David Fincher has for a while now been one of the most interesting American directors working today, ever since he made two of the best films of the 90s (Seven and Fight Club), as well as a consistently impressive body of work across a variety of different genres, styles and mediums (The Game, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are all worth a look, and his episodes of the TV show House of Cards are terrific). If he has anything approaching an underlying theme or recurring motif to his work, it’s probably a serious level of cynicism and a misanthropic view of human nature. With his latest film, the adaptation of a best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn, he takes both those concepts about as far as you can humanly go, eviscerating the very concept of romantic relationships to the point of parody. And it’s brilliant.

While on the surface Gone Girl appears to be a straightforward thriller, concerning a husband’s struggle to find his suddenly missing wife, it doesn’t take long at all for its subtextual and metaphorical themes to start hitting home. As the police investigation gets underway, we see the skin being peeled back on what was in fact a toxic relationship, portraying the lies, masks and false faces people use to maintain a veneer of respectability. It’s also a savage attack on the irresponsibility of the media and trial-by-publicity, as well as the general public’s addiction to “crime porn”, but most of all this is essentially a manifesto for how inherently dysfunctional the very institution of marriage is, taken to the point of darkest satire. This is all brought to life by Fincher keeping things cool and detached when they need to be (although there is one murder sequence with a box-cutter that will give anyone nightmares), another great score by Trent Reznor and a clutch of clever, nuanced performances, particularly from Rosamund Pike (for whom awards most likely beckon).

The film stands accused from some quarters of misogyny, and these are things which should absolutely be considered. True, it does portray the main female character as a deeply unpleasant person. However, not only does it seem simplistic to me to suggest that this is some kind of tacit implication that all women are like that, it also ignores two things in context – firstly, that the several significant female supporting characters are all portrayed very positively and are the only entirely sympathetic characters in the film, and secondly that the male characters come across almost as bad. True, there is some ambivalence about Ben Affleck’s protagonist, but the film hinges on us being uncertain about the lead, and at the very least his sins are made very explicit and are never justified or excused. Neil Patrick Harris also plays a deeply flawed human being to say the least, and each of them are just as cliched with their gender-specific shortcomings as Rosamund Pike. This isn’t a film attacking women, it’s a film attacking people, male and female. And it does a terrifying and somehow hilarious job of destroying both.

A searing indictment on the institution of marriage, or even any human relationships9
An expert build from serious crime thriller to darkly hilarious satire10
Brilliantly shot throughout, as is now becoming inevitable for David Fincher10
Accusations of misogyny should absolutely be listened to and respectfully considered, but in my humble opinion they do not stick here7
There's something beautiful about the pure misanthropy of portraying every character as having the worst stereotypical traits of their gender9
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test Failures
  • n/a
9Overall Score

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