It wasn't too long ago that I watched David Fincher's 2014 film Gone Girl, written by Gillian Flynn, for the first time. Needless to say, I was floored by the film's masterful presentation of an unusual murder mystery in which our lead, Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, becomes the prime suspect in the disappearance of his wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike. My initial love for the film boiled down to one thing; David Fincher, one of the best working filmmakers in Hollywood, deciding that upon completing his 2010 film The Social Network and his 2011 film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, that he would take the perfectionist techniques which he had sharpened to a tee on his two previous projects, and apply it to what I would argue is his best thriller since Se7en.
I equate my first time watching Gone Girl to your first time riding a new roller coaster at an established theme park; that is to say, you know you are in for a treat due to the approved brand of the company, or in this case, the filmmaker, however, you still cannot truly anticipate the magnitude of the ride which you have buckled yourself in for. Not only are Gone Girl's twists some of the best in recent film history, but the quantity of them is truly astounding. That is what made me fall in love with the movie. However, as my therapist says, being in love is only half the battle; you are looking to build a relationship. It is my relationship with Gone Girl which has kept me invested after several viewings.
My "relationship" with Gone Girl began in the summer of 2020. I, along with a few filmmaker friends of mine, decided to escape the pandemic by renting a house in Lake Arrowhead, California, quarantining together, and of course, watching as many movies as possible. Many of these screenings turned into discussions that would extend beyond that night's particular film. I recall one of these nights; our conversation lead us to talk about Gone Girl.
Now, an important note, there were six of us staying in this house, three of which were men, and three of which were women. Our conversation quickly transitioned to the film's morality, a clear consensus that no one character was particularly a "Good Guy." However, through this conversation, I discovered a fascinating correlation that I hadn't considered prior. It seemed as though the women in the room leaned more towards siding with Amy's character. To me, this was shocking; Amy is psychotic, to say the least; however, my friends persisted, explaining to me that Nick's abusive behavior justified Amy's actions throughout the film.
It quickly became apparent that our different experiences, influenced by our gender, caused us to view the movie in drastically different ways. Now, by this, I do not mean a minor change in perspective from person to person; I mean that if either group were to explain the film to a third party, there would be a solid chance that the audience would conclude that we were describing two completely different films.
I never experienced a situation such as this related to cinema before and found it so fascinating that it solidified Gone Girl as my favorite thriller of all time. I was fascinated by its ability to purposefully polarize its audience. While movies I had seen in the past had successfully portrayed different perspectives, I had never seen a film that showed different perspectives to only some of its audience while simultaneously displaying an entirely different perspective, and consequently message, to another entirely different portion of the audience.
To explore this concept further and gain a deeper understanding of the film and what it may be trying to warn those who understand both sides of its argument, I will be writing two reviews, one which would theoretically be placed in Cosmopolitan Magazine, targeted to a mostly female audience, and a second, to be hypothetically placed in GQ Magazine, targeting a mostly male audience.
I apologize in advance for my Cosmopolitan review as I am not a woman and will never fully understand the perspective; however, I will do my best to accurately portray a review targeted at a female audience.
Gone Girl: David Fincher's Masterpiece (GQ Review)
David Fincher's 2014 film Gone Girl is the definition of perfect filmmaking and a testament to how far cinema can go to tell exciting and compelling stories. The film stars Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne and Rosamund Pike as his psychopathic wife, Amy. Gone Girl follows Nick's discovery of his wife's disappearance on their fifth wedding anniversary as-well-as the ensuing media scandal and police investigation. As the story progresses, we learn that Amy has framed Nick for her murder, leaving him to be the prime suspect of both the media and the police. At this point in the film, we get what may be David Fincher's most masterful montage to date in the form of Rosamund Pike's Cool Girl monologue. In this sequence, Fincher explores the exact lengths to which Amy goes to frame her husband for her disappearance. At this point in the film, we see Fincher form what may be one of cinema's scariest villains of all time.
Gone Girl is a roller coaster from beginning to end with constant twists and turns as-well-as compelling characters and brilliant performances from the likes of Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. What is truly remarkable about the picture is just how much it shouldn't work. Nobody in this film is likable, save for maybe Nick's sister. However, it is our innate understanding of right and wrong that Fincher toys with; while Nick may not be a fantastic person, it is an obvious fact that he shouldn't go to jail for the disappearance of his wife. This gives us, as an audience, an unlikely protagonist to be rooting for.
