According to a 2013 World Health Organization global review of violence against women, roughly 40 percent of murdered women were killed by a boyfriend or husband. That’s a pretty frightening statistic, and one reason why “Gone Girl” is such a topically relevant film. It’s also a terrific film.
Based on the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn, “Gone Girl” is the story of a marriage in trouble, told from the point of view of both the husband and the wife. Ben Affleck stars as Nick Dunne, a philandering writer-turned-professor who returns home on the day of his fifth anniversary only to find his house in shambles and his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), missing.
As a lead investigator reminiscent of the character Frances McDormand played in “Fargo,” Det. Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) is quick to pick up clues. Soon they’re holding a press conference with Nick and Amy’s parents (lisa Banes, David Clennon), who keep referring to their daughter as “Amazing Amy”—a character in their children’s book series that was inspired by their daughter. Or rather, their less-than-amazing daughter who inspired them to create a more perfect one.
Nick has his own problems. He and Amy had moved to Missouri to be closer to his mother, who had Stage 4 cancer. But even running a bar with his twin sister Margo (Kim Dickens) isn’t enough to pull him out of his malaise following her death. And now, as his actions become more erratic, suspicions begin to fall on him. Did he kill his wife?
“Gone Girl” benefits from a non-linear treatment that allows director David Fincher to explore the complexities that underlie any marriage and to incorporate both clues and twists. I can’t say much more about the plot except to call it suspenseful and full of surprises. It’s a well-made mystery crime thriller that isn’t as gruesome or bloody as you’ve heard, nor as steamy. But don’t hold that against it.
Affleck is believably self-absorbed and erratic as the husband, but really this is Pike’s film. She may not have the same amount of screen time, but she nails every scene. And the only thing tighter and tauter than Fincher’s direction is the screenplay by Flynn. Even minor characters seem spot-on in this film, with Neil Patrick Harris as a former boyfriend-slash-stalker of Amy’s particularly effective.
There’s a richness to this film that goes beyond the performances and plot, because “Gone Girl” dares to delve into the dynamics of a marriage involving a potentially dangerous person, and it also has a few things to say about the news cycle. When Tyler Perry (at least he’s not “presenting” this) makes an appearance as an attorney who specializes in defending accused murderers, you can’t help but think back to Johnny Cochran and the O.J. Simpson trial. So “Gone Girl” pulls the viewer in all sorts of directions, connecting with the headlines on so many points of contact.
“Gone Girl” has a murky look to it, but I suspect that’s by design. Many of the scenes are dark or shadowy, as if to underscore the theme(s), and often it appears that Fincher opted to film with available light. Edge detail is still strong, but there’s more grain than home theater enthusiasts might be used to—again, by design. I saw no problems with the AVC/MPEG-4 transfer, and “Gone Girl” is presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio.
I have to say this first off: the mix on this Blu-ray annoyed me. The background music is ramped up so loud that it either feels intrusive (if your hearing is good) or keeps you from understanding some of the lines of dialogue (if you’ve attended a few too many rock concerts). Turning up the volume doesn’t help. It’s a sound mix problem. Thankfully it occurs mostly in the first act, but it IS annoying enough to mention. The sound often has a muffled quality to it, and though the featured soundtrack is an English DTS-HD MA 7.1, it seems as if the front center speaker gets overused. Additional audio options are in Spanish, French, Portuguese, Czech, Polish, and Turkish Dolby Digital 5.1, with subtitles in English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Polish, Slovak, and Turkish.
Surprisingly, for a big title like this, the only on-disc bonus feature is an audio commentary. Thankfully, it’s a good one. Fincher is in great form as he cuts up and jokes about all aspects of the filmmaking process while also managing to be informative.
Also included, and I’d have to say unnecessarily so, is a full-color book titled “Amazing Amy Tattle Tale, by Rand and Marybeth Elliott, Ph.D., “two psychologists who are parents just like you!” This isn’t just a throwaway or cheap insert. It’s a 32-page book printed on stiff card stock so that it feels like a cross between a first reader and a pre-school board book. So is Fox trying to start a book series that derives from this film? I have no idea, nor could I begin to guess. It’s well done and could actually be read aloud to youngsters, but this is an R-rated movie. As I said, I don’t get it, but this book is the only other bonus feature.
It may have only received one Oscar nomination (Pike, for Best Actress), but “Gone Girl” is one of the best films of 2014.