“I imagine cracking open her head, unspooling her brain, trying to get answers,” Ben Affleck thinks in a voiceover while cinematically caressing Rosamund Pike’s beautiful, cinematic hair in the opening of Gone Girl. A movie you think is going to be the increasingly terrifying tale of domestic ennui gone bad, the story of how even the most promising romance can go horribly wrong when life happens, and the slow accumulation of minor hurts and small misunderstandings turns normal, loving people into bitter adversaries, borderline psychopaths capable of vicious acts against each other ranging from the petty to possible atrocity. You think it’s going to be that, the “date-night movie of the decade for couples who dream of destroying one another,” as reductively promised by Peter Travers in the Gone Girl TV spots, and then about halfway through it takes a hard left into genre territory. It switches from a biting take on the real-life horror of relationships to an over-the-top thriller, getting a lot sillier, but no less entertaining in the process.
There’s a subtle-yet-distinct difference between literature and a page-turner or a good beach read. One has unique, believable characters that you could imagine meeting in real life and has relevant insights into the human condition, while the other doesn’t need to be that believable, and can have wild characters and over-the-top action that doesn’t have much to do with your everyday life, because, like an Upworthy headline, it just has to make you semi desperate to know WHAT HAPPENS NEXT! The impressive thing David Fincher and Gillian Flynn do in their adaptation of Flynn’s novel Gone Girl is that they make art and pulp co-exist in the same story. Or at least, art and pulp run a sort of relay race. Gone Girl opens as literature, becomes this incredibly well-done episode of Law and Order for about 40 minutes, and then sort of silently exits the room, leaving a vapor trail in the shape of art that will have you wondering about it for the next few hours. Or maybe days, I don’t know, they made me see this f*cking thing like three hours before I had to file the review.
There’s so much that I want to say about Gone Girl that doesn’t fit into the format of a “review,” it’s more of a discussion, that includes spoilers and takes place between people who’ve seen the film and still want to talk about it. I’m going to make that a separate post (update: That post is here). But what a f*cking victory that is just in and of itself. A movie that people would see and still want to talk about after it’s over, in a way that goes beyond “is it good?” “should I see it?” “how were the performances?” Caring about a film after it’s over! Imagine that! That was what made me feel like films were worth writing about in the first place, so thank you Gone Girl for reminding me of that.
As with The Social Network, it’s possible to interpret Gone Girl as just an astroglide slick Hollywood blockbuster, where nerd coders confront each other in cinematic staredowns that’d make Puzo’s gangsters think they were being a bit melodramatic – slick scenes we know aren’t real but don’t care because it’s so fun to watch. It’s possible to see it that way, but what saved The Social Network for me was the added frame at the end, the excuse it gave itself, saying “Or maybe that’s just how I remember it,” that for me, forgave elements that I might otherwise have found obnoxious. Like Reznor’s occasionally overbearing score and Sorkin’s typically smug script. Like, maybe the characters were hyperarticulate because we were watching it the way one of the people involved wanted to remember it. There’s a similar, subtle element of that in Gone Girl, though the music is never as overbearing and the script never as smug (Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score is perfectly utilized here, actually). But if you read Gone Girl 100 percent at face value, the Hollywood slick way, it’s a story that’s intensely entertaining, but it’s also a bit like one side of the gender debate’s wet dream (I’m being intentionally vague here to avoid spoilers). The ending is a bit ambiguous, and, the way I read it, it’s sort of a satire of that wet dream, deliberate. But it’s hard to know if I’m seeing that because it’s there or because it absolves me of enjoying something I couldn’t entirely support. Artistically, it doesn’t really matter, it works either way.
At first I was put off by Rosamund Pike’s oddly frozen upper lip, but eventually she won me over, and the ensemble cast is one of the best ever, from Pike on down to The Leftovers’ Carrie Coon as Affleck’s twin sister, to Tyler Perry, who I’m pretty sure was cast as a joke, as the lawyer who defends terrible people, to Kim Dickens as the skeptical detective. I’ve always thought of Ben Affleck as a better director than he is an actor, but he does possibly his best work here, and my only criticism is that he hangs far less dong than I was led to believe. I only caught a side view of it for a split second, barely enough time to note that it wasn’t wearing a Sawx cap, even less than I saw of Neil Patrick Harris’s dong, which I think was a prosthetic anyway. In the absence of much else to say until we get into full-spoiler discussions, I’ll simply say that the amount of dong depicted couldn’t compete with the cameo from Emily Ratajkowski’s mind-blowing breasts. Like Alexandra Daddario from True Detective, her body stretches the bounds of believability, such that casting her as anything but a lingerie model immediately takes me out of the story. She takes her top off and I think “OH COME ON, you expect me to believe that?!?”
Anyway, I’m digressing to keep from ruining it. Go see this so we can talk about it.
Vince Mancini is a writer and comedian living in San Francisco. You can find more of his work on FilmDrunk, the Uproxx network, the Portland Mercury, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here, subscribe to the FilmDrunk Frotcast.