Gone Girl

Posted by Joel Copling on October 2, 2014

"Gone Girl" is a game. A labyrinth. It's fitting that the director from whom it hails, David Fincher, has made a career of movies about characters obsessed or unsettled. This is a new stage of "unsettled," for "Gone Girl" is twisted--not the fun kind of twisted, either, but a sickening sort. First, the good: This is an impeccably crafted piece of work. Fincher's precision as a director runs deep (unless one, like me, had a problem with saggy, soggy material in 2011's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" remake), and his and editor Kirk Baxter's pacing is reflective of that. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross's score is cunning and brilliant, underlining every scene with suspense, whatever the tone of the sequence in which it appears. Jeff Cronenweth's lantern-lit lensing is gorgeous. Even the savvy art direction is precise.

The problem is the tone to which Fincher and screenwriter Gillian Flynn (adapting her own, wildly popular book) clearly aspire. In one corner, we have a mystery: Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) is missing. Her well-to-do husband Nick (Ben Affleck) is fairly worried. It's their fifth wedding anniversary today, and Nick just went to the beach to be alone and then to The Bar, his and his twin sister Margo's (Carrie Coon) popular bar in town. He returned home to find the cat wandering about the perimeter of their comfy home and a glass-strewn mess in the living room. The two detectives who come to call (Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit, both phenomenal in roles that could have gone wrong) are both helpful and suspicious of Nick's apparent ignorance of the most basic knowledge a husband should have about his wife.

In the second corner, we have the occasions of satire and aspirations to social/political commentary: The stories told and flashbacks shown that chronicle Nick and Amy's initial Meet-Cute at a party (They are both writers and so connect on that basis) and burgeoning relationship that leads to marriage are illuminating and sweet-natured. As the marriage deepens, Nick's darker shades are slowly revealed, a "perfect" marriage picked at until it crumbles. The commentary here is obvious, so this won't be the review to spell it out, but it dictates the purported motivation later nevertheless. Meanwhile, a pair of TV hosts (played by Missi Pyle and Sela Ward) would just love to engage this Scott-and-Lori-Peterson-type mystery as the national-news farce they see it to be. Did Nick kill Amy? What is he hiding? Furthermore, why are he and--again--twin sister Margo that close? None of it matters to these two; the film is surprisingly accurate in assuming that it's all for the ratings.

In the third corner, we have the actors. Affleck has that knack for playing handsome men with something like gravitas in the glint in his eyes; he does that here to wonderful effect. Pike is effective in a role that has many sides and motivations. Coon is outstanding and--it must be said--awards-worthy as Margo, and the two have such a naturalistic rapport ("I've been with you since before we were born," she says) that it's hard to believe they aren't actually twins. Tyler Perry has a fun supporting role as a lawyer who takes to Nick's case immediately, Scoot McNairy has an invigorating cameo as a man from Amy's past, Neil Patrick Harris is suave as another one, and Casey Wilson is terrifically dimwitted as a local yokel.

In the fourth corner, we have The Reveal. You know the kind. It either makes or breaks the film to which it belongs, and in this case, the truths revealed and moral lines drawn are sort of despicable. It becomes about a game with an unbelievably twisted punchline and a regressive, insulting view of the sexes. It relegates itself to a labyrinth on which we the audience must tread through puddles of sick to a positive mountain of the stuff. The direction in which this narrative goes is horrifyingly, forbiddingly cold and unfeeling, refusing to engage its audience on an emotional level beyond the superficially (and insultingly) "shocking." The further down the rabbit hole it goes, the less one wants to know the destination. Fitting that the destination is as cruel as it is obvious.

Film Information

Ben Affleck (Nick Dunne), Rosamund Pike (Amy Dunne), Carrie Coon (Margo Dunne), Kim Dickens (Det. Rhonda Boney), Patrick Fugit (Ofc. Jim Gilpin), Neil Patrick Harris (Desi Collings), Tyler Perry (Tanner Bolt), David Clennon (Rand Elliot), Lisa Banes (Marybeth Elliot), Lola Kirke (Greta), Boyd Holbrook (Jeff), Missi Pyle (Ellen Abbott), Casey Wilson (Noelle Hawthorne), Emily Ratajkowski (Andie Hardy), Scoot McNairy (Tommy O'Hara), Sela Ward (Sharon Schieber).

Directed by David Fincher and written by Gillian Flynn, based on the novel by Flynn.

Rated R (bloody violence, sexual content/nudity, language).

149 minutes.

Released on October 3, 2014.