David Fincher can do anything he wants in my opinion. If he wants to do Star Wars, let him do Star Wars. If he wants to tackle a full season of HBO television like True Detective, by all means do it. Fincher has this beautiful, yet blunt ability to dig deeper into a story and draw out every wonderful or excruciating detail and throw a spotlight on it. Okay, maybe more excruciating than anything, but his ability to present several angles fleshes out all this stories and makes them memorable at the very least. Gone Girl is no exception. This movie resonated with me for hours after I left the theater. This dark portrait on a marriage, first impressions and snap judgements in a media dominated society enthralled me for the two hours plus in the theater. While it may not ever hit that final gear in gripping the audience, you will walk out of the theater eager to discuss with your fellow moviegoers.
Gone Girl is based off the novel by Gillian Flynn (who also adapted it to screen) and follows the events in the life of Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and Amy Dunne (the perfectly cast Rosamund Pike). The thing is, Amy has just disappeared on their fifth anniversary, and Nick’s life and actions begin to unravel him and the people that surround him. Certain secrets come to light and it becomes clear that perhaps he should be the one that is looked at by the authorities. Of course, we get a voiceover from Amy recounting her diary and the terrific first years that descended slowly into the hell her marriage has turned out to be. This is truly an actor’s showcase as Ben Affleck works his way through the first act as a charming yet secretive cad who seemingly cannot get out of his own way. Affleck projects both the clueless angle, and the suspicious ‘suspect number one’ as the investigation goes on. His sister Margo (played by Carrie Coon) plays well off her “dumbass” brother and lets it fly when he needs to be straightened out. The detectives on the case are Rhonda (Kim Dickens) and Jim (Patrick Fugit), and as they work through the case trying to decipher the motives and odd circumstances that continue to pop up. We also get Neil Patrick Harris showing up as ex-boyfriend Desi Collins, a lost love that felt jilted by Amy and seeming just a bit too interested in the events that have occurred, and Tyler Perry ditching the Madea garb to play a defense attorney ready to play miracle worker. There are a lot of people involved, but let’s throw this out there: this movie doesn’t go anywhere unless Amy Elliott Dunne is in good hands and projects off the screen. And holy crap, Rosamund Pike is perfection.
Pike’s Amy plays self-assured, scared, determined and focused and her performance is incredible. We get her perspective in the second act through a series of flashback narrations from her diary. The events that led up to her disappearance, watching it all unfold is a testament to her acting, Fincher’s direction, and Flynn’s script. Amy Elliott Dunne is terrific and she deserves all the praise she’s going to get come awards season. I haven’t seen a commanding performance like that in a long time, and as we see her change from New York writer to trapped housewife in middle America, she becomes the very thing she fears and refuses to let that define her. The script is very good and the pacing of the movie is surprisingly brisk for the almost two and a half hour movie. There are a few lulls once we transition from the second to third act, but that third act really does bring it home. The movie also hovers near the point of excellence but never seems to try to rise above it. The peaks, while very good, don’t resonate before moving on to the next point in the story as there are a lot of moving story pieces to juggle. Fincher gets everything out there in terms of atmosphere and acting and, it resonates but you do ask yourself if he’s truly at his best here. Maybe we’ve been spoiled by Se7en, Fight Club or the underrated Zodiac, but those stories felt more consistently impactful throughout. And while I enjoyed Gone Girl, the impact was felt more after the last act and exiting the theater than anything earlier in the movie. Regardless, he still gets the best out of his actors and establishes the right type of dark atmosphere for this cynical look at relationships and American media so he should be lauded for that. Having the Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross score of electronic pulses and jarring sounds helps the atmosphere too, but doesn’t seem anything too different than what we heard from them in The Social Network and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Regardless, this is one of the best movies to see this year and I have a feeling we will be talking about Rosamund Pike’s performance for a very long time. While I did feel the desire of wanting more, this is a more than satisfying take on the breakdown of a marriage and the consequences of people’s actions. Of course, there is some talk of the movie being sexist, or having certain gender role undertones but I never thought anything of that. Yeah, Ben Affleck plays an aloof selfish dick, and Rosamund Pike does bring uppity New York bitch into moments of this movie, but I think it would be irresponsible to label it as “guy is a dick” and “girl is a bitch” corners. I don’t think the movie’s intention was to say one acts like this because of a stereotype. I do think it’s a fascinating take on how some marriages can try to, or maybe force change, into people and in this case, how life changing these decisions can be.
The portrait of marriage is always a complicated one, and this one will definitely cause everyone to look deeply to figure out what is below the surface.
Images: 20th Century Fox