Director: David Fincher
Screenwriter: Gillian Flynn
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit
20th Century Fox
Rated R | 149 Minutes
Release Date: October 3, 2014
“Love is the world’s infinite mutability; lies, hatred, murder even, are all knit up in it; it is the inevitable blossoming of its opposites, a magnificent rose smelling faintly of blood.” – Tony Kushner, The Illusion
Directed by David Fincher, Gone Girl is based on the 2012 novel by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the screenplay. A dark, ominous mystery-thriller, Gone Girl fits perfectly within Fincher’s stylized oeuvre, which includes modern masterpieces like Se7en, The Game, Fight Club, and Zodiac.
On the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) discovers that his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), is missing. Under pressure from the police and a growing media frenzy, Nick’s portrait of a perfect marriage begins to disintegrate. Soon his lies, deceits, and erratic behavior have everyone asking, “Did Nick Dunne kill his wife?”
Flynn’s story deals in dishonesty, exploring the psychology and dynamics of an unhappy marriage with not one, but two unreliable narrators. Nick and Amy take turns telling their side of the story, changing the facts as they see fit. Just when we’re starting to believe Nick’s story, he reveals that he’s having an affair with Andie, one of his students at the community college where he teaches.
So, is Nick Dunne a murderer, or simply misunderstood? Is he a loving spouse, or an abusive adulterer? One thing’s for sure, he’s undeniably unreliable – and so is Amy. Amy Elliott Dunne is the All-American Girl. She’s funny, smart, and absolutely gorgeous. For Christ’s sake, she’s the inspiration for the popular children’s book series Amazing Amy – how could she not be amazing?
Amy’s narration comes from her diary, where she has detailed every aspect of her relationship with Nick up until her disappearance. We learn all about the couple’s romantic beginnings and the unfortunate circumstances that turned Nick into a cruel, unhinged husband. If this wasn’t convincing enough, her final entry ends with, “This man of mine may kill me.”
The audience is caught in the middle of a “he said, she said” argument between a detached, unemotional husband and an absent wife – and Fincher himself proves unreliable as well, expertly manipulating us to accept everything he’s showing us as fact. It’s all very intriguing and suspenseful, with a darkly comedic edge. Of course the film wouldn’t work at all without two great performances at its center from Affleck and Pike. This is probably Affleck’s finest work as an actor – certainly his best since 2006’s Hollywoodland. Affleck immerses himself within Nick’s many layers and delivers a performance with real depth.
As for Rosamund Pike, you’ve seen her in films like 2005’s Pride & Prejudice, Jack Reacher, and The World’s End, but Gone Girl is her first breakout role. She completely disappears into the part of Amy Dunne, effortlessly switching between the “Cool Girl” – the girl she thought Nick wanted – and the aloof and unsociable “Real Amy.” To say anything more about the intricacies of her performance would spoil the narrative, but it’s clear that Pike is Hollywood’s next leading lady.
There are two other performances worth mentioning: Neil Patrick Harris as Desi Collings, an ex-boyfriend from Amy’s past, and Tyler Perry as Tanner Bolt, Nick’s attorney. NPH shows some real dramatic range as a former stalker who suddenly resurfaces when Amy disappears while Tyler Perry – best known for performing in drag as Madea – impresses as a hotshot celebrity lawyer. With supporting performances by Scoot McNairy, Patrick Fugit, Kim Dickens, Casey Wilson, and Missi Pyle, Fincher has put together one hell of an ensemble to bring Flynn’s story to life.
Gone Girl is smart, sleek, and dangerous. An indictment of the media and a disturbing examination of the institution of marriage, Fincher’s latest is without question one of the best films of 2014 and will certainly be in the running for Golden Globes and Oscars come awards season. Fincher’s exhaustive directing process demands hundreds of takes, but if it’s his obsession with perfection that has yielded such a brilliant work in Gone Girl, then it’s a process that more filmmakers should consider.
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