Gone Girl is too long. It wants to be quick and snappy; the dialogue is often quite snappy, it’s a David Fincher movie and he usually makes snappy movies, the plot is certainly juicy and should hum right along. But somehow, they ended up with a two hour, twenty-nine minute movie, and it certainly doesn’t hum that long.
In spite of the length, which is the only real knock against the movie, it’s got a lot of redeeming features. The acting is very strong all around; it feels like a popular position in recent years to say “Hey, that Ben Affleck guy, he’s not so bad after all!” but you know what? Hey, that Ben Affleck guy, he’s actually pretty good at acting, it turns out. He’s matched evenly by Rosamund Pike, playing the new queen of all crazy psycho bitches, Amy Dunne. And lordy, is Amy a crazy psycho bitch.
The whole movie is a series of switchbacks and dramatic reveals (…eventually), so we’ll skip over the actual machinations of the plot. It’s barely worth summarizing, since you can only get as far as “Amy Dunne goes missing on her and Nick’s five-year wedding anniversary,” because his actions and her actions after that are, well, the whole meat of the story.
Generally speaking, though, it’s pretty twisted, in a good way. I hadn’t read the book before seeing the movie, and I was pleased with what I didn’t see coming. It’s not so much an unreliable narrator as an intentionally misleading one, so when that reveal happens it’s a pretty satisfying dose of “WAIT WHAT? OOHHHHH!!!” There’s also a satisfying red herring, once it’s revealed for what it is.
The dialogue itself is strong, even if there’s a bit much of it (perhaps Gillian Flynn’s unwillingness to edit down her own story is what made it so long in the first place). There are a couple good speeches in particular that really nail what they’re meant to nail, which is important for gaining our trust that these people really know what they’re doing.
My particular favorite on that account is one Mr. Tanner Bolt, the kind of lawyer who knows exactly what to do when. Played by Tyler Perry, he has just the right amount of confidence, as a man who has seen some crazy stuff and is still impressed by the degree of crazy wrought by these two completely bonkers people.
Two quick notes completely divorced from any plot or character thread: there’s a point when breakfast is being prepared, and the cat is sitting right there on the counter. I don’t care what kind of crazy psycho activities are going on, the cat is not allowed on the counter. There’s going to be cat hair and litter tracked everywhere. Also, gummy bears are a completely delightful training mechanism, and should be used more often.
On the awards tip, this is the first movie of Awards Season, more or less. The subject matter is not awardsy, but Ben Affleck and David Fincher sure are, and once a movie is Up For Awards Consideration, it’s not uncommon to find other things to nominate about it (I’m thinking here particularly of Rosamund Pike for Best Actress). We need more stuff to come out before we see how things really stack up, but Gone Girl is definitely in the conversation.
There has been some talk about the gender politics of this movie (and the book before it). The sign of a good compromise is that neither side is happy, and the best indicator that someone is unbiased is when both sides accuse them of being in league with the other. In Gone Girl, there are plenty of examples you could pick out to say that it’s inherently misogynist, but there are just as many points you could call misandrist instead. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, and with the wealth of evidence, it’s safer to just call the whole thing misanthropist and be done with it. In such a delightful, juicy way.