This coupled with masterful visual storytelling, take, for example, the moments of setup-payoff utilized in the Cool Girl monologue, is what makes Gone Girl not only an emotional roller coaster but also an example of perfect filmmaking. Amy's villain creates a terrifying atmosphere and makes Gone Girl one of the scariest films of the 21st century for one key reason: everything that happens in the movie is something that could happen to you.
Gone Girl: ★★★★★
Gone GIrl: A Look At The Cool Girl (Cosmopolitan Review)
David Fincher's 2014 film Gone Girl, written by Gillian Flynn, is a testament to cinema's power as a tool to display unique perspectives on everyday issues in grandiose, exaggerated ways. The film stars Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne, a desperate wife trying to save, albeit unsuccessfully, a failing marriage with her abusive husband, Nick. The movie is a cinematic representation of a women's unfortunate place in society due to centuries of oppression at the hands of men and the fantasy of liberation from the cycle, which will hopefully one day be a reality. It is, however, how the film conveys this message to its audience, both male and female, that solidifies it as both David Fincher and Gillian Flynn's definitive masterpiece.
The film opens to the Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary. Nick, unsuspecting, starts his day driving to the bar which his sister and him both own and operate. The first 45 minutes of the film are told largely through Nick's perspective and subsequently a strong male gaze. We see him deal with the disappearance and possible murder of his wife. After reporting to the police, a large-scale investigation occurs in which Amy's parents fund the "Find Amazing Amy" movement. As we move through the first act, it becomes increasingly apparent to both Nick and the audience that Amy has framed him for her murder. This part of the story reaches its climax when Nick is arrested by law enforcement for the disappearance of his wife.
At this point in the film, Fincher and Flynn transport us, masterfully, I might add, to Amy's perspective. We learn that Nick was not the perfect husband he viewed himself as; he was emotionally manipulative and physically abusive; he was a cheat and a liar and dragged Rosamund Pike's character through the wringer over the course of their marriage. At this point, the audience no longer suffers from the clouded perspective influenced by the male gaze. We begin to understand Rosamund Pike's frustration with her marriage, being treated as an object by Nick in the same way that she was treated as an object by her parents as a child with the book series Amazing Amy. Influenced by a society where a woman is never enough, Amy becomes "Cool Girl: The Girl of Nick's Dreams."
The film directly state's to its audience Amy's need to be wanted by a man and thereby comments on the way which society raises girls to be an object for men and causes them to live by their own, internal male gaze.
The midpoint of the movie also services to provide a fantasy of liberation from this objectification. Amy, no longer bound to society's high standards, can live freely and enjoy herself rather than always serving a man. And that is ultimately the message of this film. It is a commentary on the destructive nature of the male gaze and the importance of liberation from an oppressive past. It is a movie that strives to explain the importance of gender equality, providing perspective to male and female audiences alike.
Gone Girl: ★★★★★
Here is what I notice looking at these independent reviews, and granted, I wrote both of them; however, I did base my writing off research into the audiences of both GQ and Cosmopolitan, my primary source being an article from Penn State. The GQ article exhibits a strong focus on the film's twists and turns and ups and downs, while the Cosmopolitan article exhibits a stronger focus on the film's message and exploration of the male gaze. I also notice that the male article assumes that all audiences will side with Nick when that is objectively not the case. It is this ignorance that I believe is the underlying commentary of Gone Girl. A man will never truly understand what it is like to be a woman who grows up in today's American society simply because they have never been subjected to the male gaze on the same level as a woman and therefore cannot relate to the societal pressure for women to please men in society. What makes me truly love this movie is that its message is not derived from viewing the film but from the subsequent conversations surrounding it. I would never have come to the conclusion I have and the more profound understanding of what the film is saying about being a woman in this country without first talking to my female friends. It highlights the comfort that men are able to feel, unaware of what women put up with, whether it is forms of sexual assault, societal pressure to please men, or simply not being as respected as their male counterparts.
Gone Girl: ★★★★★