GONE GIRL – A Study in How To Investigate 21st Century Film Noir

by ryankl

GONE GIRL really blew my hair back and here’s exactly why.

SPOILERS — natch.

All I knew about the flick was that the wife goes missing. Boom, that’s it. So imagine my pleasure when I’m presented with this LAW & ORDER style examination of the case, the details, the suspect, the cops, and it’s done in this beautifully intense and exhaustive way that made me love the depth of Fincher’s ZODIAC.

I’m right into this case, it’s fitting into the same headspace I’m currently listen to SERIAL with, and generally reading nice long true crime articles. This flick is doing good things. Then halfway through it gets very good. The twist hits (spoilers, right, we covered that already) – the wife is alive. It’s an intricate frame up. Now I’m really digging it. We follow the wife, we see her things go south, and all the while Affleck is rocking the homefront and showing what an oaf he is by us discovering his affair. It’s a dick move, no doubt, but a dick is not a murderer and yet society really trashes him for it. So did my wife, in our post-game analysis driving home, so make of that what you will.

So now we have this cool twisted story, maybe as intricate as something James Patterson would write, a top shelf John Grisham, yeah? Just good old fashioned narrative engine with all the bells and whistles dingling and dangling.

But all of the above means I would have enjoyed the movie. It’s totally solid, enjoyable, dare I say safe. But I truly loved this flick, and why?

GONE GIRL is film noir and I barely even realised it at first. I mean, it’s clear we have a femme in the house, this wife is koo-koo-kachoo, she’s the problem, she’s nuts, and yet whip smart and razor sharp. She concocts a slick plan but it’s how she reacts and rolls with it all as it unfolds that captivated me.

Once the wife calls up Barney (I’m butchering names, you all know who I mean), things take this crazy turn. We’ve gone from conniving wife scorned to cold blooded killer very quickly. Or so it seems for us. We only just discovered her ways, but she’s actually been like this for years. So then it should make more sense and be in character.

But then I started wondering why the flick levelled up like that, the box cutter is particularly gratuitous, but it’s that scene that sells it all for me. The third act of any film noir sees the plan go awry and people scramble to get back on track. Usually, violence ensues. Taking the flick as some sort of CSI: Affleck meant the box cutter was out of place, but as a film noir, man, that’s just femmes being femmes, right? She should be capable of anything before the light ends.

By the final moments, I’m seeing that real noir ending coming, the sinker tied to our lead, him slowly disappearing down and down. There is nothing he can do. It’s perfect, and so hidden. As I walked out I had to slow clap Fincher in my head for using two crime genres to hide each other and leave me thoroughly impressed.

Though, I thought that final reel, all the aftermath, would have worked much better interspersed in the credits and dropped thus more obliquely, and experimentally. But I guess Fincher isn’t the hungry young gun he once was.

Now, GONE GIRL suddenly stands next to BODY HEAT and THE LAST SEDUCTION as one of my favourite modern noirs. I did not see that coming, and a noir ambush is always welcome in my media.