Sunday, October 5, 2014

Review: Gone Girl

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
David Fincher's "Gone Girl," adapted from Gillian Flynn's blockbuster novel of the same name, is a riveting thriller in the vein of the filmmaker's other whodunits, but the director has also used the novel's story to create a brutal portrayal of a toxic marriage and include somewhat of an indictment against the information age, from its round-the-clock news coverage to the constant technological plugged-in-ness of the American public.

The film opens with a shot of the back of the head of the titular woman, Amy (Rosamund Pike) is the spoiled daughter of two New Yorkers who have created a children's book titled "Amazing Amy" that left her with a sense of entitlement, but also the impossible task of attempting to live up to that beloved fictional character. As we see Amy's head, we hear the voice of her husband, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), who tells us rather ominously how he'd like to crack open her head to see what she was thinking.

For those unaware with Flynn's novel, Amy disappears one morning and the first half of the novel - and Fincher's film - are a police procedural during which Nick attempts to help two detectives - Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens), who is sort of sympathetic to Nick, and Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit), who is not - solve the case before then becoming the focus of it.

Nick's ability to charm the ladies and his stiff demeanor at press conferences calling for Amy's safe return certainly don't help his case much. And the news portrays Nick in the typical trial-by-media fashion that you might expect. But Fincher not only takes aim at the state of the media, but also those who engage with it. During one particularly telling scene, Nick drives by the tavern he runs with his sister Margo (Carrie Coon) known as The Bar and spots crowds waiting outside of it and people taking selfies of the establishment possibly operated by a murderer.

During the picture's first hour, the narrative is split up between Nick's coping with Amy's disappearance and flashbacks to the couple's courtship, marriage, financial woes and move to Missouri to care for Nick's ailing mother. Some of the scenes are narrated by Amy from a diary she kept hidden that is later discovered by the police. By her accounts, the relationship took a turn for the sour once they arrived in Missouri and she left clues that her life might have been in danger.

There is a significant twist that occurs about halfway through the movie that I clearly can't give away. However, this twist also makes it difficult to discuss the perceived themes of the film and limits what I can say about the narrative. Regardless, it was a bit of a doozy when I read Flynn's novel about a year and a half ago and it's handled well in the film.

"Gone Girl" is a dark disturbing film, which should come as no surprise considering Fincher has specialized in sinister stories, including the brilliant "Zodiac" and "Seven." There are certainly some wicked characters in his latest picture, but "Gone Girl" is just as unsettling in what it implies as in what it shows. It's a strong thriller, but probably the worst date movie of the year.

Affleck gives one of his finest performances as Nick and Fincher plays upon the actor's laid back approach to great effect. Pike is pretty terrific as well and the picture is loaded with solid supporting performances, including Dickens' detective, Tyler Perry as a sleazy lawyer who gets some of the best lines and Neil Patrick Harris as Amy's stalkerish ex-boyfriend.

On the surface, "Gone Girl" is a stylish thriller with a twist, but beyond that it's also a very dark comedy about failed relationships and the current state of the media. I know, that last one sounds like a drag, but Fincher's take on the information age might shock you in how precise it is.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed the book and am looking forward to the movie. Great review.