Gone Girl (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David Fincher|
|Screenplay by||Gillian Flynn|
by Gillian Flynn
|Edited by||Kirk Baxter|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$369.3 million|
Gone Girl is a 2014 American psychological thriller film directed by David Fincher and written by Gillian Flynn, based on her 2012 novel of the same title. The film stars Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, and Tyler Perry. Set in Missouri, the story begins as a mystery that follows the events surrounding Nick Dunne (Affleck), who becomes the primary suspect in the sudden disappearance of his wife, Amy (Pike).
The film had its world premiere on opening night of the 52nd New York Film Festival on September 26, 2014, before a nationwide theatrical release on October 3. It was received well critically and was a commercial success, grossing $369 million, making it the highest-grossing film by Fincher.
Rosamund Pike's performance was particularly praised, and she received nominations for an Academy Award, BAFTA Award, Golden Globe Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress. Additional nominations included a Golden Globe Award for Best Director for Fincher and Golden Globe Award, BAFTA, and Critics' Choice Award nominations for Flynn's adapted screenplay, receiving the award for the latter.
The day of their fifth wedding anniversary, writing teacher Nick Dunne returns home to find his wife Amy is missing. Her disappearance receives heavy press coverage because Amy was the inspiration for her parents' popular Amazing Amy children's books. Detective Rhonda Boney does a walkthrough of their house and finds poorly concealed evidence of a struggle. The police conduct a forensic analysis and uncover the remnants of cleaned blood stains, leading to the conclusion that Amy was murdered. Suspicions arise that Nick is responsible, and his apathetic behavior is interpreted by the media as characteristic of a sociopath.
Flashbacks reveal that Nick and Amy's marriage had disintegrated; both lost their jobs in the recession and moved from New York City to Nick's hometown of North Carthage, Missouri. Nick became lazy and distant, and began cheating on Amy with one of his students. Boney unearths evidence of financial troubles and domestic disputes, and a witness states that Amy wanted to purchase a gun. She also finds a medical report indicating that Amy is pregnant, of which Nick denies knowledge, and a diary supposedly written by Amy highlighting her growing isolation, ominously ending with the fear that Nick will kill her.
Amy is revealed to be alive and well, having changed her appearance and gone into hiding in a distant campground in the Ozarks. Upon learning that Nick was cheating on her, she resolved to punish him by framing him for her murder. Amy plans the framing in great detail: she befriends a pregnant neighbor to steal her urine for the pregnancy test, drains her own blood to leave traces of evidence of murder and fabricates a diary describing her fear of Nick. She also has Nick increase her life insurance so it looks like he murdered her for the money. By using the clues in a "treasure hunt" game she and Nick play on their anniversary, she ensures he visits places where she has planted the corroborating evidence of Nick's guilt for the police to discover. She anticipates Nick will be convicted and executed for her murder, and contemplates committing suicide after his conviction.
Nick hires Tanner Bolt, a lawyer who specializes in defending men accused of killing or raping their wives. Nick meets Amy's ex-boyfriend Tommy O'Hara, who says Amy falsely accused him of rape, and gradually deduces Amy's plan. He also approaches another ex-boyfriend, the wealthy Desi Collings, against whom Amy previously filed a restraining order, but Desi refuses to share any details. When Amy's neighbors at the campground rob her of her remaining money, she calls Desi and convinces him that she ran away from Nick because he was abusing her. He agrees to hide her in his lake house, which is equipped with surveillance cameras.
Nick convinces his twin sister, Margo, of his innocence. After Nick's mistress reveals their affair at a press conference, Nick appears on a talk show to profess his innocence and apologize for his failures as a husband in the hope of luring Amy. His performance rekindles Amy's feelings for him, even as Boney arrests him for Amy's murder. Amy inflicts injuries on herself and uses Desi's surveillance cameras to her advantage, making it appear that Desi kidnapped and raped her. She seduces Desi and kills him during sex by slitting his throat. Covered in Desi's blood, she returns home and names him as her captor and rapist, clearing Nick of suspicion.
