By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, Carrie Coon, and Emily Ratajkowski
Well, it has arrived. People around this site and people who have been reading my reviews for the over two years since I’ve been here know how I feel about hype. The more you hype a movie up with me, the more I will turn away. This is why I like to go to screenings. Because not only do I have the ability to write reviews based on the experiences with you dear readers, I can avoid the majority of people telling me a certain film is the best ever before seeing it. The one rule exception I make is when it comes to the work of a director known as David Fincher. Whether it is him going out and giving insightful interviews within the media circuit for junkets associated with his films -in this latest one, he called comic book films ‘dull’- or simply letting the films speak for themselves, there aren’t many years like the ones in which a film stamped with Fincher’s name as director comes out. And, while my 2004 self cannot believe I am going to say this, the same can be said for a movie involving Gone Girl’s main player Ben Affleck. Winning Oscars for what he is doing behind the camera, this is his last role before the hype magnet behind the film Batman vs Superman pulls itself into full throttle come next year. Given these two circumstances, I was very much looking forward to Gone Girl
Yet with this anticipation comes regret. Every morning I have woken up for the past year, I see a copy of Gillian Flynn’s original 2012 book this film is based on staring me in the face. But with everything going on in my professional life and all these damn Game of Thrones books taking up most of my time, even though I promised Adventure Amigos friend and fellow podcaster at Binge Media Johnny Moreno that I was going to read it before the movie came out, the book hasn’t even been cracked. So, I walked into this screening of Gone Girl without reading a page of the book, which I am sure is going to cause a brow beating next time I speak to those guys. But getting back to the reason I laid this story on the table as pertains to the movie, the questions remain: Is Gone Girl a good movie, and will people like me who have not read the book lose any of the experience the movie takes you on?
First, let’s get the answer to the first question out-of-the-way: Gone Girl is not only good, it is a tremendous nail-biter that displays all of Fincher’s meticulous directing talent in its full display probably better than any movie his entire career. The film clocks in at two hours and twenty-five minutes, but it is paced in such a way that doesn’t let time sit still. What I mean is while Fincher shows a lot of the investigation at the heart of the story, he mixes it with reactionary shots and scenes of Affleck’s Nick Dunne that keep you on the edge of your seat the entire duration of the film. The result is a film that will for sure leave you emotionally drained, but not painfully so. In other words, it is not a clock watcher.
Gone Girl is about Nick and Amy Dunne, two well established journalists who find themselves caught right in the middle of the journalistic crash of 2008. No longer able to afford their borderline lavish lifestyle, Nick and Amy move to the small Missouri town Nick grew up in -kudos to all involved for not switching this plot point to Massachusetts once Affleck got involved- to get reestablished. Amy, a New York City girl at heart, starts feeling resentment toward the situation, which causes tension to flare. On their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing, and then the real questions start. Where is she? Was she abducted? Did she run away? Did someone from her past swoop her off her feet? Finally, as the town seems so inclined to conclude, did Nick kill her in cold blood?
When it comes to dissecting just how good Gone Girl is, I decided to take a look at what Fincher was so good at before, and seeing how he incorporated these skills into Gone Girl. First, with the exception of Seven, Fincher has always had a Cameron type talent of taking meek, dainty looking females and turning them into non caricature driven strong characters. Look at Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Helena Bonham Carter in Fight Club as examples of this. With Pike playing Amy, Fincher continues this tradition, and I would not be surprised to see her onstage accepting a gold statue for this performance come March. There are sides to Pike displayed in Gone Girl that I have never seen. She plays Amy with such a zest and progress establishing strength that you cannot help but root for her. That’s not to say Affleck is bad. He plays up another one of Fincher’s go-tos in his career, and that’s what goes on in the male masculine psyche, very well. Plus, there is always a glint in his eye that tells us he just might not be telling the investigators and us the truth about whether he did what he is accused of. It is a tough thing to pull off without looking like you’re talking through the fourth wall, But Affleck was certainly up to the challenge. However, that being said, there is no question about it. Gone Girl is Pike’s film.
In Zodiac, Fincher put Roger Rabbit voiced Charles Fleischer in an extremely creepy role that I still think about to this day. In Gone Girl, Fincher does the same thing with Doogie Howser M.D. Harris plays the uncannily so, discomfort and chill inducing role of Amy’s ex-boyfriend Desi Collings. Each and every scene Harris is chilling in how suspenseful and tense they are, including (but not reduced to) the sex scene between him and Pike. I was not too up on Harris’ casting when it was announced, but he sure proves himself under Fincher’s sleight of hand here.
Make no mistake about it: Gone Girl has to be in talks as being the year’s best movie. The film’s script (by original author Gillian Flynn), which could also take some gold come award season, is not short on well written and white knuckled drama. As far as the controversy surrounding the film’s ending and whether it is loyal to the book’s or not, all I can say is what they gave us here-which I didn’t see coming, by the way- fit the complete mood and feel of the film in that it left me in awe. If I had read the book, I would be able to compare it, but cinematically it was chilling. That’s the least I can ask from a film of this type to do. So I honestly could not tell you whether not reading it took away from my experience.
The film’s score (once again done by NIN’s Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) moves the story along and is probably their best score since The Social Network. Finally, what else can be said about Gone Girl’s direction? Fincher is as meticulous as ever here, from moving the camera to different angles to establish the mood of a press conference to once again making his lighting have a common physical and thematic theme of being dark and dreary. Yet even though the material is tough to watch at times, he once again walks the line of using his ability to do this without overly depressing the mood. Is this his best film? That’ll be something worth debating another time. For now, just go and enjoy the ride Gone Girl takes you on. As a man who hates hype, I want you to trust me. You won’t be disappointed.