You know the story already. How could you not? You don’t? Where have you been living? A cave? Here it is, spoiler free: Guy’s beautiful, perfect wife goes missing on their wedding anniversary. Wife’s diary reveals guy to be a bit of a low-life, misogynistic prick. Everyone thinks guy murdered his wife. Evidence piles up against guy. Guy squirms, looks guilty. There’s a twist. The end.

Every few years a book comes along that captures the zeitgeist, fires the public imagination, surfs the cultural wave. For a few months, a year, you can’t move for it, it’s everywhere, a phenomenon.

The Beach. The Da Vinci Code. Wolf Hall. His Dark Materials. The Girl With The MacBook. 50 Shades Of Button-Rubbing Grey. The Time Traveller’s Wife. Sophie’s bloody World.

It squats atop the charts for weeks. Popular high street stockists shovel it in bulk as part of their 3-for-2 deals. Richard & Judy gush over it. Everywhere you look sheeple who don’t read are reading it; on the bus, on the train, the Tube, the beach, in hotels and airports, the break room at work, in the street. Here a book, there a book, everywhere a book-book. Even your mum is reading it.

But if you’re a smug, superior snob (like me), you stand apart, aloof, safe and warm in the knowledge that you have better taste. No matter how many trusted friends and loved ones rave about it, press their battered, dog-eared, preloved copies on you, it’s not for you; you don’t buy your books at Sainsbury’s.

But slowly and surely, the avalanche of critical and popular acclaim gains critical mass. You think: “Maybe it is as good as everybody says…” You think: “Maybe I’m missing out.” Maybe you’ll like it. And you fold. You pick up a copy, maybe your significant other’s left her’s lying around the living room, maybe you buy a copy for 50p in a charity shop, you start reading. A couple of chapters in, relieved, you realise it’s not grabbing you. It’s all he said, she said, and you get plenty of that in real life. A couple more chapters in and you guess the big twist. You’re that kinda smug git. Fake casually, you drop your hypothesis in conversation to your lover, your pal, your mum, gauging their reaction then, when you’re proved right, you drop the book unfinished. Smug. Triumphant. Your work here is done.

Until the inevitable movie adaptation. It’ll never be as good as the book. And you didn’t much care for the book. You go see it out of morbid curiosity, gotta be in it to win it; you can’t be caustic and superior about it if you haven’t seen it. You settle smugly back in your seat, your significant other by your side, a trough of popcorn in your lap, a gallon of carbonated corn syrup in your paw. The film starts and…

First; this is a date movie like Takashi Miike’s Audition is a date move.

Then; you always forget how good Ben Affleck is at playing a douchebag, how solid, how dependable, how he gifts the biggest prick with a vulnerability, an everyday humanity. You don’t like him exactly. After all, he’s Ben Affleck. No one likes Ben Affleck. Except Jennifer Garner. Maybe. But you can’t help but empathise with the big lug as the noose tightens around his neck. He brings an ordinary, everyman quality to the role of Nick, he’s a study in beaten, impotent masculinity, his body barely containing his repressed rage the same way his too-tight clothes seem to strangle, constrict, barely constrain him. Yup, you kinda, sorta, can’t really help but like him.

And Rosamund Pike’s always great. It’s a shame really that she just seems to do terrible films these days where she’s Simon Pegg or David Tennant’s female appendage. Her Amazing Amy is luminous and beautiful, sweet and furious, sexy and manipulative, icily detached and crazy in love. An enigma, a sphinx. You know as you watch her that everyone’s going to call her a Hitchcockian blonde but it’s a bogus claim; Hitch’s blondes, for all their strength, were victims all, invariably chewed up and dominated by the men in their lives. Pike’s Amy, despite the twists and turns of the plot, is no victim. She’s manipulative, dangerous, unknowable, the most unreliable of unreliable narrators. And she’s the one who’ll do the chewing. You might like Nick, but you respect and fear Amy. And she gets all the best lines.

The supporting cast is pretty darn good too. Kim Dickens makes the most of her suspicious cop, stage actress Carrie Coon shines as Affleck’s supportive twin sister, the closest thing in the film to a decent, likeable character, Tyler Perry (Tyler freaking Perry for Chrissakes!) ditches Medea’s skirts and turns in a funny, charismatic performance, pitched halfway between Johnnie Cochran and Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen, as Affleck’s smarmy celebrity lawyer, a man who lies for a living and yet may be the film’s most honest character. Every member of Nick’s smalltown community is perfectly cast, Sela Ward and Missi Pyle ooze slime as competing trash TV hosts and lets be honest, if you were gonna cheat on Rosamund Pike, Emily Ratajkowski, the girl from the Robin Thicke video (don’t be coy, you know which girl I’m talking about…) would be the one to tempt you. There’s only one duff performance in the film, a piece of stunt casting, Fincher winking slyly at the audience, and that’s everyone’s favourite song-and-dance man, America’s answer to John Barrowman, Neil Patrick Harris, here playing a needier version of the rich sociopathic arsehole he played on the inexplicably popular shit-com How I Met Your Mother. Harris is stiff, mannered, so wooden you’d think the late, great Gerry Anderson was steering his performance as Amy’s obsessive ex, Scoot McNairy blowing him off the screen in a tiny cameo as another of the wrecked men Amy leaves bobbing in her wake.

Trent Reznor and Atticus Rose’s soundtrack work is great, an almost subliminal throb of menace that reverberates in your bones and raises the hairs on the back of your neck, intensifying Fincher’s almost clinical precision as he tears off tge scabs and lets you feel the chaos bubbling under the surface of Nick and Amy’s marriage, of any marriage; the paranoia, the suspicion, the nursed resentments and banked hurts, a Bergman-esque portrait of an imploding relationship. How well can we ever know the person who shares our life? He turns a jaundiced eye on the media, satirising a tabloid trash culture that lionises and vilifies, produces overnight martyrs and monsters. And he keeps that thriller pot boiling, never turning down the heat or taking his foot off the pedal as he steers you through plot to that celebrated twist (you sure you don’t know it) and beyond. But no spoilers. The first rule of Gone Girl is you do not talk about Gone Girl.

So you’re watching the film, you’re enjoying the film, part of you is even thinking it may be one of Fincher’s best in a long time, maybe since Fight Club, it’s sucking you in like Zodiac, the satire biting like The Social Network. And then you reach the ‘Cool Girl’ scene. Lifted almost verbatim from her own novel by screenwriter Gillian Flynn, it’s a bravura piece of writing, a savage, coruscating monologue that Pike tears into leaving you breathless, battered, dazed. It cuts through your smug superiority, you realise that if only you’d read as far as that scene in the book, you wouldn’t have put it down. You’d have been one of those shiny-eyed fans pressing the book on some smug git.

Tense, thrilling and darkly funny, perhaps Fincher and Flynn’s Gone Girl’s biggest achievement is instilling a desire to go back and read the book, not because the film is bad but because it’s so irritatingly good.

DVD Review: Gone Girl
4.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)

About The Author