Another Fincher Classic
Do you really know the person you sleep beside? The partner you met years ago has changed. To be fair, so have you. Maybe she’s slowly moving in one toothbrush / hairdryer / makeup kit at a time. Maybe he’s going to the gym less and eating out more. Maybe someone is resenting the other. With his latest thriller Gone Girl, director David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network) explores the ever changing temperature of a relationship with dark humor, pitch perfect direction and exceptional pacing. An automatic top five movie of the year.
Ben Affleck plays Nick Dunne, a New York based columnist who comes home one day to find his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike) missing. Like any potential kidnapping, Nick becomes the case’s top suspect. As we watch the story escalate from local to national sensation, we also learn about Nick and Amy’s devolving relationship via flashback. As the story picks up steam, we learn things aren’t quite what they seem in the Dunne household which leads to a number of startling realizations.
Yep, that synopsis is vague, but half the fun is going in completely blind. The plot, adapted for the screen by the novel’s author (Gillian Flynn), is my first lock for a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination of 2014. Full of twists, turns and unexpected moments, the script is unpredictable, making the film’s lengthy 149 runtime fly by. Flynn also has a knack for brisk, witty dialogue that helps create excellent pacing. Calling this “edge of your seat’ cinema is an understatement.
As the male lead, Affleck is perfectly suitable as the doting and oft clueless husband. The scandal swirls around him and just like his role in Argo, Affleck is best when he’s the anchor for the cast to work around. The real star is Rosamund Pike as his wife. A far cry from her past life as a Bond girl, Pike is exquisite in a complicated, nuanced role. As the film’s secrets unfold, Pike transitions from hapless victim to a modern day Scarlett O’Hara with controlled intensity.
Fincher also wrangles unbelievable performances from a knockout supporting cast. Tyler Perry is perfectly cast as Nick’s celebrity lawyer and Neil Patrick Harris creates a creepy vibe as Amy’s obsessive ex-boyfriend. Carrie Coon in particular is sensational as Nick’s barkeep sister. She excels at being Nick’s emotional bedrock and just may get a backwards glance for a Best Supporting award.
In the director’s chair, Fincher cements his reputation as the most consistent auteur working today. Like everything in the director’s impressive filmography, Gone Girl is flawlessly crafted. His signature stark, cold cinematography grounds the exaggerated nature of the story. Everything seems familiar yet oddly surreal. Much like American Beauty, it’s real life multiplied by a factor of 1.25.
But this isn’t a simple whodunit. Gone Girl is chock full of interesting themes. Each one, from the pressures of long term relationships to the media’s influence on public opinion, is examined with intelligence and honesty. Luckily, the heavy stuff is coated with a surprising amount of gallows humor. I haven’t laughed his much with a Fincher film since Fight Club.
And the accolades roll on and on. The award worthy editing maintains a brisk pace, Trent Reznor’s minimal soundtrack creates an eerie mood and the dark humor gives the movie life and energy. On par with The Social Network and his most complete work since Zodiac, David Fincher as done it again. Meaty, funny and splendidly acted, Gone Girl is an entrancing trip into the depths of a relationship gone horribly wrong. Just fight the urge to check under your partner’s pillow upon coming home from the theater. I swear, it’s just a movie.
Score: 9.5 out of 10
The Penis Addendum: Much ado has been made about Ben Affleck’s privates getting an extended cameo in Gone Girl. In the interest of journalistic integrity, I made a point to watch for it and found nothing. There may have been a hint of a phallic shadow in one scene, but nothing on par with the end of Boogie Nights. Sorry, female fans. Rumors of an Affleck crotch shot have been grossly exaggerated. Maybe in the unrated Blu-Ray edition.