There’s a wicked perversity to a David Fincher film that’s just as fun as it is dangerous. Outside of the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, each one of his films dissects varying degrees of human grotesqueness. Whether it’s the frightening, disgusting ambition of John Doe in Seven or the unapologetic asshole of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, Fincher gravitates towards depraved behavior and macabre events. And incidentally, we gravitate towards it too, often reveling in the morbid moments, as if it’s an acceptable portal for us to unpack all the filthy, despicable thoughts we’ve surreptitiously packed away in our mind. This is not to say biblically themed murders or clubs dedicated to boisterous brutality arouse us in any sensible way, but we all crave a sense of danger, and there’s a level of freedom found when we explore the darkness.
This ideal undoubtedly heightens our experience in Gone Girl, Fincher’s latest potboiler. Based off the novel of the same name, Gone Girl is a slow burn of a film with ferocious moments of violence and sexuality, but it truly soars when it viciously fillets the sanctity of marriage. The fun begins when Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike), the beautiful wife of the equally handsome and affable Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), vanishes under mysterious circumstances. Suburbia and the zeitgeist simply can’t fathom how a woman like Amy, a quiet, unassuming wife, became the focal point of an unthinkable tragedy. Candlelight vigils, slanderous talk show hosts, and search parties bookend an investigation that ultimately paints Nick as a husband harboring secrets, and perhaps the body of America’s missing sweetheart.
What’s interesting about Gone Girl is that it ditches its procedural structure after the first act, focusing on the varying realities Nick and Amy lived as a married couple. Saying any more than that will spoil the film’s wildly enjoyable narrative shift, which gallantly trots out the soiled souls of Nick and Amy. The screenplay, adapted by Gillian Flynn, the author of the source material, isn’t concerned with being relatable. As a matter of fact, it parades the childish, repulsive behavior of its characters around for all to see and experience, forcing us to wonder if there’s even a victim at all. Detestable as they all are, the one character we end up siding with the most, albeit causing a great deal of dissonance, is Amy, which is purely through the magnificent performance of Rosamund Pike. Towering, frightening, and altogether cool, Pike’s presence sharpens the film’s edge.
If Pike is the edge, then Fincher is the maniac driving the knife into our gut. He does a fantastic job balancing the seriousness of the film’s message against the satirical take down of the 24 hour news cycle, camera hungry lawyers, and the manifestation of celebrity through tragedy. Featuring a lurid, green tinge, a Fincher staple that elicits a queasy feeling, and yet another inventive, unnerving score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Gone Girl is a nasty film. It’s not because of violence, sex, or people defying morality. Granted, those things certainly amplify the film, as we all enjoy watching people behaving badly. Gone Girl succeeds largely because it’s not fixated on unwinding a coiled plot. It’s not about the discovery of a rotting corpse or coaxing a guilty plea from a murderer. Rather, it’s about the disintegration of individualism within a marriage or relationship, and the lies we tell to keep up a simple myth: we are who we say we are.