Gone Girl, 2014.
Directed by David Fincher.
Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, David Clennon, Patrick Fugit, Lisa Banes, Missi Pyle, and Emily Ratajkowski.
With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent.
David Fincher, a favourite among many film critics and fans, has made a name for himself with really good adaptations of really good books. From the incredible Fight Club back in 1999 and The Social Network a few years back to the middling Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Fincher has proven that he knows what he is doing when it comes to taking the novel source material and putting it up on the big screen. This is on show once again with Gone Girl, adapted from the very popular book of the same name with a script written by its author Gillian Flynn.
Nike Dunne (future Batman Ben Affleck) and his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) seemingly have the best relationship in the world. They are madly in love, happily married and are looking to start their family having moved back to Nick’s hometown in Missouri. But things are not quite what they seem as the narrative switches from both sides of the coin as Nick and Amy share what their relationship is really like. How they both lost their jobs, were forced to move from their glamorous life in New York City and how they are simply eating into Amy’s trust fund. And then one day, Amy goes missing and Nick becomes the target of a witch hunt once the media and police think he’s not as innocent as he claims.
Gone Girl is a great example of why its sometimes better having not read the source material before going into a screening, as the story twists and turns in a fascinatingly gripping manner. Much has been said, in both praise and criticism, of Flynn’s book with some calling the story farcical and “airport fiction” at best. However, what makes Gone Girl such an interesting and engaging story is the preposterous nature of the story. The “big reveal” comes at around the midpoint of the movie and is very unsatisfying to say the least, but from there Gone Girl cranks it to eleven in terms of insanity, and the sillier it gets the more entertaining it becomes. There is no denying that Gone Girl will keep you on your toes and on the edge of your seat, just questing what the hell is going to happen next.
And really it’s the story that puts Gone Girl in the higher echelons of movies released this year and it’s less to do with Fincher as a director. While this is clearly a David Fincher movie in terms of filters, style and sound, there isn’t the creative flare we have seen from him in the past. This is Fincher simply directing a movie and that really works in its favour. Gone Girl doesn’t need a whole lot of panache to cover up the holes in the story or performances as they are the key pieces of this puzzle and even the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (marking their third collaboration with Fincher) is understated. And while good, the score is not on the same level of creativity as The Social Network or Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Ben Affleck has had a real resurgence in his career as he’s gotten older, with the days of Armageddon, Pearl Harbor and Reindeer Games now just distant memories. His turn as a director has been well documented and performances like this one has Nick Dunne in Gone Girl really shows off his versatility. Affleck is very balanced as he expertly goes from dotting husband with the occasional violent tendencies to the quiet, confused man who has just lost his wife. He is surrounded by a wonderful ensemble cast including Neil Patrick Harris for a few scenes, but it’s Carrie Coon as his sister Margo who provides the best support, giving easily one of the best performances of the movie. Perhaps the most surprising turn is from comedy actor Tyler Perry as the “lawyer to the stars” Tanner Bolt, providing some of Gone Girl‘s biggest laughs but also managing to keep up the pace with the likes of Affleck without much effort. A very different Perry that we’ve seen time and time again in stinkers like Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas or Why Did I Get Married?. However, it’s Rosamund Pike who really shines and steals Gone Girl‘s show. This is a movie that can allow for someone like Pike, who has been sadly relegated to supporting roles in the past with the likes of The World’s End and Hector and the Search for Happiness, to really take the spotlight and show what a tremendous performer and actor she is. As each passing scene goes by, she gets better and better to perfectly encapsulates the madness of Gone Girl‘s plot.
One of the unsung nuances of Gone Girl is the brilliant through line involving the media’s portrayal of the case as it unfolds, with Missi Pyle nailing the Nancy Grace-style sensationalist who reports fiction as fact and riles up the TV-watching public to start a witch hunt. It’s true that Gone Girl is doing nothing new with the idea (with many others doing it better) and it’s used merely as a tool to move the plot in certain scenarios, but Pyle is so terrific as this Southern belle who is pissed off at a man doing “wrong” by his wife that it adds another layer of madness to the already barmy proceedings.
Your enjoyment of Gone Girl will really come from whether or not you can accept the overt wackiness of the plot and its increasingly ridiculous twists and turns. If you’re a fan of the book, despite this being a very literal adaptation so there will be little in the way of surprises, the performances are so great that you can forgive it and enjoy the adaptation. However if you’ve a newcomer and are going in with a clean slate, then you will be treated to one of the most intriguing movies of 2014. It’s utterly preposterous, but Gone Girl is incredibly gripping and thoroughly entertaining.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.
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