When Boney questions Amy about the holes in her story, Amy accuses her of incompetence. The FBI sides with Amy, forcing Boney to back down. Amy tells Nick the truth, saying that the man she watched pleading for her return on TV is the man she wants him to become again. Nick shares this with Boney, Bolt, and Margo, but they have no way to prove Amy's guilt.
Nick intends to leave Amy and expose her lies, but Amy reveals she is pregnant, having artificially inseminated herself with Nick's sperm stored at a fertility clinic. Nick doubts the child is his and says he will take a paternity test. He then reacts violently to Amy's insistence that they remain married, but feels responsible for the child. Despite Margo's objections, Nick reluctantly decides to stay with Amy. The "happy" couple announces on television that they are expecting a child.
- Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, a teacher
- Rosamund Pike as Amy Elliott Dunne, Nick's missing wife
- Neil Patrick Harris as Desi Collings, Amy's wealthy ex-boyfriend
- Tyler Perry as Tanner Bolt, Nick's attorney
- Carrie Coon as Margo "Go" Dunne, Nick's twin sister
- Kim Dickens as Detective Rhonda Boney, the lead investigator on Amy's disappearance
- Patrick Fugit as Officer James Gilpin, Boney's partner
- Missi Pyle as Ellen Abbott, a cable TV host based on Nancy Grace
- Emily Ratajkowski as Andie Fitzgerald, Nick's mistress and student
- Casey Wilson as Noelle Hawthorne, Nick and Amy's neighbor
- Lola Kirke as Greta, a young woman Amy meets at a motel
- Boyd Holbrook as Jeff, a flirtatious man Amy meets at a motel
- Lisa Banes as Marybeth Elliott, Amy's mother
- Sela Ward as Sharon Schieber, a network TV host
- Scoot McNairy as Tommy O'Hara, a former boyfriend of Amy's
- Scott Takeda as TV Producer
- David Clennon as Rand Elliott, Amy's father
- Kathleen Rose Perkins as Shawna Kelly
Gone Girl is a film adaptation of Flynn's 2012 novel of the same name. One of the film's executive producers, Leslie Dixon, read the manuscript of the novel in 2011 and brought it to the attention of Reese Witherspoon (who was originally slated to play Amy) in December of that year. Witherspoon and Dixon then collaborated with Bruna Papandrea to further develop the manuscript—with Flynn's film agent, Shari Smiley, they met with film studios in early 2012.
Following the release of the novel in June 2012, the 20th Century Fox studio optioned the book in a deal with Flynn, in which the author negotiated that she would be responsible for the first draft of the screenplay. By around October 2012, Flynn was engaged in the production of the first draft while she was also involved in the promotional tour for her novel. A first-time screenwriter at the time, Flynn later admitted: "I certainly felt at sea a lot of times, kind of finding my way through."
Flynn submitted her first draft screenplay to the Fox studio in December 2012, before Fincher was selected as the director for the project. Fincher had already expressed interest in the project, and after he finished reading Flynn's first draft, a meeting was scheduled between the director and author within days. Typically, authors are removed from film adaptations following the first draft and an experienced screenwriter takes over; but, on this occasion, Fincher agreed to work with Flynn for the entire project. Flynn later explained: "... he [Fincher] responded to the first draft and we have kind of similar sensibilities. We liked the same things about the book, and we wanted the same thing out of the movie."
As further preparation, Flynn studied screenplay books and also met with Steve Kloves, who wrote the screenplays for the Harry Potter series. Fincher also provided guidance and advised the author: "We don't have the ability to gift the audience with the characters' thoughts, so tell me how they're behaving." During the production of the final screenplay, Fincher and Flynn engaged in an intensive back-and-forth working relationship: Flynn sent Fincher "big swaths" of writing, which he then reviewed, and Fincher would then discuss the swaths with Flynn by telephone. Eventually, some scenes were rewritten "a dozen times", while other scenes were unaltered.
