Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) owns a bar in Missouri, where he moved with his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) initially to look after his ailing mother, but also to escape the rat race after they were both sacked from their high-flying New York City jobs. Amy is a minor celebrity, as when she was a child her mother based the bestselling Amazing Amy children's books on her, which has left her under scrutiny from the diehard fans now she is grown up, but mostly she is spending time as a housewife, nurturing a wish to get back into writing herself. Yet on the June morning of their fifth anniversary Nick receives a call and heads back home from the bar, tended to by his twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon), to find that Amy has disappeared leaving what appears to be a scene of a crime. Where on Earth is she?
Author Gillian Flynn, who adapted her own book for this movie, had apparently penned Gone Girl as a talking point, a story designed to get the folks who read it arguing on the worth of the characters and who they really supported. Sure enough, though most were careful to allow the secrets and twists remained hidden for those who had not discovered them, so many did take the time to experience them for themselves that if the media was to be believed there were full on rows going on about the merits of either side in the Dunne's marriage, and who was in the right, if indeed any were. Oddly, considering the manner in which it panned out, the naysayers accused it of representing feminism at its most overbearing, in spite of very little evidence for that.
If anything, misogyny would be more appropriately levelled at it in light of the story's second half, but Flynn countered that quite rightly by explaining she was in the business of penning plots about interesting characters, and you could not deny Amy was one of those whether you were sympathetic to her and thought her husband got all he deserved or otherwise. What was more surprising was that it bred such discussions at all, since you could not envisage a male author suffering such issues levelled at him, it was as if Flynn had stuck her head above the parapet of the battle of the sexes and random irate folks were taking potshots at it. Equally, the eventual conclusion, never mind the twists themselves, were so over the top and hard to balance against real life that you may find yourself wondering why anyone took it as seriously as they did.
Essentially, it was all done for effect as far as the narrative went, which when you were talking about a thriller was perfectly fair as the visceral was often preferable to the icy cool, though that was a method with its advantages as well. Not here though, with each fresh revelation amping up the lurid factor and almost, but not quite turning the movie into a parody of itself - there were laughs here should you seek them, chiefly down to the obvious glee the production took in messing with both characters and audience. There was only one aspect which came across as sincere, and even that was satirical to a point, which was the treatment of the media and their liking for a cause célèbre. Keep it simple, stupid, was the tenet the coverage goes by here, and further than that, keep it stupid, simple was an even more valued lesson to broadcast by, though to be fair it would surely take an absolute genius to accurately report on this kettle of fish.
Not everyone here buys the media's angle that Nick has murdered Amy as the days go by and she remains missing, but most do, and a possible tragedy is turned into the dubious entertainment of rolling news to be lapped up by a largely uncritical public uninterested in any grey areas or for that matter explanations that go against the overall opinion they are being fed. It's here the film is at its strongest, just as well when the rest of it was difficult to approach on a level other than high toned trash, like something escaped from a daytime soap opera, but even those have the power to divert and amuse. Initially flitting back and forth with flashbacks, Gone Girl did show off director David Fincher's love of a good gamesplaying plot, and the cast were more than able to keep up, Affleck just shifty enough to keep us guessing Nick was possibly not as blameless as he presents himself, and Pike demonstrating hidden depths the further into Amy's unlikely personality we went. Don't take it too seriously and you would have a fine time, it was all performed with a sleazy wink anyway. Music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.