Gone Girl is going to go down as one of the best films of the year. On one level it’s a grand epic of public relations and image management. On another it’s an unbelievably cutting satire on the construction and all-importance of narrative in our society, and when Fincher wants to do satire he absolutely lets rip. On yet another it’s the film about modern marriage. Nothing is what it seems, and the idea of truth starts to fade away – what matters is the perception of truth, the endless web of illusion and facade and pretence which constitutes human interaction. The dynamic of power relations between men and women is the oldest and most endlessly fascinating one there is, and Fincher rolls up his sleeves and dives right in.
Give David Fincher the right material, and he’ll elevate it so hard you’ll get a nosebleed. Give him the wrong material, and it’ll crash and burn. That’s why Aaron Sorkin’s overweening writing style comes off as self-indulgent in The West Wing but seems brilliantly incisive in The Social Network; Fincher’s ice-cold cinematographic artifice expertly teases out all the little disconnects and ironies and moments of quiet significance in a way which it abjectly fails to do in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (which, in fairness, has pretty much nothing interesting to say in the first place). In Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s novel and script prove to be exactly the right fuel for Fincher’s atomically precise film-making machine, and we’re sent gasping on an ever-escalating, ever-shifting ride which never does what you expect. Fincher uses tension like dental floss, and the pitch-black comedy continually ramps up as the film goes on. I didn’t know the plot when I went in, and I can’t imagine there being a better way to see it.
His actors ably aid and abet: Ben Affleck is very good, but Rosamund Pike is outrageously good. Nominations are certain; wins wouldn’t be surprising. The same goes for the phenomenal electronic score; It’s wonderful that the Fincher/Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross partnership seems to be holding firm after three films, because it’s a perfect marriage of aesthetic and music. It’s up there with marriages like Spielberg and Williams, Leone and Morricone, Anderson and Greenwood, Aronofsky and Mansell – ideal. It’s hard to gush too much about Gone Girl as a postmodern masterpiece of duelling narratives and truth claims since then parts of the plot would have to be spoiled, try to know as little as possible; if you’ve read the book, hit your head against a wall until you forget it, but Fincher’s aesthetic is fair game. It never changes. That hurts some of his films when the material patently doesn’t suit his ruthlessly controlled detachment, but when everything clicks, when all the layers mesh perfectly, when conditions are just right – that’s when Fincher soars.