Following the release of the film, Flynn spoke of an overwhelming adaptation process, in which she tackled a 500-page book with an intricate plot; she explained that her experience working for a magazine meant that she "wasn't ever precious about cutting." As a consequence of the distillation process, most of the parental storylines were lost, so the mother of the character of Desi Collings does not appear in the film, and it was not possible to include flashbacks of Nick Dunne's dead mother.
In terms of the film's ending, Flynn revealed that she experimented with a "lot of iterations". One of the aspects that she was certain of was the presence of the media, which she described as the "third player", alongside Nick and Amy. In Flynn's words: "Once we got to the ending, I wanted it to wrap up quickly. I didn't want 8 million more loop-de-loops... I had no problem tossing stuff out and trying to figure out the best way to get there."
Flynn enjoyed the experience of making the film, and she expressed appreciation for Fincher's involvement, as he "really liked the book and didn't want to turn it into something other than what it already was", and he also reassured her, even when she second-guessed herself. Fincher described Flynn's screenwriting work as "very smart", "crafty", and "extremely articulate".
On September 11, 2013, the Gone Girl film crew began filming establishing shots. Principal photography began on September 15 in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and was scheduled to last about five weeks. Some interior scenes were filmed in Los Angeles, with a door that could not be replicated being shipped there from Cape Girardeau.
According to producer Ceán Chaffin, Fincher took, on average, as many as 50 takes for each scene, while Flynn has said that, although Fincher is a visual director, he is meticulous about veracity—Fincher changed a scene in which Amy collects her own blood, as he thought it was unbelievable.
Fincher later called Affleck "extremely bright" in regard to the manner in which he drew on his own experience with the media for the character of Nick Dunne. Fincher explained that Affleck "has a great sense of humor and great wit about what this situation is and how frustrating it is". Fincher described the behavior of the media in the film as "tragedy vampirism", but clarified that "The New York Times and NPR are not in the flowerbeds of the Dunne house".
On January 21, 2014, Trent Reznor announced that he and Atticus Ross would provide the score, marking their third collaboration with Fincher, following The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Fincher was inspired by music he heard while at an appointment with a chiropractor and tasked Reznor with creating the musical equivalent of an insincere façade. Reznor explained Fincher's request in an interview:
David [Fincher] was at the chiropractor and heard this music that was inauthentically trying to make him feel OK, and that became a perfect metaphor for this film ... The challenge was, simply, what is the musical equivalent of the same sort of façade of comfort and a feeling of insincerity that that music represented? [My primary aim was] to instill doubt [and] remind you that things aren't always what they seem to be.
The overall score is a combination of soothing sounds with staccato electronic noises, resulting in an unnerving, anxiety invoking quality. NPR writer Andy Beta concludes: "Reznor and Ross relish being at their most beauteous, knowing that it'll make the brutal moments of Gone Girl all the more harrowing." Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs sang a cover version of the song "She", which was used in the film's teaser trailer. The soundtrack album was released on the Columbia label on September 30, 2014.
Gone Girl opened the 52nd New York Film Festival, receiving high-profile press coverage and early positive reviews. It saw a nationwide release in North America in 3,014 theatres on October 3, 2014. Coinciding with the North America release, Gone Girl released at 5,270 screens in 39 international markets like the United Kingdom and Germany, on its opening weekend.
Gone Girl was released on DVD and Blu-ray on January 13, 2015. The Blu-ray release comes with a 36-page Amazing Amy book called Tattle Tale. An audio commentary with David Fincher is the sole special feature included on the DVD/Blu-Ray.
Gone Girl grossed $167.8 million in the U.S. and Canada and $201.6 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $369.3 million, against a production budget of $61 million. Calculating in all expenses, Deadline Hollywood estimated that the film made a profit of $129.99 million, making it one of the most profitable films of 2014.
