I didn't read the novel Gone Girl. I didn't even know Gillian Flynn's 2012 novel existed until I started seeing a few random cinephile blog posts about a possible new ending she was writing to her own adapted screenplay. But then I saw David Fincher's name attached as director. I sat up straight and paid attention. This was serious weight at the helm. Then I saw Ben Affleck's name- wait...huh? Fincher-Pitt...yes. Fincher-Penn...yes. Fincher-Affleck...uh, no.
Gone Girl, the film, is a story about the disappearance of Amy Elliot-Dunne, played with full force by Rosamund Pike. She and her husband Nick Dunne (Affleck) live in the small town of North Carthage, Missouri. The two met, and married, while living in New York City and working as magazine writers.
Nick was a transplant. Amy had the security of a trust fund thanks to her mother's (Lisa Banes) successful string of children's stories, loosely based on her Amy's childhood. Nick moved the two of them back to his hometown so he could care for his ailing mother. Amy didn't mind, although Nick never asked. After a morning spent with his twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon) at the bar they both own, Nick walks into his home to find a shattered coffee table and a missing wife. Local police are called. Days quickly go by. The investigation escalates. And soon enough Nick becomes the focus of the investigation into his wife's disappearance and a national media punching bag. Let the ride begin.
It has been quite a while that I've looked forward, or got juiced up, to see a film. Fincher is a director that has been close to greatness with his previous films (Se7en, Fight Club, The Game, The Social Network). His movies are spot on with the times, but he hasn't created a film that holds up well. A classic. He has received great acclaim and awards. His films are finely crafted and beautifully shot (this time with long-time collaborator Jeff Cronenweth, son of legendary cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth.). Recently, his musical collaborations with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have lent a serious new level to match the weight of his films. But they've always stopped short of great, often because of a too overbearing dark tone that covered up a great script and great acting.
That stops with Gone Girl. It is a dark and haunting film, but not because Fincher says it has to be, but because it calls for it. Fincher has grown to that level of great director that he understands that. This movie is his vision but it doesn't interrupt the story. There is total balance. To date it is his masterpiece.
Back the Fincher-Affleck combination. Affleck has always had the feel of an old school movie star-light. His choice of roles has been suspect. We'll wait and see on his turn as The Batman (his second go as a tight wearing good-guy, by the way.) But he owns his role as Nick Dunne. His character is handsome and charismatic and missing something inside. It's a role made for Affleck and he serves it well. It is not just Affleck that absorbs his character. So subtly believable is his twin sister Margo that you ride her emotions, hand-in-hand. Then there's Neil Patrick Harris as Desi, Amy Dunne's college boyfriend. His desperation, soaked by decades of the long lasting effect of their break-up, has everyone sympathizing with him, even as he does his best twist on Anthony Perkins.
Gone Girl is an old-fashioned thriller. A story begging for a big screen. There is plenty to pick on- the thin, generic take on small-town America, a New Orleans accent by way of Georgia, a few cardboard supporting characters. But this is on reflection. It is devilish, jump-in-your seat fun and it doesn't disappoint.
~ Wade Sellers