The freeze frames of the trailer for Gone Girl seem etched onto the eyeballs. The frozen, frost white pallor of Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike), daubed in an ash-like mystery mist. Her prostrate, cadaverous form suspended, floating ethereally into the depths. Replayed again and again across cinemas this summer, the film projected an enigmatic facade.
The brilliance of the condensed, trailer form of the film left Gone Girl with high expectations to fulfil. The trailer’s sumptuous snapshots are a disappointment. Reality replaces the enigma: the ash cloud is a sugar storm from a New York bakery that lands Amy her first kiss from soul mate Nick (Ben Affleck). This is the apogee of yawn in the sickly, sugar-coated confectionary of their early relationship, coating the teeth in an annoying, corny and trite flash of romance. Meanwhile, the corpse, surrounded by fellow floaters is only a thought and of little consequence within the film.
Director David Fincher hunts for the disturbing, off-kilter quality of Gillian Flynn’s 2012 novel about two deadlocked, wed locked writers, Amy and Nick Dunne (Pike and Affleck) and their traumatic relationship. It sounds dangerously like a romping rom-com, Mum’s fiction to Kindle the sunbed, but nothing is as it seems in Flynn’s tricking universe. Fincher tries to pump adrenaline into the tale through the curtain-dropping darkness which bookends each chapter. Reaching for disconnect between scenes, but obtaining a sense of manufacture to proceedings, the film becomes dependent on the frequent dosage of darkness to divide the narrative into accessible chunks.
Gone Girl starts with a montage of CCTV clips, providing a staccato early tone, but this is soon dissipated by the loss of rhythm which ensues with the chop-start nature of film through instalments. It is out of necessity to the story, not a stylistic feature adding drama or spectacle to cinematographer Jeff Croneweth’s otherwise flawless widescreen work. The propensity for film through bite-size chunks plagued Luc Besson’s latest, Lucy and seems a lazy way to satisfy the consumer, appealing more to our ever decreasing attention span than heralding a new phase for cinema.
There is an exception to the rule. Within a tripartite narrative that functions retrospectively through Amy’s diary entry and features events after the disappearance from two different perspectives, the short, sharp sequences enable Fincher to hop between storylines. This proves effective when we can time travel from past to present time, creating a glorious juxtaposition between the couple’s first kiss and that self-same saliva which is swabbed from Nick at the station as the investigation begins.
This style of inversion reflects director Fincher’s successful realisation of Flynn’s unique vision of marriage. It is a scathing caricature of wedlock; a constant state of flux between domestic inertia and violence. Amy’s diary provides an alternative commentary to blur the lines of fact and fiction, leaving the audience to decide where reality ends and fabrication starts.
The judgement call in the hands of the audience is nothing compared to that of the beefier, baffled, Baffleck. As Nick Dunne, Affleck plays homme fatale opposite Rosamund Pike’s trout-pout sorceress, Amy. Once the cringe and miss it early romance is over, this snake pit of a pairing bear fruit. The very fruit that first tempted mankind to fall: a delectably devilish delight. Affleck provides the counterbalance to Pike, who looms out of the shadow, but never quite overshadows the lead man. The first hour belongs to Affleck; the remainder to Pike. As co-leads in their respective story arcs, they raise the film from satisfactory to scintillating. Sadly, it is only when they unite do they merely fizzle with an incandescence rather than ignite.
Pike’s Amy has the quality of a spider web, more than a serpent. Existing, always there, but never seen, ensnaring pray and gleaming with that dewy sparkle of silvery strands. Neither a Calypso, nor a Circe, she is more of an emancipated Hitchcock blonde, spinning the web around Affleck’s ‘dancing monkey’ in a cardigan. The two share one supreme scene, featuring a shower, blood, and the quotation of the film, “pass the shampoo”; but spoilers are not the realm of this review.
The two leads are the real substance of the film. Nonetheless, Gone Girl offers a concrete critique of media mushroom clouds, tabloid travails and the inconveniences of infamy. Our guiding light through these turbulent tides of snapping sharks comes in the form of celebrity lawyer, Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry). His nemeses range from the inflated (fictitious?!) but hauntingly familiar chat show host Sharon Schieber to libel loving, (twincest, anyone?) 24 hour news anchor, Ellen Abbott. Tanner is the lightning Bolt, to cleave the dark clouds of media storm.
#PPP. Pardon Pun Please.
Punning Police Patrol.
He is the Missouri messiah; showing Nick the door out of the dock and avoiding the throb of the electric chair, leaving Nick free to sleaze and wheeze another day on earth. Tanner Bolt, a media savvy superstar lawyer is a starkly relevant character. How Oscar Pistorius, this week revealed to have paid the Steenkamps $300 a month, though they rejected a $20,000 payment as ‘blood money’, or Shrien Dewani, the millionaire Brit, on murder trial this week for ordering the killing of his wife on their honeymoon (for £834!), crave a shot of Bolt to rekindle their respective reputations.
As much as you could transform the Nick & Amy Dunne experience into a franchise of increasingly overblown tales of napalm nuptials, perhaps, like Breaking Bad’s Better Call Saul before, the real money is to be made through a spin-off: Tanner Bolt Associates, TB Ass.