The film was released on October 3, 2014 in North America in 3,014 theaters and earned $13.1 million on its opening day (including the $1.3 million it earned from Thursday late-night showings). It finished in first place at the North American box office earning $37.5 million after a neck-and-neck competition with Warner Bros./New Line Cinema's horror film Annabelle which earned $37.1 million. The film is the biggest debut of Fincher's career, (breaking Panic Room's opening). It is also the third biggest opening weekend for Affleck, (behind Pearl Harbor which opened with $59.1 million and Daredevil which opened with $40.3 million) and Rosamund Pike's second biggest opening (behind Die Another Day which opened with $47 million). The film is the tenth biggest October debut overall. The film played 60% female and 75% over-25 years old. The film topped the box office for two consecutive weekends despite facing competition with Dracula Untold in its second weekend before being overtaken by Fury in its third weekend.
Outside North America, it earned $24.6 million from 5,270 screens in 39 international markets on its opening weekend, higher than expected. High openings were witnessed in the United Kingdom ($6.7 million), Australia ($4.6 million), France ($3.65 million) Russia ($3.4 million), and Germany ($2.6 million).
Gone Girl received positive reviews from critics, with Pike's performance in particular earning praise. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 87%, based on 327 reviews, with a rating average of 8/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Dark, intelligent, and stylish to a fault, Gone Girl plays to director David Fincher's sick strengths while bringing the best out of stars Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike." Metacritic gave the film a score of 79 out of 100, based on 49 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a B grade.
The Vulture's critics praised the direction, script, editing, score, visual style, and performances, particularly from Pike, Affleck, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, and Missi Pyle. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times wrote: "Superbly cast from the two at the top to the smallest speaking parts, impeccably directed by Fincher and crafted by his regular team to within an inch of its life, Gone Girl shows the remarkable things that can happen when filmmaker and material are this well matched." The Economist called the film a "brilliantly glacial adaptation... This may not be the perfect film—but it is a perfect adaptation".
Joshua Rothman wrote in The New Yorker that he enjoyed the film "in all its abstract, intellectual, postmodern glory" and that, similar to other post-modern narratives, the film adaptation is "decisively unreal ... [the] heroes and villains in Fincher's Gone Girl aren't people but stories". Rothman, who draws parallels between Gone Girl and Fincher's 1999 adaptation Fight Club, decides that the film is ultimately a farce and has resonated with filmgoers because it expresses "a creepy, confused, and troubling part of us".
Anthony Lane of The New Yorker wrote: "At first blush, Gone Girl is natural Fincherland ... so why doesn't the movie claw us as The Social Network did? Who could have predicted that a film about murder, betrayal, and deception would be less exciting than a film about a website?" Slant Magazine's Ed Gonzalez awarded the film two out of four stars, concluding: "Fincher and Flynn should have gone further and truly grappled with the real horror that, by giving his relationship with Amy another chance, Nick is indulging in one of the great myths of feminism: that it emasculates men. Rather than undermine that noxiousness, Fincher enshrouds it in funereal brushstrokes that cast his Gone Girl as a fashionable tumbling into an abyss of willful denial."
In response to some of the criticisms of the film, Flynn said this: "The whole point is that these are two people pretending to be other people, better people, versions of the dream guy and dream girl, but each one couldn’t keep it up, so they destroy each other".
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The soundtrack was nominated for the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media, and also for the 2014 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score.
Top ten lists
Gone Girl was listed on many critics' top ten lists.
