Gone Girl is the latest film from director David Fincher. One of my favorites, Fincher went from making commercials and music videos in the 80s, to directing a shitty franchise movie (Alien3) and two terrific Brad Pitt entries (Se7en, Fight Club) in the 90s, before settling in for a terrific run of stylish, smart, distinctly adult movies highlighted by 2007’s Zodiac and 2010’s The Social Network. The current decade has seen Fincher adapting other people’s work, starting with the solid if unnecessary American version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and the Netflix binge-watching juggernaut House of Cards.
Which brings us to Gone Girl, the Fincher-directed adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best-selling novel. I haven’t read the book, but I hear the movie remains largely faithful (Flynn did write the screenplay, after all). If that’s true, then Fincher has found the best source material match for his artistic sensibilities since Fight Club.
The movie stars Ben Affleck as Nick and Rosamund Pike as Amy, a seemingly happily married couple about to celebrate five years of marriage. Amy has an anniversary tradition of leaving a treasure hunt for her husband, but for this fifth installment she pulls an even better trick — the lady vanishes. Nick comes home to find a wife-less house and a smashed coffee table. What happened?
Confused, Nick calls in the cops (Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit), who quickly start to focus on him as the main suspect. It doesn’t help matters that Amy is famous for being the inspiration behind a series of children’s books written by her parents (Lisa Banes and David Clennon), and the disappearance quickly becomes a tabloid sensation. A line of TV vans soon lines the street in front of the couple’s beautiful suburban home, and the sad family goes before the cameras to plead for anyone with information to come forward.
It’s funny how those cameras work. People see what they want to see, and a poorly timed smile can soon have the conspiratorial masses calling for your head. As the world turns on Nick (led by a particularly vile Nancy Grace parody played by a spot-on Missi Pyle), he seeks help from a slick, high-profile lawyer (Tyler Perry) and his twin sister Margot (Carrie Coon), though she too becomes a target of the cops. Is she really an accessory to murder? And what is Nick hiding, because the dude is clearly up to something. But what? And where the hell did Amy’s body go, anyway?
You don’t actually expect me to tell you, right?
If you’ve read the book you already know how it plays out. For everyone else, hold on tight, as Gone Girl is a twisty labyrinth of a flick that works both as a pulp/noir thriller and a heady deconstruction of a modern marriage. Like all really good movies, Gone Girl plays on some very tangible fears — Do I really know my partner? What if they are capable of murder? — and spins them into grand entertainment. This movie really works.
Ben Affleck gives about as good a performance as he’s capable of giving — and I say that as a fan (though one who is dreading Batman vs. Superman). He has to hold down the center of the film, conveying a whole bevy of emotions while inspiring both sympathy and doubt from the audience. It’s an acting tightrope walk and he makes it across to the other side with aplomb. I was maybe a hair less impressed with Pike as Amy, but I can’t really explain what I mean without ruining the movie. She’s good, make no mistake about it, but I had some issues. Find me on Facebook if you want to talk about what I mean after you see the movie.
The rest of the cast is all excellent, though I would single out Dickens as the lead detective, who is riveting every time she appears on screen.
I’ve already mentioned my love of all things Fincher, and Gone Girl fits right into his first class filmography. Is it a big Oscar contender like the hype says? Hard to say (the season is just getting started), but I’m inclined to doubt it. This film — and Fincher’s whole career in general — is just too much twisted fun for the Academy. You’re going to love it, though.
4 out of 5 stars
Rated R. Directed by David Fincher. Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, and Tyler Perry. Opens Fri., Oct. 3.