So here we go. The official kickoff to Oscar season, the first big movie that gets everyone buzzing, with big names, big pedigrees and even bigger expectations. Gone Girl is the latest from acclaimed and beloved director David Fincher, who brought us the dark favorites Se7en, Fight Club, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the near Oscar-misses The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network, (not to mention television’s House of Cards) so, naturally, it will be looked on with keen interest. Add to it the fact that it is based on the world-wide smash-hit novel of the same name by author/screenwriter Gillian Flynn, and you have a doubly built-in audience and fervor for this movie, which seemingly stars Ben Affleck as an afterthought.
I not only read the book “Gone Girl,” but I devoured it. I loved it and was so excited when I heard it was being made into a movie. I was even more excited when I heard it was going to be Fincher to adapt it, since he was the one who adapted another novel I adored, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” which I loved. The simple plot of Gone Girl is it’s about a seemingly perfect couple, Nick and Amy Dunne, (played by Affleck and Rosamund Pike), until one day (on their 5-year anniversary) when Amy goes missing and Nick is placed under suspicion in her disappearance. From there, events reveal that their perfect marriage wasn’t so perfect after all and we maybe find out what really happened to Amy and how it may or may not have involved Nick.
“Gone Girl,” the book, was smart, riveting, wicked, and topsy-turvy all the way through. Now I say this with every understanding that my appreciation of the movie could be colored by the fact that I had read the book first so I have no idea how to see the movie without that knowledge, but the movie adaptation of Gone Girl? It not only disappointed me, it angered me. The disappointment came from the fact that I honestly have no idea what kind of movie David Fincher thought he was directing. I’ve heard some people describe it as a thriller, some describe it as a mystery, and some even describe it as a commentary on modern marriage. I would describe it as a mess. If I didn’t know better and I didn’t know the filmmakers better, I honestly would have thought this movie was made by a first-timer, it felt that lost. I felt zero tension, zero stakes and I honestly didn’t care about anyone or anything. And empathy? Well, I think that’s the point—we are supposed to hate everybody in this movie. If you really want to spend 2 ½ hours with horrible people who do horrible things to each other for no clear point whatsoever, knock yourself out. And when the two people we are forced to spend those 2 ½ hours with are played with such numbing blandness as Ben Affleck and such over-the-top melodrama as Rosamund Pike, it is just awful. Even the score by usually-brilliant (and Oscar-winning) Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross was intrusive and overbearing, which is something I never thought I’d hear myself say.
I realize that there is a big part of Gone Girl that is intended to be satire or black comedy but look, even the blackest of humor has to start somewhere relatable. And if Gone Girl honestly thinks it is satirizing modern marriage and contemporary society with this trashy, melodramatic, TMZ-induced nightmare of a movie, then we are all a lot worse off than we think.
Bottom line here is this: I can understand and appreciate metaphor movies. If Fincher and Flynn are really trying to say something about our culture and society here, more power to them. But, for me, they failed miserably. They didn’t create a viable thriller, they didn’t create a workable mystery, and they certainly didn’t create a satire worth recommending. Instead, for me, Gone Girl is nothing more than melodramatic, semi-boring, sexist pulp. I have been shocked and wrong before, but if this makes it all the way to Oscar night, I’ll be the girl gone.