GONE GIRL - 4 stars (out of 5)
He’s only made 10 films in 20 years. This means that every time director David Fincher steps behind the lens, it’s an event (Se7en, The Game, Fight Club, Zodiac, Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Social Network, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). Here, with his adaptation of Gone Girl, Fincher indulges in a kind of “greatest hits” incorporation. Playing perfectly to his strengths with almost none of his minor weaknesses, this taut thriller is one of the best mainstream movies of the year. While it wrestles with bigger ideas within its subtext, it never forgets the main purpose behind the genre — to keep audiences members on the edge of their seats and guessing until the final frame.
Ben Affleck stars as Nick Dunne. He is married to Amy (Rosamund Pike in a groundbreaking performance) and, by all accounts, their relationship is good. But all is actually not well in the Dunne household. She resents being brought back to the Midwest from New York. He’s barely holding onto the bar he now owns with his sister Margo (Carrie Coon). Then, on their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy simply disappears. Foul play is suspected, and Nick is immediately the prime suspect. The press have a field day with a story, while the police hound Nick’s every move. Eventually, he hires a hotshot lawyer (Tyler Perry) while an old boyfriend of Amy’s (Neil Patrick Harris), may hold some answers.
Fincher always casts well, and Gone Girl is no exception. Ben Affleck as our sudden media uber-subject is pitch perfect as the man not wholly unaccustomed to the spotlight. His reactions once the media swarms are both dead-on and defiant. He’s not about to play their games and yet consistently falls right into the 24 hour news cycle trap. Equally impressive is newcomer Carrie Coon. As Nick’s sister, she’s illuminating, adding subtext we didn’t know existed just by her reactions and readings. As the detectives trying to find Amy, Patrick Fugit (all grown up from Almost Famous) and Kim Dickens make an unlikely but effective team. As he does with all his former police films, Fincher finds the truth in even the most eerie and insane places.
But the movie belongs to Rosamund Pike, who is required to play both sides of the film female stereotype…and she soars. When she’s kind and gentile, we completely buy it. When she’s cunning and conniving, we are equally convinced. Our reaction to Amy is what makes Gone Girl such a stellar experience. At first, we want to believe her. Then we want to blame Nick. But as he does with all his films, Fincher finds layers within layers, and upon each reveal, our entire notion of what’s going on changes. Yet the movie is not about the “gotcha.” Instead, Fincher hypnotizes us, the eventual culminations (there’s a couple here) shocking us because they seem organic to everything else that’s happening.
As fresh and seamlessly it is presented, the film could have benefited from a bit less time in concluding the story. It seems a bit over-cooked by the time hour two rolls around. Still it’s a minute fault to an otherwise pitch perfect thriller that had me guessing to the finale.
So, as he has done almost every time he has helmed a movie, David Fincher truly delivers the goods with Gone Girl. It should do well when award season comes around. It’s a smartly written, modern thriller with enough quirks and eccentricities to remind you of how satisfying a film made by true visionaries can be.