Last night, to dust off the writing cobwebs formed after a long summer of football, festivals, house moves and holidays, the Framerates team went to the cinema to see the highly-anticipated, critically-acclaimed, David Fincher directed, adaptation of the Gillian Flynn novel Gone Girl. With the screenplay also by Flynn, and a top cast that included Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, our hopes were high. Could Fincher channel his immense talent to create a chilling, intelligent thriller that echoed the intensity of Se7en and Zodiac?
In a word: no.
To our surprise, though, Gone Girl is seemingly a hit with many critics. Here are ten reasons why we feel that this critical reception is a case of mass “drinking the Fincher Kool Aid”.
This article contains spoilers.
1) A faithful, unfaithful adaptation
Despite a screenplay from Flynn herself, the tense, psychological, emotionally engaging tone that is captured in the book fails to fully translate onto the screen. Flynn has faithfully stuck to the narrative laid out in the novel however without the continuous stream of thought from the characters the movie feels shallow and the characters motivations and emotional arcs unclear. This is no more apparent than in the final act of the movie where we see Amy heartlessly slaughter Desi Collings. This played on screen like the calculated acts of a horror movie psychopath whereas in the novel, despite Amy’s deplorable moral compass, the reader understands that she is left with little choice.
2) Tone issues
Perhaps Fincher added flecks of humour throughout Gone Girl to provide comic relief, and to heighten the darkest moments of the movie. However, when characters are making the stupidest decisions left, right and centre, unfortunately, the humour intended as light relief was actually just a series of snorts at the movie’s ridiculousness. An absurd movie this was; “an absurdist thriller” this was not.
3) Pacing. Pacing. Pacing.
I felt I was watching three episodes of a TV programme that were cut together by an amateur YouTube editor. I do believe that the movie got caught somewhere between police procedural and Stepford Wives thriller, and there was such a blatant division between the three acts of the film, which resulted in an extremely jarring watch.
Was Fincher deliberately telling his cast to act on the same level throughout the film? Everything was so flat, it felt like the director was intentionally channeling Frank Underwood and the entire feel of House of Cards, but with a mixture of Prisoners thrown in for good measure. It was very disappointing that this didn’t feel like a Fincher movie, but maybe that will act in his favour when people finally remove their tongues from his arsehole.
A flat tone, jarring pacing and seemingly misguided direction in Gone Girl all results in some rather underwhelming performances from the leads. Pike as Amy does a good job as coming across as cold, sharp and intelligent but fails to fully round Amy as a character- arguably this is in large part down to the lack of distinction between the opposing Amy’s (see point 7 for more). Affleck has always been a firm favourite over here at Framerates.net as an actor, as well as a director, however the stoic nature of the character of Nick required a nuanced performance that depicted an internal dialogue, instead Affleck at times felt vacant and the emotional weight was lacking.
6) Team Amy vs Team Nick
Fincher himself has said that people will leave in either a “Team Amy” or “Team Nick” camp. If the director has acknowledged that fact, there are clearly flaws in the way his characters are represented. One can claim “misogyny” towards Amy, or “men’s rights” at Nick, until they’re blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is that all of the above factors have contributed to a film that leads us beautifully into Point 7.
7) Failing to define the character roles.
The single most important element of the movie to get right was the clear and apparent differences between the two Amys. ‘Cool girl’ Amy, the Amy created for Nick, and the real Amy. Fincher makes no distinction between the two opposing personalities. Without this we don’t understand Nick for falling in love with Amy and equally we don’t empathise with Amy and the façade she is forced to display. Instead of creating a compelling insight into two flawed characters, who we both empathise with and despise, or making a coherent point about gender roles and feminism, the movie leaves us with two people who we neither understand very much and who represent very little.
8) It looks beautiful, but what is below the surface?
When you look at a movie like Zodiac, you can literally peel back the nuanced layers within the frame, the acting, the cinematography and plot. In Gone Girl, because the characters were so unrelatable, it was hard to get fully immersed into the world that Fincher is normally so great at building. Gone Girl left me with a similar feeling as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which is a movie referenced in another 10 things post from last year.
9) No one shags in a library after 3 years of a relationship
After 1095 days together, you’re lucky if you get your genitals get but a fleeting glance when you’re out with your other half, let alone being balls deep in a dark corner of a public library. I will suspend my disbelief for many things, but this is not one of them.
10) It’s just really not as good as people are claiming
All-in-all, the film was over two and a half hours long and after half an hour I was feeling frustrated and bored. The word flat has been used many times in this article to describe elements of this film and that’s exactly what the overall experience left me feeling. There was no excitement, intrigue or desire for any of the characters to succeed in anyway. Unlike Se7en, Zodiac or Fight Club, which are intense, thrilling and heaped with personality, Gone Girl is as grey as the colour palette it displays.