Gone Girl is an emotionally distant, stylish, bizarre thriller that, as Christy Lemire mentioned in her review, could be considered director David Fincher’s most Hitchcockian film. The tale of the somber antihero and the enigmatic blonde is a familiar one, played through in Vertigo, Notorious, and perhaps most notably Marnie, but Fincher’s film, while beautifully executed, suffers from taking itself far too seriously to be enjoyable.
Gone Girl can be divided into two parts, the first section jumping between present day from husband’s point of view (Ben Affleck) to the past from the missing wife’s perspective (Rosamund Pike). The two time frames are drastically different in style; the present contains little music, while flashbacks to the beginning of the couple’s relationship are accompanied by jarringly sweet romantic songs.
The flashback scenes also provide a voiceover from the wife, Amy, reading from her diary. The strangely contrived wording of her entries could be acceptable from the beginning except for the oddly grave, dramatic tone of Amy’s voice. The combination of her solemn reading of her and husband’s story with the falsely cheerful music does not imply that something is wrong with her perspective on their picturesque marriage – it makes it painfully obvious. Instead of playing with viewers’ expectations and leaving some mystery, it is clear from the trailer alone that there is something amiss with Amy herself.
The movie is filled with biting dialogue, perhaps some of the best in recent years – sharp exchanges in two-character scenes or a suddenly cruel turn of phrase in an inner monologue showcase the benefits of having the novelist herself (Gillian Flynn) pen the script. That said, the flow of the movie falters because it does resemble a novel. It relies too much on voiceover for wordy explanation, essentially revealing plot twists to the audience twice, both visually and aurally. With the transition from book to film, storytelling techniques like this should shift for the sake of the screen, allowing the plot to be shown rather than told.
In movie form, the narrative structure feels slightly off as well; what resembles the climax ends up being only the half-way point. The meandering nature of the story, which may work on the page, feels slightly odd in the theatre.
As the epilogue of the film leans toward dramatic absurdity, the truth of the matter is revealed: Gone Girl is, at its heart, a funny movie. The visuals are tongue-in-cheek (look at the promotional “Happy Anniversary” posters), the characters are aware of how bizarre their situation is, and the dialogue pokes fun at modern America. But the tone of the movie fails to recognize this, instead telling the tale without the trace of a smile. Gone Girl takes itself seriously enough to be an Oscar contender, but if it had only embraced the black humor within its reach, it could have been brilliant.