Review: Knots, Knowledge and Narratives in ‘Gone Girl’

“Gone Girl” is the kind of tale that makes you think twice about the people you know, forces you to second guess your own intentions and brings you to consider crafting your own alibis.

The jury’s out on how David Fincher’s film adaptation compares to Gillian Flynn’s bestselling book. Although I missed the bandwagon on the book myself (and this movie makes me want to read it right away), I don’t feel like I needed to read it before watching the film.

Regardless of the book’s merits, Flynn, who was also the screenwriter for the film, crafted a gripping and wild screenplay.

The movie works for the same reason I’m sure the book works – simply because it’s a great story.

With its tale of murder and relationships gone wrong, “Gone Girl” ropes you in fast and keeps you hooked until the credits roll. But this is also a story about stories, a narrative of how to construct narratives, a plot about plotting.

In that way, the movie is in the same vein as older noirs like “Vertigo” and “Double Indemnity.” It’s a movie where you can’t trust anyone. Both Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike skillfully take on the roles of Nick and Amy Dunne, a married couple that appears perfect until Amy  suddenly goes missing.

What results is a manhunt, followed by a media frenzy.

Amy’s sensational disappearance results in heavy coverage from the press — not only is she a beautiful blonde potentially murdered by her husband, but she is also semi-famous as the subject of a series of children’s books published by her parents.

Neither Nick nor Amy are particularly trustworthy, and every character is playing a part in this public theater. The showmanship goes beyond the obvious talk shows and press conferences and into the private lives of these characters, where it is painfully obvious that no one can truly know anyone else.

For one thing, even though Nick and Amy have long been married, it soon becomes clear that both have failed to understand each other’s basic character.

Even the relationship between Nick and his twin sister — who says she knew him before birth, and whose close relationship with Nick becomes another point of media attention — is muddied by ever-present secrets.

This idea of knowing and hiding the truth is essential to the movie, and comes together well with the themes of love and violence, which are conflated from the beginning.

In the opening scene, Nick says he wishes he could open his wife’s beautiful head and spool out her brain to see what’s inside. Later, in a flashback, Amy says they make such a cute couple that she wants to punch them.

In this movie, it’s hard to separate love and destruction, just as it’s difficult to distinguish lies from truth.

With signature style, Fincher (“Fight Club,” “The Social Network”) establishes subjectivity and unreliability, which a first-person narrator in a book can more easily accomplish than the seemingly objective film camera.

Fincher is a director with a fairly fixed aesthetic, and the meticulously framed shots, as well as Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ ethereal score, work well in contributing to the carefully constructed tension of the film.

Although the movie relies on a lot of plot, it doesn’t feel overplotted.

It moves rapidly along cascading twists and turns. The characters are extreme, but believable, with notable supporting performances by Tyler Perry as a high profile lawyer and Kim Dickens playing a sharp detective.

There’s some debate about what this complex movie means for gender roles, whether it perpetuates the danger of the femme fatale or if it even sides with men’s rights activists in its portrayal of rape.

There is a lot to consider, but my take is that this movie, like its characters and its plot, has a lot more to it than first meets the eye.

What’s clear is both men and women are flawed, but it also suggests that certain societal roles are as constructed as the lies we tell: we make our loved ones into who we want them to be.

All the hubbub with story and performance makes the movie fairly meta, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since seeing it. This is a thriller, and it’s a fantastic one.

But you can rest assured that there’s also much more just beneath the surface, even if you have to go to some dark places in your mind to reach it.

writersblocheadshots02Joe Zimmermann is a junior English and journalism major and can be reached at

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