Release: Friday, October 3, 2014
Written by: Gillian Flynn
Directed by: David Fincher
Not to be confused with the Ben Affleck-directed Gone Baby Gone from 2007, Gone Girl is yet another exceptionally entertaining thriller from David Fincher, a director guilty of association . . . with rock-solid filmmaking, that is.
I don’t know why that would be confusing, but for some reason lately I have been having trouble untangling the two names. Since seeing the recent adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel I have also come into the understanding that the film experience is merely half the picture; that reading what Flynn is able to elucidate in greater detail in print is somehow more compelling than the visual spectacle of Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike operating at extremely high levels.
Right now it feels as though I’m trying to compare a giant to a goliath. Whatever it is about the novel that makes it so great I can’t exactly attest to but I know what I saw in this film and I understand the anticipation for Gone Girl has been unlike many other films this year, save for the latest Hunger Games installment and the upcoming Chris Nolan spectacular. What I also know is that Big Bat Ben has been able to explain his dry, bland style of acting a little better to me in recent years, perhaps speaking up a bit louder with this role. Stepping in front of the cameras rather than remaining behind them in the midst of a hot streak as director, Affleck plays Nick Dunne, husband to Amy (Pike) and soon-to-be pariah of the national media in the wake of his wife’s strange disappearance.
On the day of the Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary, Nick comes home to find an open front door, some smashed glass on the floor and a house devoid of that breeze of blonde hair. As far as appearances are concerned, she’s gone. A husband in immediate panic begins the search for his dearly beloved on solid ground, recruiting locals to help in a missing persons rescue effort. Sure footing and stable ground are soon lost, though, as his cooperation with Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and her partner (Patrick Fugit) is overcome with an awkwardness that’s difficult to put a finger on.
The first of many pressing questions that naturally arises is one of a judgment upon his character. Is he having this much difficulty processing his current reality, or is there something more to him that we ought to be afraid of? As the story unfolds, we are forced into questioning far more than his character.
David Fincher — excuse me, Gillian Flynn — is fascinated with subtlety. Flynn knows that in this world, under these circumstances, it’s not necessarily what you say that gets you into trouble, it can also be what you don’t say. Physical gestures speak volumes. A side long glance can mean one thing, a weird stutter something else. There should be a code word for how ingenious Flynn’s screenplay really is.
As the circumstances and evidence begin to pile up against Mr. Dunne, Nick’s behavior only increases in bizarreness. From our point of view, a more forgiving one than that of media pundit Ellen Abbott (Missi Pyle) — a woman who makes Nancy Grace seem pleasant by comparison — the severity of the situation is running him ragged. How one is supposed to handle themselves in the public eye in these situations, I don’t know. This is merely one question Fincher and Flynn in tandem aim at getting to the bottom of.
In the hands of others, Gone Girl does have the potential to become an unwieldy, even pretentious machine. It isn’t enough to simply peg contemporary (televised) media as something of a gladiatorial arena in which the individuals being examined are paraded out in front of the masses only to be slaughtered on live television in the form of brutal interviews. No, it’s the institution of marriage and how we act as a society — at least, as society pertains to American culture — that also comes under fire. Under Fincher’s direction and in Flynn’s mind, the two go hand-in-hand. What better way to link the frenzied collective’s desire to revert back to Salem Witch trial tendencies in the face of such confronting aberration. A husband who has not only seemed to have made his wife vanish into thin air also admits to have cheated on her beforehand? That’s not good. That’s actually really not good.
Gone Girl is extremely ambitious, but never does it overreach. It’s as entertaining as it is perplexing and disturbing. It’s also surprisingly witty. Affleck’s reactions to certain situations, while may not be appropriate, often conjure up some laughs that feel earned rather than forced upon the scene. There’s nothing humorous about a loved one going missing. But of a film that manages to reflect the fine details of how we as people are able to judge so quickly without knowing the full story, the entertainment value skyrockets. It’s a police procedural, murder mystery and a dark comedy all rolled into one. What a beautiful matrimony.
Recommendation: Gone Girl appears to be one of the first truly great films of the fall season. Readers of the book have been singing the film’s praises already for its authentication. Not a surprise when the novelist also penned the script but there are often times when that transition is not so naturally made. Here it’s clear there is natural harmony. I at times get ancy with films running over two hours (his 2007 crime drama Zodiac is a good example, despite its strong narrative) but here I hated the fact I was watching the end credits already. I wanted more. I think Mr. Fincher has a tendency to do that.
Running Time: 145 mins.
Quoted: “I’m so much happier now that I’m dead.”
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