Friday, October 3, 2014

Gone Girl

GONE GIRL: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens, Neil Patrick Harris, directed by David Fincher (149 min.)

I must tread lightly here.

Gone Girl is a film which relies and flourishes on twists and turns, so virtually any attempt to lay out plot beyond a certain point in the story would be to ruin the entire thing.  I read Gillian Flynn's novel this summer, so I knew everything that was coming.  And yet, with all of the information stored away in my brain, I still found myself staring aghast at the screen as the wildly outlandish story unfolded.  That is a testament to the direction of the great David Fincher and to everyone in the cast.  Perhaps Gone Girl isn't the best of Fincher, perhaps it is, I don't really know.  What I do know is that everyone, yes everyone, should see this film simply to gaze upon the insanity.  And if you don't see it, you will be missing out on what will undoubtedly be the most talked about film of 2014.

The adaptation remains urgently faithful to Flynn's novel.  Ben Affleck stars as Nick Dunne, an aloof Midwestern hunk who moves to New York to be a writer for a men's magazine.  This is where he meets Amy, played by the open-faced Rosamund Pike.  Amy is a trust-fund baby who's parents made a boatload of cash selling out her childhood in the form of children's books, a series known as the "Amazing Amy" series.  Amy is sophisticated, beautiful, and Nick is smitten from the start.  Their romance is told through flashbacks of Amy's diary entries which detail the rise and fall of their marriage.

In the present, Nick and Amy have moved back to Nick's hometown in Missouri.  Both laid off from their writing jobs in the midst of the recession, the couple live in a rented mini-mansion in a town that is crippled by job loss.  Nick teaches at a local community college and runs a bar where his twin sister, Margot (Carrie Coon), tends.  It is the morning of Nick and Amy's fifth anniversary when she mysteriously disappears.  There are signs of a struggle inside the house, albeit suspicious signs.  Nick calls the police and they begin their investigation.  Detective Rhonda Boney, played wonderfully by Kim Dickens, wants to believe Nick had nothing to do with Amy's disappearance.  Officer Jim Gilpin, played by an all-grown-up Patrick Fugit from Almost Famous, wants to throw the book at Nick, especially once the evidence begins mounting to increasingly incriminating degrees.

Nick seems detached from the events, and Affleck's wooden acting is purposeful and effective.  Certain elements arise and place the blame at his feet over and over; but still, no body and no murder weapon are recovered.  The plot thickens, and thickens, and thickens some more, and the media sinks their claws into this in disturbingly realistic ways in our modern news culture.  Nick is vilified on a Nancy Grace type news program, and he makes mistakes along the way.  The mystery remains impenetrable and curious, and the toxicity of the media becomes a focal point in what Fincher is trying to exploit with his story.

This is where I must abandon any storytelling, because what ends up happening is a fascinating twist that Flynn should be most proud of as a writer.  While the plot is simple, the twists are outlandish, and Fincher recognizes this.  The tone of his picture shifts from ominous and threatening to take on an offbeat and sardonic pitch.  Believe it or not, there are some amusing moments along the way, even though the events are sometimes horrific when considered.  And, once again, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have supplied the score for a Fincher film, having already done the score for The Social Network and The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo.  This time around, they have topped their own work.

Fans of the novel version of Gone Girl should not shy away from this screen adaptation.  Despite knowing all the moves that are coming, Fincher's direction is masterful in keeping tension, humor, and fascination at the forefront.  Affleck is perfect in the lead role, and Carrie Coon, who plays his spitfire twin sister Margot (Go) is worthy of a supporting actress nomination.  Rosamund Pike has never impressed me until now, as her wide-eyed gaze fits the role of Amazing Amy.  Tyler Perry is a great twist to the casting as Nick's hotshot New York attorney, Tanner Bolt, and Neil Patrick Harris is chillingly effective as a rich former boyfriend of Amy.

Gone Girl is a testament to the media world we live in now, full of tension and humor and great performances.  Everyone should at least take a look, so they won't be left out of the conversations by the water cooler.