“Have you ever heard the expression, the simplest answer is usually the right one?” “To be honest, I haven’t found that to be true.”
That exchange, between two police officers in David Fincher’s Gone Girl, highlights exactly what makes it one of the best movies of the year. The twists and turns are too numerous to count.
Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry, Gone Girl tells the story of a seemingly perfect couple, which is turned upside down when she goes missing.
Watch the trailer and then read my review.
Having read the book (written by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the screenplay) I was not surprised much by the twisting and tense plot of Gone Girl. It stays surprisingly close to the source material, which is a good thing.
But Flynn’s story is so well thought out that even when I knew how it was going to end, I remained tense the entire time.
The first hour of the movie plays out like a standard crime drama that almost gets kind of boring. The wife is missing and the husband looks guilty, something seen a million times.
But the second half becomes something entirely different and entertaining. I won’t spoil it here, but know that the trailer above doesn’t touch anything past the first 40 minutes.
But what makes Gone Girl so fascinating is the humour Flynn finds in such a dark story. Affleck brings his charm, which naturally rubs all the other characters the wrong way. And as the plot slowly unravels and characters begin to be seen in different light, Flynn’s writing again strikes the perfect balance from a psychopathic horror and a dark comedy.
The film opens with Affleck’s Nick Dunne stroking the hair of his wife, Amy (Pike) as he talks about cracking open her head to see what’s inside. We slowly learn that it’s their fifth wedding anniversary and that things have not been going well.
Then Amy goes missing.
As we see the evidence pile onto Nick, it becomes difficult for the audience to decide if they like him or not. He sure looks guilty, something Affleck plays up with Nick’s signature smile and loud, aggressive temper.
I can’t imagine anyone but Fincher directing this film and a lot of that has to do with the look of it. Everything is dark. There are shadows everywhere and even when it’s daytime, it’s dark. He sets the mood in a similar way to his last film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, where it seems all sunlight has disappeared and it works really well.
Affleck is perfectly cast as Nick. He looks like he’s described in the book: A big, good-looking guy with a killer smile who is either overly charming or under sympathetic depending on your view of him. His ability to switch anger on in a second is also an asset and played up a lot. Nick is supposed to look guilty and Affleck simply does.
But the star of the show and the one who should win an Oscar is Pike. Without going into spoilers, I will say that she plays Amy the way she is supposed to be played, subtle but confident. Her eyes pierce through any characters soul and her ability to be both charming and scary is something most actresses can’t do. She also went through some tremendous physical changes, gaining and losing weight as the movie went along, in a subtle but noticeable way.
Pike should be given more important roles after this movie too. She can act and is much more than the Bond girl most people know her as.
Adapting Gone Girl is difficult because the novel is written in a somewhat complex way. Each chapter alternates between Nick’s first person account in the present day and Amy’s first person account of their relationship up to the day in her diary. The movie employs a lot of subtitles to help the audience keep track of what day it is, which is the only way to present this type of narrative.
There is really no easy way to present a story laid out that way. Having read the book I was able to follow, but I am curious if the switch in perspectives and time frames confused anyone new to the material.
The commentary Gone Girl makes on marriage and the media, as well as its sort of open-ended ending, should give viewers plenty to speculate about. Gone Girl is the type of movie that will be talked about long after people walk out of the theater and it will certainly spark debates among people who like one character over another.
For that reason I recommend people go along for the ride with an open mind. What you’ll find are some of the most carefully crafted characters of the year, playing inside a horror drama that keeps you guessing.
With Gone Girl, David Fincher has done it again.