Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars
It’s the most wonderful time of the year here in New York. Everything’s pumpkin flavored, the tourist crowd is momentarily lighter and last Friday David Fincher’s diabolical new thriller, Gone Girl, kicked off the 2014 New York Film Fest starting the ‘Oscar Season’ in earnest. Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name is a genuine roller coaster of a film in the best sense of the word. With it’s time-bending structure, strong cast, yellow tinged scenes and another powerful Trent Reznor score, Gone Girl has everything we’ve come to expect from the director of The Social Network and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, while offering its own set of shocks.
Gone Girl begins as Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) contemplates violently opening the back of his wife Amy’s head. What’s going on in there? Turns out it’s a valid question, albeit phrased threateningly by Nick, as Amy (Rosamund Pike) vanishes on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary. Amidst signs of a struggle. Unsurprisingly a gorgeous blond, on whom it turns out a beloved children’s book series is based no less, the disappearance of “Amazing Amy” kicks into gear the type of journalistic circus we’ve seen play out countless times in American media. The prayer vigils and self-righteous angry moms come out in full force and Amy’s parents crop up with a website uncomfortably quickly for such a sudden loss don’t you think?
Amidst the chaos is Nick who, like many husbands I would guess in this situation, isn’t PR savvy. As such any fleeting smile of Nick’s is immortalized in a selfie and plastered on every TV screen in the country as proof that he is surely a sociopath. But whether or not he is is something much of the film hinges on and watching Nick being trained how to appear not guilty while we’re also not quite sure of his innocence is a fascinating line that Affleck and Fincher tread together.
By all accounts Fincher and writer Gillian Flynn had a monster of a book to adapt in Flynn’s popular novel and what’s stunning is not just how well the adaptation works but on how many levels it successfully operates on. We begin with a compelling love story that evolves into a dissection of marriage in all its facets, a thrilling possible-murder mystery, a scathing indictment of American national media and…well to go much further I’d wade into spoiler territory and honestly, this film is best experienced without them. People usually say the book is better, or read the book first, but if you’ve made it to the film’s release as I had, save the visit to the library till afterwards when you’ll be dying to find out more anyway.
What I will say is that the massive supporting cast is uniformly incredible from Casey Wilson as the Dunne’s busybody neighbor to Missi Pyle’s vicious TV ditz Ellen Abbott. Poor Pyle, how much Nancy Grace did she have to subject herself to? I shudder to think. Carrie Coon too as Nick’s sister Margo deserves praise for having the difficult task of balancing her love of her brother with a seemingly endless parade of damning information. Her Margo along with lead investigator Detective Boney (played by Kim Dickens) give the audience some desperately needed level-heads to rely on on the constantly shifting field Fincher constructs.
But the main attractions here are Affleck and Pike. The evolution these two must go through from well-integrated flashbacks of their romance to the harsher recent times is as believable as it is chilling. I would say this isn’t the best ‘date movie’ for couples, but then hopefully that’s not what one looks for in the director of Se7en. Pike in particular has the difficult task of selling much of Amy’s story in voice-overs from her journal but she completely owns it. Amy’s actual fate too allows Pike to turn in a jaw dropping performance that even those familiar with her career so far, will find themselves seeing her in a whole new light.