Gone Girl (2014)
Director: David Fincher
While I had largely avoided spoilers regarding this film, and have not read Gillian Flynn's novel, I had guessed the big 'reveal' that occurs about halfway through the film. If you wish to remain ignorant, read no further.
Gone Girl is about narrative and storytelling. Amy Dunne, a character who was fictionalised by her mother as a child in the 'Amazing Amy' stories, is the ultimate storyteller. She knows what her audience wants, and gives them enough to follow the narrative thread; her audience are the local people of her town, and eventually the media and the American public. She writes a diary and leaves clues about her life with her husband: he is a violent man who may have killed his beautiful, pregnant wife. Amy begins this extended exercise as a swipe at Nick, who has fallen in cliche; he is a frustrated teacher with publishing ambitions, who has started an affair with a young student. Even Nick's twin sister calls him out on this. Nick slowly learns he needs to step-up his storytelling, and begins playing game started by Amy, transforming back into the man she was attracted to when they first met.
When the film came out, many accused it of misogyny, as Amy Dunne's character embodies all the negative stereotypes associated with women: crazy and pretending to be the victim. However, this reading only works if you focus purely on Amy as the only female character. There are two other significant women in the film, Nick's sister Margot and the detective Rhonda Boney, neither of whom perform such roles. Margot stands by her brother, though not without telling him of his mistakes, and Boney is the most considered of the police, relying on evidence not just a gut-reaction (unlike the young cop who has a hunch about Nick). While Amy may use gender stereotypes for her own means, the film does not tar all women with the same brush. Neither gender comes out of the film looking great, as Nick is almost as bad as Amy makes him out to be.
Rosamund Pike is fantastic as Amy Dunne; such an accomplished actor was needed to portray the character, for Amy herself is a consumate actor. She is clearly a psychopath on the same level as Hannibal Lector, someone who is always several steps ahead of everyone else. Ben Affleck is very good as Nick, giving him a smug yet helpless quality. It is hard to feel sympathy or even like these two characters, yet they are compelling to watch.
Clearly I enjoyed this film. Fincher was the right director to adapt Gone Girl, giving it a cold, detached quality that elevates the material beyond its pulpy origins. It is stylish, smart and well acted.