20th Century Fox
2 hour 25 minutes
“Gone Girl,” the new mystery from David Fincher and star Ben Affleck, based on the best-selling novel, is a very good movie, make no mistake about it. It is also, however, a story almost wholly defined by its big twist, a dramatic shift that occurs almost exactly half-way through the narrative. If you go to see the movie with no inside info, basing your preconceived notions purely on what you see in the trailer, then you really have no idea what the movie is actually about. And that’s great – that’s exactly how you should see this film.
Ben Affleck, in a stellar performance, is Nick Dunne, a washed-up writer trying to make it in a washed up marriage. His wife is Amy Dunne, who we are mostly introduced to through her diary since at the beginning of the story, Amy turns up missing. Rosamund Pike, as the titular “Gone Girl” is excellent in the role. I hadn’t seen her in much that I would have noticed before this, but I’ll sure notice her now. Though the investigating detectives, Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit in two great supporting roles, initially are sympathetic to the worried husband, the evidence begins to all point in just one direction. Nick, never a particularly likable fellow, is looking more and more unlikable as the clues stack up against him. When even Nick’s twin sister Margo, Carrie Coon, as one of the only likable characters in the entire production, begins to look at him askance, he hires hotshot attorney Tanner Bolt, known for getting murdering husbands off the hook. Amy, once the inspiration for a series of children’s books entitled “Amazing Amy,” is big news, and her disappearance has drawn the media jackals from the woodwork. There’s even a great riff on Nancy Grace and her hyperbolic rants. People turn out in droves to volunteer to help find Amy, including people with less than disinterested motives, including an ex-boyfriend perfectly played by Neil Patrick Harris. Nick says he didn’t do it, but can you trust him? He’s hiding something, but he’s not the only one.
The last time there was a pop culture phenomenon centered around this kind of “big reveal,” it was “The Da Vinci Code” that was in the spotlight. Needless to say, the media did a much poorer job of keeping the secret in that case and the movie suffered the consequences. By the time “Da Vinci” came out, everyone knew the twist, and audiences, though coming out big for the opening weekend, dismissed the movie as “been there, done that.” “Gone Girl,” as far as I can tell, is not suffering a similar fate, and is getting deservedly great reviews and high box office numbers. I, however, am finding it difficult to appreciate the movie fully. David Fincher and screenwriter Gillian Flynn, who based the script on her own novel, have given us an incredibly faithful adaptation. Note for note, with only a few very minor changes, “Gone Girl,” the movie is a near perfect recreation of the book. As a result, though I could appreciate all the technical virtuosity – the incredible acting, the cinematography, the music, there was very little that jolted me, or made me really sit up and take notice, with the exception of one particular scene, surprising in the book, but hits like a thunderbolt onscreen.
Besides that, though, most of the movie felt like re-experiencing rather than experiencing. It reminded me of how I felt about Fincher’s last big budget adaptation project, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” It was all very well done, but by the time it came out everyone had read the book and seen a whole series of Swedish movies exactly like it. It felt unnecessary. I won’t go so far as to say “Gone Girl” is unnecessary – in fact, in some ways, it’s better than the book. What I can say, however, is that you should go in cold, if at all possible.
Don’t read the book first. Don’t read spoilers. Just go in and let this darkly satirical look at media, human behavior, relationships and the banality of the suburb living wash over you. It’s not always pretty, but it’s a hell of a tale – assuming you don’t already know the end. Grade: A
“Gone Girl” is rated R for nudity, explicit sexuality, gruesome violence, and pervasive language.
Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.