Gone Girl

Watch the current Reeling broadcast here!
(Previous editions of Reeling can be downloaded from iTunes by clicking this link.)

Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
Gone Girl
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) is summoned home by a neighbor from the bar he owns with his sister, Margo (Carrie Coon). When he arrives, he finds his cat sitting outside and the front door ajar. He calls to his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), but gets only silence and finds a smashed table and signs of a struggle. He reports it to the police and the investigation begins to find the “Gone Girl.”

Director David Fincher and screenwriter/author Gillian Flynn do a masterful job of storytelling in bringing Flynn’s New York Times bestseller to the screen. If you have read the novel, so be it. You know the story and its intricate twists and turns. But, for those of us who have just a cursory knowledge of this tale of domestic disintegration, you really do not want to hear or read any more detail. “Gone Girl” is so well done on so many levels, the viewer really deserves the filmgoers’ treat of having a terrific movie unroll before you fresh.

Ben Affleck does a first class job as the befuddled (or not) husband who may (or may not) have murdered his wife, Amy. Rosamund Pike is even better as she gives full dimension (and then some) to her character. The story is told from both points of view, his from the disappearance onward, hers mostly in flashback. How the filmmakers weave the complicated and fascinating interplay is a work of art. Supporting cast is aces.

The score reminds of “The Social Network,” which is no surprise since Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross scored that film, too. Production, as one expects in a David Fincher film, is noteworthy, especially when the media circus the disappearance spawns shifts into high gear. The players in this suspenseful drama are held under a microscope and always under scrutiny. It is a frightening ordeal and Nick generates my sympathy, if not my empathy, as he struggles to cope with his dire situation.

“Gone Girl” is a beautifully crafted film and one of the year’s best to date. I give it an A-.

Ah the conundrum of reviewing a film from one of one's most revered filmmakers, David Fincher ("The Social Network"), that is an adaptation of Gillian Flynn's blockbuster best seller "Gone Girl," a book which I didn't admire as much as most appeared to.  Fincher, the ultimate craftsman, has pulled off that rarity and made a movie which is actually superior to its source material, but his faithful adaptation (screenwritten by the author) failed to do what some of his prior work has done - knock my socks off.  Still there is no denying that the thriller has been elevated, a cubic zirconium so finely made it might fool a jeweler's eye.

2014 is trending towards the year of films in which romantic partners project their own narcissism onto their mates ("The One I Love"), or, as in the case of "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby," at least expect similar emotional responses to major life events.  In "Gone Girl,"  Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike, "An Education," "The World's End") appear to be the perfect couple until the financial crash of 2008 starts presenting obstacles to their entitled world.  Nick's decision to move from New York City to Missouri, for both financial reasons and to care for his cancer-stricken mom, is one that fosters a deep-seated unhappiness in his wife, one which festers and bubbles up in passive aggressive behavior like the anniversary 'treasure hunts' she devises, surface romantic play camouflaging tests of his devotion.  But on this, their fifth anniversary, Nick, who's been confiding his own marital dissatisfaction to his twin sister Margo (the marvelous Carrie Coon, HBO's 'The Leftovers,' providing audience point of view), arrives home to find the glass coffee table smashed and his wife gone.

He immediately notifies the authorities.  Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens, HBO's 'Treme') arrives with Officer Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit, "Almost Famous") and we can see her measuring every piece of information against Nick's responses.  She's startled when she learns hours later he hasn't informed his wife's parents yet, just as he's taken aback upon learning a press conference has been set for the next day.  Nick's charm works both for and against him, neighborhood wives clucking about offering their support to the handsome husband, but when the media get a hold of a snapped selfie by an aggressive, smiling supporter (Kathleen Rose Perkins, Showtime's 'Episodes'), he's deemed insincere.  The arrival of Amy's parents, Rand (David Clennon, "Being There," "J. Edgar") and Marybeth Elliott (Lisa Banes, TV's 'One Life to Live'), adds another minefield to Nick's PR nightmare.

Fincher's cast his film beautifully (I had Affleck in my head as I read the book and he proves the perfect choice for Nick), even surprising by getting a fine performance from Tyler Perry as Nick's lawyer Tanner Bolt. Also fine is Missi Pyle as toothy tabloid journalist Ellen Abbott, a Nancy Grace parody which skewers today's media's rush to the shiniest, most ratings worthy viewpoint. Jeff Cronenweth's digital cinematography presents everything with a slightly yellowish/green sickly hue, one which suits the story's nausea-inducing darkness while ironically complementing the chic neutral color palette of the production design, a visualization of Fincher's tone.  The score clearly comes from "The Social Network" team of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, an underlying aural landscape of ticks, scratches and moans that rolls along like a foggy carpet of building dread.  Flynn's adaptation of her own novel rejiggers the timeline, putting the disappearance up front and filling in back story in flash back, but, as in the book, the clear psychopathy of a main character, while less readily apparent in the film, tilts the material towards misogyny.  All book to screen adaptations require paring, but the lack of emphasis on the Elliotts' Amazing Amy children's books which both scarred and financially coddled their daughter, lessens our ability to empathize with why her mind works the way it does.  We may not like Amy, but the book at least made us understand her better.

With "Gone Girl," Fincher has designed a portrait of marriage as psychological warfare where ceasefires masquerade as happiness.  It's a brutal extreme, food for thought and an entertaining thriller, but what it is not is even-handed.

Back To Current Show
Next Show Previous Show
Watch the current Reeling broadcast here!

Home | Reviews and Ratings Archive  | Top 10 | Video | Crew | Article | Links

Reeling has been chosen as a Movie Review Query Engine Top Critic.

MRQE Top Critic Badge