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  • Writer's pictureJeff South

Favorite Movies of the 2010s: #9

9. Gone Girl (2014)

I read Gillian Flynn's novel Gone Girl over the course of two flights and struggled to find the last time a novel had sucked me in so completely. The writing was sharp and dark and cynical and the mystery was a real doozy. The story of the disappearance of Amy Dunne and the investigation of her husband Nick as the prime suspect was engrossing and packed more than a couple WTF moments. Plus, the way it inverted female tropes astounded me. David Fincher's adaptation with Rosamund Pike as Amy and Ben Affleck as Nick matches that tone perfectly.

Nick and Amy have been married five years and have recently moved to North Carthage, Missouri. They seem to be the perfect couple, but, as is the case with stories like this, looks can be deceiving. Amy disappears one night and the investigation quickly pivots to Nick. Did he kill her? We learn things about him that make him an asshole, but did he really kill his wife? The twist that comes halfway through the narrative obliterates everything we thought we knew. What could've become little more than an episode of "Dateline" ends up being a piece of entertainment that challenges the audience every step of the way. This is a dark, vicious movie presented with flair, style, and a mischievious grin. All of which befits its source material.

Gone Girl, both the book and film, was met with criticism that it wasn't feminist at all, but actually quite misogynistic. I don't know about all that. I lean toward it being feminist because Amy clearly is one to take matters in her own hands. Plus, as is the case in GIllian Flynn's other two novels, Dark Places and Sharp Objects, the lead character is allowed to be messy and complicated. Most all, though, Flynn isn't afraid to critique women and how they live in the world of men. The key passage in the book is the famous "Cool Girl" monologue in which Amy deconstructs the myth of the cool girl and how no self-respecting woman should aspire to be such a thing. I waited for this moment in the film and wasn't disappointed with its delivery. If Gone Girl has a thesis, it's the "Cool Girl" monologue.

I couldn't help but wonder how a woman director would've handled this material. Patty Jenkins or Kathryn Bigelow, for example. This seems such a uniquely feminine story that I have to imagine it in the hands of a female director. Fincher is a master, though, and he stages this picture with his usual touches.

I last watched Gone Girl about three years ago. Its power was still in tact, but what struck me is how damn entertaining the thing is. It's funny, thrilling, sharp, brilliantly paced and the acting is superb.

2014 was a fine year for movies. In preparing this post, I revisited the list of Best Picture nominees from that year. Birdman was the eventual winner and i do love that movie, so no argument from me. Whiplash is also excellent. I saw the other six (American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Selma, The Theory of Everything, and The Imitation Game). All are fine in their own right, but other than Selma, none of those six have stuck in my psyche the way Gone Girl has.

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