This is my review of Gone Girl [DVD] .
In the media storm over his wife Amy’s disappearance on their fifth wedding anniversary, laid-back Nick fails to show the normal reactions of anxiety and distress. Has he murdered her, and if so, for what reason, or is Amy the one playing some manipulative game? Has she been emotionally warped by her artificial, hot-house childhood as the marketing symbol of the best-selling series of “Amazing Amy” books penned by her insensitive parents, always portraying a girl enjoying popularity and success not actually experienced in real life?
This is the intriguing basis of a psychological thriller which switches back and forth in time, between the viewpoints of the two main protagonists, with unpredictable twists right up to the end.
Having read the book first, usually a disadvantage for a film, I was initially disappointed by a slow-paced, lacklustre and muffled dialogue, to my British ears. Once Nick was established as a suspect, all this began to improve. Yet, in some ways, the film remains at an inevitable disadvantage compared with the medium of a book, which alternates between two clearly unreliable narrators, enabling us to get into their thought processes. Much is left to the imagination, whereas in the film you may, for instance, witness an act of which someone is accused, leaving less doubt that it has really occurred. The book is more satisfying in several other respects: the witty patter of the writing, the stronger development of the “Amazing Amy” aspect, the deeper background to Nick’s past, including the role of his dysfunctional father. In the book, the ending seems more powerful, provoking conflicting and changing reactions whereas, in the film, I did not care much either way.
The film’s strength over the book is to provide a vivid portrayal of the ghastly intrusion and distortion of the American media, where caricatures of female presenters, ageing anorexic, dyed and lacquered, mail-box-mouthed harridans stir up the fires against Nick or restore him to the fold in a gush of sentimentality. The film is often wrily amusing, with some pithy dialogues and good acting across the board. Some of the moments of greatest realism and honesty, which are therefore the most truly moving, are between Nick and his long-suffering twin sister.