Last weekend we headed to the theater to see “Gone Girl,” a psycho thriller drama directed by David Fincher (“Fight Club,” “The Social Network”) and based on the novel by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the film’s screenplay. The movie stars Ben Affleck (“Argo,” “Pearl Harbor”) as a Missourian whose wife Rosamund Pike (“Pride and Prejudice,” “Jack Reacher”) goes missing.
It is always tempting, when facing a film with so much hype, to pick apart the tiniest problems and find the weakest spots to poke and prod. “Gone Girl” did not give me the chance to exercise this urge. From the opening moments, my heart began racing, I was literally moved to the edge of my seat, and the movie’s grim drama won me over. The first half is exhilarating and suspenseful as we follow Nick Dunne (Affleck) and the lead detective (Kim Dickens, “The Blind Side”) from clue to clue, turning corners with anxiety in a dark Missourian town. Even during lighthearted flashback scenes, the audience is kept on edge in the eerie lighting, whispered lines and the freaky falseness of a suburban marriage. Rosamund Pike is superb, delivering the most innocent lines with a low ghost-like drone. Affleck, who always seems awkward as a leading man, is perfect as a bumbling masculine fool. Neil Patrick Harris shows up later on as Amy’s suspicious ex-boyfriend. He can’t quite shed the comical smirk on his face left over from “How I Met Your Mother” and Broadway performances; Harris is creepy, but too glitzy for a film where everything else is shrouded in gloom. The plot twist itself is not wholly unexpected, but the way the film manipulates its audience into seeing everything in the wrong light is masterful and delightful. David Fincher is known for these kinds of mind games, and even though I suspected what was coming, I was happy to be whisked along in shock and abandon. The end of the movie includes some irritating humor that feels inappropriately placed, as if it’s trying to preempt the audience’s reaction to the absurdity of the film’s finale. The ending is absurd, but it is also horrific and frightening. Fincher and Flynn would have done better to let the film end the way it began: in darkness.
“Gone Girl” is truly a sum of its parts, and by parts I mean actors. While I normally cannot stand Ben Affleck, his work as Nick Dunne surprised me. I thoroughly enjoyed how he fumbled his way through Amy’s disappearance, making mistakes at every turn. I also enjoyed how he interacted with the magnificent Rosamund Pike, who is truly the star of the show. She takes the role of Amy Dunne and runs with it. While there is not much variety in Amy’s moods or expressions, Pike is able to work with the cold exterior/interior provided by Gillian Flynn, turning it into something magnificent. Acting is definitely not the problem with this movie, as each of the characters, except Neil Patrick Harris at times, brings something unique and interesting to the movie. The real problem lies in the fact that, while a movie can bring a book to life, it will never be able to replace the complexities of writing. This is fundamentally a story about Nick and Amazing Amy. As you can see from the numerous trailers that have been circulating, a large portion of this film is devoted to the process of trying to find out what happened to Amy. While this storyline could easily follow the traditional narrative of a missing persons film, Flynn’s source material is full of twists that take the reader/viewer to places that they could not have predicted. The best translation from text to film is the inclusion of flashbacks and journal entries. We are able to witness what is happening in the present, but these scenes are accompanied by Amy’s journal entries about a happier past. This contrast is helpful in establishing Amy and Nick as characters who are/were genuinely in love. Please go see “Gone Girl.” At this point, it doesn’t matter if you have read the book because the film is something in itself.
More like “Gone Girl”: “American Beauty,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “Tell No One”