“I’m the cunt you married.” That’s a quote from the film, not any approval of the word “cunt.” And it’s a quote that best encapsulates what this batshit movie’s about. David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” is not the naively pessimistic indictment of marriage (as an institution) that I thought it might be after first viewing, although I wouldn’t doubt it if Fincher and author/screenwriter Gillian Flynn harbored such feelings. It’s an indictment of marriages and relationships as they’re often treated by, well…a lot of people. Namely, the men and women of the western world. Additionally, it’s a biting satire of the poisonous media culture that immediately surrounds these news stories that we know too well: the husband who may or may not have killed his wife, the whodunit regarding a person’s vanishing act.
Ben Affleck is Nick, the man with mediocre ambitions. Rosamund Pike is Amy, the woman with high standards. Together they form the perfect couple, until they’re not. When the ring slides on, the gloves come off, and with them everything the groom and bride pretended to be or tried to be in order to the land their significant other for life. The realization of laziness, fickleness, and expectations unmet sets in. As Fincher and Flynn tell it, this is the story of marriage in America, a cat and mouse game where eventually the cat gets tired and the mouse gets fed up. When Nick finally puts his foot down following a particularly heavy bevy of personal news from Amy, “I’m the cunt you married” is her truthful retort. Pike delivers the line and its accompanying performance with such relish that she instantly places herself in the conversation for Best Actress. It’s the sort of coming-out role that unfortunately comes along only once in a blue moon for many actresses, and Pike knocks it out of the park. Ditto Affleck, minus the coming-out part. His casting is pitch-perfect, right down to that trademark smirk of unease. It’s a hoot watching Nick lament the flip-flopping opinions of a ravaging 24-hour news cycle and its attuning public; we know Affleck can relate. Note the scene where he’s practicing for a live television interview and his lawyer pelts him with popcorn for failed acting attempts. These are mere minor flourishes of meta-humor in a finely crafted thriller, and speaking of his lawyer, the one and only Tyler Perry nearly steals the movie as shark defender Tanner Bolt. From Carrie Coon as Nick’s twin sister to Kim Dickens as North Carthage, Missouri’s astute homicide detective, the entire cast is in top form. Despite all of our memories of comically womanizing characters, Neil Patrick Harris manages to wholly convince as maybe-a-former-stalker and all-around genteel weirdo Desi Collings, and one-half of the film’s most disturbing scene, a veritable bloodbath that sticks with you long after the credits have rolled.
And that’s really the success of Gone Girl. Despite a few moments that stretch credulity, it sticks with you, it thrills, it gnaws at the collective zeitgeist. Fincher has a knack for that, and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross certainly have a hand in it as well, their foreboding score truly living up to this self-describing anecdote: “In terms of ‘Gone Girl’ we thought a lot about some clues we’d gotten from David in terms of this concept that the film deals a lot with appearances. Here’s a couple that appears to the outside world to be ideal, but is not inside. [It’s] about spouses and their appearances to one another and the facades they try to hold up to attract to one another and what happens when that starts to break down. And we started to think about that in terms of music. What if we started to create some music that artificially was to make you feel like everything is OK, but almost in an insincere way. And that starts to unravel.”