“Its hard to believe you. It’s your chin its villainess.” These lines come early in David Finchers adaptation of Gillian Flynn's bestselling novel. Flynn is responsible for the screenplay and by all accounts it stays true and faithful to the source material. These lines set up the stage for a damning indictment on marriage and the media wrapped up in the guise of a thriller.
The marriage between Nick and Amy Dunne initially appears almost perfect, “I'm so crazy stupid in love," “We’re so cute I want to punch us in the face,” Amy confesses as Nick proclaims “I’m the guy to save you from all this awesomeness”. This line of dialogue is ominous , before long the weak spots in the marriage begin to appear. A recession, two lost jobs and idleness cause a once promising life to rapidly decline.
The opening titles effectively capture the impact of the economic downturn on a small Missourian community. It represents small town America hit by the recession. Cut to Nick dressed in a tracksuit emerging from his home, his eyes monitoring his suburban neighbourhood, looking for witnesses to what exactly? Shortly thereafter we discover his wife of five years “amazing Amy” is missing, an upturned table in the lounge room is splayed with glass. Nick appears ambivalent, almost relieved she is gone. To reveal the twists and turns that follow would spoil the enjoyment and the subtle complexity of what is to follow.
Fincher the masterful director responsible for Seven, Fight Club, The Game, Zodiac and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is arguably this generations Hitchcock. Like Hitchcock he relishes playing with audience expectations, Zodiac is testament to that, almost three hours and in the end the serial killer goes unpunished. Yet his films are riveting. Why? Flawless shot construction and superb editing from Aussie Kirk Baxter provide some answers, production design by Donald Graham Burt, the music from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and Jeff Cronenweth’s lighting are evidence of a cohort of collaborators of the highest order. He always makes meticulous casting choices, for example stage actress Carrie Coon as the twin sister Margo Dunne is brilliant. Kim Dickens as the leading detective is also a revelation.
His everyman in Gone Girl is played by Ben Affleck, who has been plagued by his poor acting choices early in his career, yet he redefined himself as a director with Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo. Here Pike is the revelation, wasted in supporting roles for years, Fincher illicits a multi-layered performance deserving of consideration come awards season.
In the films second half Fincher and Flynn devote a significant amount of time to a deconstruction of the role of the media in these types of news worthy events. The twenty-four hour news cycle catering to the macabre fascination in reporting on the events as to produce a nervous breakdown for those individuals on the receiving end of the spotlight. Is this now the role of the media in place of a public prosecutor?
Finally the film has been critiqued for its misogny, there is a gender inbalance evident primarily in the depiction of responsibility. However this is counterbalanced by the strong female performances. For Pike it is a career defining role, and will result in Coon and Dickens being offered roles to match their talent. For Pike her role in Jack Reacher supporting Tom Cruise was disempowering, this role is the complete opposite.