- 1st – Bryden Doyle, Inside Halton
- 3rd – Matthew Jacobs & Christopher Rosen, The Huffington Post
- 3rd – Genevieve Koski, The Dissolve
- 3rd – People
- 3rd – Mara Reinstein, Us Weekly
- 3rd – James Rocchi, TheWrap
- 4th – Ben Kenigsberg & Nick Schager, The A.V. Club
- 4th – William Gross, Austin Chronicle
- 4th – Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York
- 4th – Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com
- 4th – Adam Chitwood, Collider
- 4th – Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald
- 4th – Gregory Ellwood, HitFix
- 5th – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
- 5th – David Ehrlich, Little White Lies
- 7th – Tasha Robinson, The Dissolve
- 7th – Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly
- 7th – Christopher Orr, The Atlantic
- 7th – Justin Chang & Scott Foundas, Variety
- 8th – Jeff Baker, The Oregonian
- 8th – Christy Lemire RogerEbert.com
- 8th – Steve Persall, Tampa Bay Times
- 8th – James Berardinelli, Reelviews
- 9th – Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald
- 9th – Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News
- 9th – A.A. Dowd and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, The A.V. Club
- Top 10 (ranked alphabetically) – Dana Stevens, Slate
- Top 10 (ranked alphabetically) – Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
- Top 10 (ranked alphabetically) – Claudia Puig, USA Today
In a 2013 interview with Time Out writer Novid Parsi, who described the ending of the novel as "polarizing", Flynn explained that she wanted the novel to counter the notion that "women are naturally good" and to show that women are "just as violently minded as men are". In a November 2014 interview, Flynn admitted that the critical gender-related response did affect her: "I had about 24 hours where I hovered under my covers and was like: 'I killed feminism. Why did I do that? Rats. I did not mean to do that.' And then I very quickly kind of felt comfortable with what I had written."
In an October 3, 2014, blog post for Ms. Magazine, Natalie Wilson argues that by not addressing Amy's social privilege which affords her the "necessary funds, skills, know-how and spare time" to stage a disappearance—Gone Girl is the "crystallization of a thousand misogynist myths and fears about female behavior." Alyssa Rosenberg wrote in The Washington Post on October 3, 2014, that, although she was initially "unconvinced" by the book, her fascination with the novel and film was partly due to her conclusion that "Amy Elliot Dunne is the only fictional character I can think of who might be accurately described as simultaneously misogynist and misandrist."
In an October 6, 2014, article titled "Gone Girl's Biggest Villain Is Marriage Itself", Jezebel's Jessica Coen wrote: "Movie Amy pales in comparison to the vivid character we meet in the book. Strip away Book Amy's complexities and you're left with little more than 'crazy fucking bitch.' That makes her no less captivating, but it does make the film feel a lot more misogynistic than the novel." Coen concedes that this did not negate her enjoyment of the film, "as we ladies are well accustomed to these injustices." Time's Eliana Dockterman wrote on the same date that Gone Girl is both "a sexist portrayal of a crazy woman" and a "feminist manifesto", and that this duality makes the film interesting. Zoë Heller of The New York Review of Books wrote: "The problem with Amy is not that she acts in vicious and reprehensible ways, or even that her behavior lends credence to certain misogynist fantasies. The problem is that she isn't really a character, but rather an animation of a not very interesting idea about the female capacity for nastiness", concluding that "The film is a piece of silliness, not powerful enough in the end to engender proper 'disapproval': only wonder at its coarseness and perhaps mild dismay at its critical success."
Writing in The Guardian on October 6, 2014, Joan Smith criticized what she saw as the film's "recycling of rape myths", citing research released in 2013 which stated that false allegations of rape in the UK were extremely rare. She wrote: "The characters live in a parallel universe where the immediate reaction to a woman who says she's been assaulted is one of chivalrous concern. Tell that to all the victims, here and in the US, who have had their claims dismissed by sceptical police officers." Writing for The Guardian on the following day, Emine Saner wrote that Smith's argument "wouldn't carry as much weight were this film set against a vastly wider range of women's stories, and characters in mainstream culture", but concluded with Dockterman's plea for the portrayal of "all sorts of women in our novels".
Tim Kroenert, of the Australian website Eureka Street wrote on October 8, 2014, that the film's predominant focus upon Nick's perspective "serves to obfuscate Amy's motives (though it is possible that she is simply a sociopath), and to amplify her personification of ... anti-women myths"; however, Kroenert concludes that Gone Girl is "a compelling rumination on the impossibility of knowing the mind of another, even within that ostensibly most intimate of relationships, marriage."
In an interview in October 2014, Rosamund Pike stated she would return for a sequel if Gillian Flynn wrote the script. In January 2015, Flynn said she was open to the idea of a sequel, but said it would be "a few years down the road" when the original cast and crew would be available again.
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