Editor’s note: Our “Double Exposure” reviews pit two or more critics against one another on the same film to hash out their differences in opinion. Agree with what we have to say or want to offer your own take? Leave it in the comments below.
Final Rating: 8.0 out of 10
Bottom Line: David Fincher, yet again, proves his ability to transform an average novel into a compelling, well-constructed film with “Gone Girl”, which ranks as a formidable entry among similar grim, sordid tales.
Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Bottom Line: “Gone Girl” isn’t Fincher’s best or most mature work, but it’s another entertaining and thought-provoking effort from one of the most versatile and acclaimed directors working today.
Jakob Johnson: I have an admiration for writers who can willingly strip down their work or alter it for the screen, just like how Gillian Flynn has done for this adaptation of her novel. My biggest concern going into this film was that Fincher and Flynn would deliver a 1:1 adaptation, which would have been a sincerely major disappointment. While I enjoyed Flynn’s novel, I find her writing to be average at best—sometimes dipping into unpolished and underdeveloped territory—but the benefit of film is that it’s a visual medium and Fincher has a distinctive visual flair that elevates Flynn’s lurid beach read into something more. Every technical aspect is meticulously assembled to provide a slick, clean, well-oiled film that, for the most part, keeps a consistently unsettling atmosphere that left me teeth gritting and my stomach knotted. The only time the film feels more loosely assembled is the first twenty minutes or so, where the ADR seems a little too obvious and the brilliant score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross was a little overwhelming (though this very well could have been the fault of the theater I saw it at). Additionally, some of the dialogue between the early just-dating iterations of Nick and Amy is lifted directly from Flynn’s novel and the delivery is stilted and awkward—too “His Girl Friday” in its unsubtle nature. However, after that shaky first half-hour, the consistency and, subsequently, the tension is ratcheted up and doesn’t waver for the rest of the film.
Josef Rodriguez: I went into the film having not read the book. The only other Gillian Flynn novel I’ve ever picked up was “Sharp Objects” and I gave up on it after about 40 pages. My fear with this film was that Fincher might be making just another murder-mystery, as he has in the past with “Zodiac,” “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” and “Se7en.” Much to my surprise, “Gone Girl” is definitely not a murder-mystery. In fact, it’s not a mystery at all, and much of the entertainment value really comes from the writing and DP Jeff Cronenweth’s uniformly excellent cinematography. That being said, I don’t think this film ever transcends its material. The performances are great, the score is phenomenal, and the subtext about this country’s media culture actually turn the film into a thrilling comedy. But, like Fincher’s best work, it never rises above any of that, only because “Gone Girl” is so much movie. It’s a self-contained piece, and it’s trashy, but it’s trash by one of the great living directors. I think we’re seeing a trend of filmmakers just doing something fun for once (PTA’s “Inherent Vice” comes to mind), and that’s totally okay, but I think it holds “Gone Girl” from greatness, hitting the ceiling at very goodness.
I disagree with your point about the first minute. While the ADR is surprisingly terrible during a couple of scenes, I think the film does an excellent job at giving the viewer nearly everything he or she would need to know. The unreliable narrator, the history of the relationship, the central conflict: it’s all introduced seamlessly in that first half hour. If nothing else, Fincher is a master of structure, and knows how to pace his films beautifully. “Gone Girl” is a particular case in that it’s a little hard to pin down both thematically and in its narrative, but that first half hour is anything but inconsistent. I would say that the film becomes inconsistent while switching gears into the foggily-plotted comedy it eventually becomes. After the “big reveal,” we’re really only halfway through the movie, so setting up the necessary information for what is essentially a different film comes as a challenge to Fincher, who handles it as best as he can.
What were your thoughts on Tyler Perry’s performance, as well as the film’s final scene? I thought both were audaciously brilliant in their own ways, and were probably my favorite aspects of the film.
Josef: I think there was definitely a reason why Fincher chose him, and it came through in the performance. Perry brought a level of charm to the performance that was absent in nearly every other aspect of the film, and I think he was the character that glued together the second half. He was low-key and funny and charming, something that no one else was. If there wasn’t that intermediary character, the film could have easily gone off the rails. I’ve always liked Perry as a performer, just never as a writer or director, and I think that, under Fincher’s watchful eye, he turns in the best performance of his career.
Jakob: As far as the final scene was concerned, I was positively floored. The entire last quarter of the film had me squirming in my seat and the last few scenes teased me with some sort of cathartic release, but didn’t give in. I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints about the ending being unsatisfying, but I’m finding this is more due to prior expectations or a desire for more conventional fiction. One aspect I really enjoyed from Rosamund Pike’s performance in this film was her ability to effectively emote with her eyes (which seems like a given, but I’m finding more and more that it’s harder to notice instances of actors and actresses successfully doing this unless it’s really, really good). There are a handful of small moments in the last 20 or so odd minutes of the film where a glance from Pike would make me feel sick to my stomach in a way that brings to mind the effects of a harshly animalistic fear. And in the final shot of the film, with the mirroring of the first shot, all we’re given (aside from the narration) is a look from Pike, who elicits an entirely different reaction from us viewers than the first time we saw her gaze on-camera. Truly remarkable.
Josef: I was thinking that, as well. I do believe it’s an identical shot but, given the context, the reaction is completely different. Reminds me of that experiment where the same exact facial expression was shown with three different images, and the test subjects thought the face being shown was different each time. I thought the ending’s refusal to give the audience a proper conclusion was one of the best things about the entire movie, only because the genre often calls for something a little neater. Fincher did something similar with “Zodiac,” but I think the extreme vagueness of “Gone Girl” was actually a little bit stronger.
Think Jakob and Josef made some good points? Did you read the novel “Gone Girl” and have some thoughts on the film adaptation? Leave a comment below.
October 3, 2014
2 hr. 29 min.
Drama, Thriller, Mystery
Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, David Clennon, Lisa Banes, Missi Pyle, Lola Kirke, Boyd Holbrook, Emily Ratajkowski, Casey Wilson, Sela Ward