Gone Girl (2014)
Directed by David Fincher
Can you smell it in the air? It’s Oscar season, and twice-nominated David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” formally ushered in the season with a bang. Now is when we can expect the theaters to begin filtering out all-flash-and-no-bang movies like “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Into the Storm” in favor of consistently praise-worthy stock. But how worthy is this highly praised suspense thriller? I would say, if you want to read the book and haven’t done so…wait. In the second time in as many trips to the theater, I’ve been the victim of a book robbing me of a would-be fantastic movie experience. Not that “Gone Girl” is worthless after having experienced Gillian Flynn’s phenomenal suspense novel…but it’s certainly not all that it could be.
Ben Affleck leads the cast as Nick Dunne, whose wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) disappears from their home on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary. In the whirlwind that follows, the media pick apart Nick and Amy’s troubled marriage, the police question Nick’s lack-of-alibi, and the public adds their own two cents. Nick finds support from his twin sister Margo (Connie Coon) and lawyer Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) as he tries to survive this frenzy. But it’s a series of shocking revelations that makes “Gone Girl” the most unpredictable, titillating story in years.
Watch out Academy, here comes Rosamund Pike. The British actress of “The World’s End” (the only other role I’d ever seen her in) wouldn’t have been my first choice to play Amy, but Pike is the face of cunning. For over two hours, she has us in her trance, mere puppets at her command. Not once do I see her as anything other than Amy Dunne. Her sing-songy voice makes the story even more of a fairy tale gone awry. In this complicated emotional waltz, she’s always in the lead. She’s perfect. Ben Affleck, whose casting as Batman last year still has eyes rolling, was always the ideal choice to play good ol’ Midwestern boy Nick, whose life took him to New York, where he met Amy, then back to Missouri, where he met unemployment. Affleck’s mysterious façade (an asset playing Bruce Wayne, as well) gives his face a kindly, yet villainous look. We dislike him, then we like him, then we hate him, then we love him – just like he says. When the cast was released, however, no choice was as unconventional as the casting of Tyler Perry (as high-profile attorney Tanner Bolt, who in the novel is a Southern white guy) and Neil Patrick Harris (as Amy’s jaded ex-boyfriend Desi Collings). Thankfully, they both turn out to be outstanding choices. Perry capitalizes on the extra wit Flynn adds to the script, and NPH never reveals his hand as the debonair Collings.
David Fincher already has a long résumé of incredible thrillers, like “Se7en” and “Fight Club.” Unfortunately, “Gone Girl” doesn’t reach that level of excellence. In my mind (and I think, soon, public opinion will agree), even Fincher’s last thrilling adaptation, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” was far superior. Still, “Gone Girl” is a marvel. Fincher’s twice-Oscar-nominated cinematographer and twice-awarded film editor team up again to create a deeply intimate movie-going experience. If you enjoyed the darkly twisted look and feel of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” the pit of your stomach will have the same feeling watching “Gone Girl.” It’ll give you those David Fincher chills.
There’s extra legitimacy in an adaptation’s script being written entirely by the novelist, and Gillian Flynn shows us why. Her vulgar and realistic novel becomes even more witty, more modern, more in-tune with today’s crowd than before. The smart script is well-paced, never wasting a single word on something that needn’t be said. It’s reminiscent of an Aaron Sorkin script, like in Fincher’s “The Social Network.” Every word and every action is under the microscope to create a tightly constructed story without a single boring second.
David Fincher can’t always top himself, but “Gone Girl” is an incredible reason to go to the movies and a beautiful way to start your Oscar season.
“Gone Girl” is in theaters.