The Combined Strengths of Gone Girl

Gone Girl

The release of Gone Girl, David Fincher’s chilling adaption of Gillian Flynn’s massively popular novel, feels like a significant moment in cinema this year. Rather than reviewing it, I thought I’d look at how Gone Girl was anticipated, experienced and then subsequently reviewed. I think there have been unique aspects in all these areas, which when combined produces not only one of the year’s best thrillers, but also a timely reminder of the magic that cinema can sometimes produce.

Anticipating Gone Girl

Being a huge Fincher fan, when I cast my mind back to January, Gone Girl was pretty much my number one most anticipated film of the year. I read the book in a few sittings, though when I turned the final page I was left with a nagging concern as it was clear there would be significant challenges in bringing this book to the screen. The structure, in particular, seemed problematic as the narrative unfolded via alternating his-and-her points of view and culminated in a final act, which at first reading bordered on the unfilmable. However, in many ways, this simply increased my anticipation, as I was intrigued to see how Fincher and Gillian Flynn (who also penned the screenplay) would solve these dilemmas.

A day before the general release, I was lucky enough to be invited along by the good folks at Dendy Canberra to the ACT premiere, and when I arrived, both the foyer and the atmosphere were buzzing with a mixture of excitement, intrigue and most notable of all a level of expectation. From conversations around me, it was clear that the majority, though not all, of the patrons, had read the book and were eagerly awaiting how it had been adapted for the big screen. These conversations reminded me of the heightened anticipation for Fincher’s previous film and book adaptation ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.’ As the lights went down, the atmosphere peaked, quite cutely demonstrated by a couple close to me exchanging arm squeezes and nervous giggles.

Experiencing Gone Girl

When a crowd brings a level of prior knowledge to a film, there is always the danger that some of the more important plot points and twists will have limited impact due to a large percentage of the crowd aware they are coming. This was not the case in my screening at all, and not since a certain scene in Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects have I heard such notable gasps in a screening. These were not just isolated examples – there were at least four moments when you could notably feel the air change. Considering how many people knew some of these moments were coming and that they landed with such impact, demonstrates this is indeed impressive film-making.

However, the highlight of the screening was the ongoing, and I think almost involuntary commentary, from someone sat just behind me who was experiencing the story for the first time. This sort of thing would normally grate, but on this occasion I found it fascinating. On at least 10 occasions he vocalised to no one in particular his views on what was unfolding.   Now to do these justice I will need to stray into some light spoiler territory, so if you are reading this and have not seen Gone Girl, then you might want to stop reading now, go catch Gone Girl and then come straight back.

OK, so a few examples of the not so private commentary track coming from behind my left shoulder:

‘Oh you evil bitch’.
‘No, you are so not’ (in response to Amy describing herself in a positive light).
‘I so hope you die.’
‘I so hope she is dead.’
‘You didn’t just do that did you, oh you ****ing did, you absolute bitch.’
 
And as the credits rolled:
 
‘I need a ****ing cigarette after that’, to which his partner responded ‘I need a drink’.
 

Reviewing Gone Girl

As the lights came up, there was a collective sigh from the audience followed by more nervous giggles and an immediate rise in chatter. Some people raced for the exit, but a large number stayed in small groups in the cinema deconstructing what had just taken place. The feeling in the room was overwhelmingly positive though people clearly wanted, and in some cases actually needed, to talk about the film. This reaction seemed to indicate two things: firstly, it was a good reminder that any film which encourages debate is a good thing, and secondly, word of mouth for Gone Girl is going to be huge.

After the screening, I took to social media and it was encouraging to see the care that my fellow bloggers and reviewers were taking in regards to spoilers in their pieces. In particular, it has been known for some time that Fincher and Flynn had planned on changing the ending of the book to make it more cinematic. In this regard, careful thought has gone into some reviews to not only omit key plot points but also to not discuss how the film differs from the book. These omissions have allowed a much wider audience the best possible environment for enjoyment and are a good example of the collective working for the individual.

Conclusions

So what does this tell us?  Well, after sitting with the film for almost a week now it is clear to me that Fincher’s Gone Girl is not just one of the year’s best thrillers, it is an encouraging and heart-warming example how unifying cinema can be as an art form. Fincher has taken one of the year’s best pulp fiction novels and turned it into an impressive, intelligent and accessible thriller that embraces its audience, delivers on its promise and reminds people why they go to the cinema in the first place.

If you liked Gone Girl, then try Wild.