Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Gone Girl

***1/2 out of ****

Gone Girl is based on Gillian Flynn’s critically acclaimed mystery novel about a seemingly perfect couple who cause a media frenzy when the gorgeous wife vanishes and the charming husband starts to lose his charm with a skeptical community in the suburbs of Missouri. Is it good? Well, the screenplay duties were assumed by the Flynn herself. Her knowledge of cinema should be rather infinite, given her experience as a writer for Entertainment Weekly. It also doesn’t hurt that the film is directed by the meticulous David Fincher with a moody atmosphere enhanced by his dependable collaborators; cinematographer, Jeff Cronenweth and musicians, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Are you getting the idea?

No? Are you one of those people whose disdain for Ben Affleck hasn’t allowed his comeback to win you over to a film in which he stars? Without wasting space, ranting about my belief that star-power is the most superficial aspect to observe when estimating a movie’s quality, I will tell you that Affleck is great for this movie.

There’s a significant point in the film when his character, Nick Dunne stands before the press and the people of his community in order to dispel rumors suggesting his responsibility in his wife’s disappearance. As he wins over some of the crowd, we see two teenage girls. One whispers that he’s hot and the other cringes, arguing that he’s a creep. It is a moment where it seems clear why Ben Affleck, a celebrity who has been loved and hated, took this role.

This is a story that is heavy on drama and contains some implausible twists that work only because they are conveyed through such poetic scenarios and flavorful narration by Affleck’s co-star, Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne.

Let me stop to say that I love this woman. Her acting career hasn’t demonstrated a lot of range, but to call her screen presence stunning would be an understatement. Pike and Affleck have a tough job in this film. They both need to win our sympathies at some point and they need to betray that sympathy at another.

Like most Fincher films, we are given a lot of atypical casting choices that payoff, including Neil Patrick Harris as a sinister ex-boyfriend, Casey Wilson as a gossiping housewife and Tyler Perry as a big-name criminal attorney. Notable choices in the cast are Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit as local detectives. These are two actors who had probably missed out on the attention they deserved due to the understated performances of their careers. The big find for this movie, however, is Carrie Coon as Nick’s twin sister Margo, who steals a lot of scenes. I had not seen this actress before and hope to see more of her.

As always, I encourage you to see this movie in a dark theater on a large screen with great sound. Fincher films always have a technical power that is in best form at a movie theater. He harnesses so much potential energy through details to seek out in the dim imagery and the surround sound mix. 

Earlier this year, when I got around to binge-watching all eight episodes of True Detective, I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t be seeing any new mystery movie, anytime soon, that could rival its intrigue and quality. I’m not sure if David Fincher matches the power of that amazing TV show, but it feels pretty close. Like True Detective, Gone Girl has a structure similar to that of a miniseries. Its two-hour and thirty-minute runtime is utilized quite well to deliver more than three acts. There are multiple scenes where a mind accustomed to movie viewing is expecting things to wrap-up and when they don’t you still sit there wondering, with endless curiosity, as to where things are headed.

Gone Girl is essentially a horror movie. Not for its violence and gore (which is brief), but for its psychological journey, similar to David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence where the idea of a private life doomed to unsettling uncertainty haunts us. This movie is dark, cynical, absurd and strange. Is it good? You bet.

For a spoiler-filled criticism from a fan of the novel, check out this interesting AV Club Article.

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