As a slick high-power lawyer Tyler Perry is really good in Gone Girl. That may be a weird line to open up with for a review of Gone Girl, the latest film from director David Fincher which actually stars Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, but it’s the truth. More specifically, it’s the surprising truth – and surprises is something you will find a hell of a lot of in this masterfully directed Hitchockian thriller that will keep you guessing when its not leaving you gasping.
It’s hard to discuss Gone Girl‘s serpentine, sometimes shocking narrative – adapted superbly by Gillian Flynn from her own immensely popular novel – without taking a trip into spoiler territory (and this really is a movie where you need to go in with as little foreknowledge as possible). However, I need to set at least some context, so let me hit the cliff-notes: On the morning of their 5th wedding anniversary, ex-big city writer current small-town Missouri bar owner Nick Dunne (Affleck) discovers his wife Amy (Pike) missing, seemingly murdered under very mysterious circumstances. Although her standoffish, wealthy manners had not endeared her to locals, “Amazing” Amy is still very well known thanks to her parents having fictionalized her childhood in a series of popular children’s books.
Soon, through the public efforts of Nick and Amy’s parents, America is glued to their screens as the search for this pretty blonde woman mobilizes a community. But as coffee swirling lead investigator Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) starts stacking up the evidence, she finds that some things about Nick Dunne’s story just doesn’t add up, seemingly turning this whodunnit into a Dunne-dunnit.
And that’s about as much as you’re going to get out of me. Now I know that right now some of you are thinking that I’ve already said too much, that its far too easy to infer the rest of the story from that little nugget, but I can guarantee you that its not. Fincher and Flynn play with expectations, zigging when you expect them to zag, as they drag you further down this spiral of immorality and duplicity.
Fincher has done lots of film that flay open the human condition to macabre results, and Gone Girl is no different. As Flynn’s script time-jumps between the current search for Amy and the whirligig genesis of Nick and Amy’s relationship half a decade earlier – which starts as all fantasy-like cutesy romance and fiery passion, but then gets a big wallop of reality when things like careers and family tragedy rear their ugly heads – Fincher successfully skewers everything from the failings of modern marriages to the media’s flip-flopping, story dependent morality and even a bit of very self-aware celeb-slagging.
But although it gets very heavy thematically, Fincher never lets proceedings feel bogged down or sombre in any way, always tossing in a toothy grin and sly wink at the audience, even when both the script and the characters gets inky dark and pretzel-twisted. This is not just a testament to his directing, but also his capable cast led by Affleck and Pike, both of whom turn in great showings. While Affleck 2.0 keeps up his recently impressive track record in front of the camera with a solid, almost self-parodying portrayal, it’s Pike that deserves the lion’s share of the praise though, as she turns in a complex, layered performance that is equal parts heady charm and stomach turning revulsion. She may not reach the gut-punched emotional high that Fincher coaxed out of Rooney Mara in his adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but it is sure to elevate Pike from the co-star doldrums she’s sometimes found herself in.
Affleck and Pike also find some solid support in the likes of the aforementioned Tyler Perry as Tanner Bolt, Nick’s oil-spill slick celebrity lawyer; a revelatory turn by Carrie Coon as Nick’s twin sister Margo, who gets unwillingly sucked into the frenzy surrounding Amy’s disappearance; Neil Patrick Harris as Desi Collings, Amy’s wealthy, sycophantic ex-boyfriend, and Missy Pyle who is deliciously spot on as Ellen Abbot, the acerbic TV talk show host who vilifies Nick in the name of ratings.
But as good as the actors are, this is still the David Fincher show. He’s the true ringmaster in this circus, corralling everything and everyone with a crack of his whip, artfully keeping the film – much like a circus’ most famous face-painted denizens – both bone-chilling creepy and darkly comedic at the same time, aided by a superbly off-kilter aural landscape provided by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
It’s not all perfect though, for the film’s ending – while sure to be controversial – unfortunately feels like a slight bit of a letdown as it is just a tad too rushed, too unfocused and thus robs itself of a true dramatic climax. But even with those slights, there’s no denying that what Fincher has produced here is – pun fully intended – a killer film.
Last Updated: October 7, 2014