The UnPopular Opinion: Gone Girl
THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!
****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****
I love David Fincher's work, I really do. I may be one of the few who actually looks at ALIEN 3 as a strong entry in the franchise. I love THE GAME and SEVEN and THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON. But, something has happened to Fincher. Since directing THE SOCIAL NETWORK, his films have become muted and safe. That seems like an odd statement seeing as his last two films were as dark and violent as any of his previous work, but they both felt tame and watered down. I have already shared my take on THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, but now I want to discuss the absolute disappointment that is GONE GIRL.
Based on the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn, GONE GIRL fails in the same way that THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO did. By being faithful to a fault, GONE GIRL manages to be neither unique, distinct, or anything more than another movie. I have come to expect more from David Fincher. The multitude of projects Fincher has not gotten to make all seem to be much more interesting in subject matter and execution than GONE GIRL. This movie doesn't exude anything special about it and instead allows what typically sets Fincher apart from other filmmakers to be it's downfall. The gray color palette, the elegaic musical score, the deliberate camera shots and angles. All of Fincher's hallmarks are here in spades and yet this feels like a glorified Lifetime Original Movie under the guise of an adult psychosexual thriller.
Shampoo is better! It goes on first and cleans the hair! Conditioner is better! It leaves the hair silky and smooth!
Part of the problem is that the conceit and format of the novel does not translate to the big screen. Gillian Flyn, adapting her own book, still tried to use the alternating perspectives between Nick and Amy which ends up being only utilized partially through the film. In fact, GONE GIRL doesn't seem to know what kind of movie it wants to be. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO was a dark, edgy thriller that painted by the numbers of genre conventions. GONE GIRL cannot tell if it is a sexy thriller, a mystery, an homage to killer women films of the 1960s, or a satire of modern true crime culture. There are points in GONE GIRL that are supposed to be funny but miss, badly. Casey Wilson as the stereotypical nosey neighbor and Missi Pyle as a very thinly veiled version of Nancy Grace seem like they are in the wrong movie.
Everyone talks about Rosamund Pike's performance and rightfully so. She creates an enigmatic villain in Amy Dunne that would be a worthy foe if this movie existed in the same fictional universe as THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. If Clarice Starling had been investigating Amy's disappearance, I probably would have been more intrigued. But, Pike does steal every scene she is in, leaving us wondering if we should be applauding or cowering in fear. The motivation for Amy to be this calculating psychopath never feels fully realized which may be why the ending was such a letdown for so many. It could be that or Ben Affleck as Nick.
NCIS: Almost Famous Edition
I have come to appreciate Ben Affleck more and more as a filmmaker and expected his role in GONE GIRL to be some of the best work he has done. The problem is that Affleck is not given nearly enough to make his performance in any way believable. Nick, as a character, is utterly two-dimensional and forgettable. Nothing about him makes you want to root for him or against him. In book form, you cannot tell if Nick is truly a killer or the victim of Amy's plot, but on screen he just seems edged along by the narrative rather than being a driving factor in his own story. Everyone in this movie seems to be sleepwalking with the exception of the trio of supporting characters played by Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, and Carrie Coon. All three of these actors deliver outstanding work that is overshadowed by the numb Affleck.
What used to set David Fincher apart from other filmmakers works against him here. All of his choices feel slightly off, like the pacing of the film. The editing feels like a jumble, almost as if two disparate films were being coupled together. The movement between Amy's journal entries, Nick's current legal plight, and Amy in hiding feels very uneven and clumsy. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, whose scores have been the highlight of Fincher's last two films, deliver some nice somber sounds to the movie but nothing that truly sets itself apart. GONE GIRL feels completely generic which could be the biggest insult to the work of Fincher and all of those involved in this production.
One of these two is wearing a merkin. Guess who?
At the end of the day, GONE GIRL suffers the same fate as a lot of adaptations of popular novels. Instead of being an interpretation of the written work for the big screen, GONE GIRL is instead a paint by numbers recreation. Flynn and Fincher teased a potentially new ending for the film which ended up being exactly the same as the source work. Even a surprise switch like that could have elevated GONE GIRL from being just another movie to something special. Instead we are left with a cold movie that has no bite or originality to it. Except for the beautifully framed shots by cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, GONE GIRL is nothing more than a tabloid TV movie writ large with an underused cast and a shot of Ben Affleck's penis.
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