straight thriller. It'd be just as dark but, I reckon, far more provocative, and a hell of a lot easier to swallow, if it'd been played for sick, bitter farce. As it is, the emotional manipulations ring hollow (arguably misogynistic too), and the plot trickery isn't half as clever as it thinks it is. And laughably far-fetched. No spoilers here, I promise, but the "big twist" was glaringly obvious just from the trailer. The way it plays out would have been a pitch-black hoot and, ironically, more thrilling if only it weren't so doggedly fixated on wrong-footing and "thrilling" us. I can't help wondering what the Coen Brothers or Bobcat Goldthwait might have made of the same plot.

Director David Fincher is a master visualist. The camerawork and production design here are every bit as slick as you'd expect. Atticus Rose and Trent Reznor's spare electronic score is really good too. But all this, even combined with the better acting, aren't enough to save a story I couldn't take seriously for a minute.