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Gone Girl (2014)

| October 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

No one would blame you if you approached David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best seller Gone Girl with a bit of trepidation. In most cases a hugely successful book turned into a movie leaves its faithful audience with the feeling of “Did they even bother to read the book?” It is a relief to report that Gone Girl doesn’t have that problem. Fused with a cinema artist’s great skill and a screenplay that is as tricky and fearless as its source material, this turns out to be one of the best films of the year.

It was a difficult book to translate. Gillian Flynn concocted a brilliant and complex pot boiler that seemed to move in at least five different directions, shuffling a dozen different characters around like pieces on a chess board. In terms of narrative, it walked the knife-edge, veering close to becoming convoluted but never losing focus. The movie works just as well as the book (and in some ways better), and the fact that the author wrote the screenplay – which I always champion – is probably the reason why.

Gone Girl is a complex story that opens one way, and then turns another way before turning into something completely different. The story is all about perspectives sprung from the story of a marriage that never should have happened in the first place. We meet Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), a college professor who, years ago, married Amy (Rosemund Pike) and was happy as long as their marriage was padded with money and hot sex. Then the recession hit and they both found themselves out of work. Without the cushion of surface comforts, it is revealed that their marriage was as joyful as a cupcake made of arsenic. The mask hiding the bitterness in their union is seen by everyone else as a match made in Heaven.

Then one day Nick comes home and finds Amy missing. There some broken glass and an overturned ottoman in the living room. There’s some drops of blood on the kitchen cabinet. All curious, but the cops seem more interested in Nick’s demeanor – he seems more irritated than upset. The case becomes a community effort to find the young woman and then blows up into a national media frenzy. The whole country begins to wonder if Nick might be involved in her disappearance. Was he beating her? Was she pregnant? Was he cheating on her? The answers to all of these questions ultimately have at least five or six answers. Nothing in this story is ever as it seems.

More of the story I cannot reveal without giving too much away. This is a complex story despite its simple premise. It’s one of those fun thrillers where you’re constantly second-guessing what is happening – just when you think you’ve figured it out, the screenplay peels back another layer and the mystery of Amy’s disappearance gets more and more bizarre. What starts as a singular idea spirals down and down and down, opening more doors yet somehow all connecting them together. This is one of the most sadistically brilliant thrillers in a long time.

It is appropriate that Gone Girl is directed by David Fincher whose films always seem be about ordinary people who, through circumstance, find themselves in the sadistic arena of inhumanity. This was the theme of Fight Club, Se7en, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Zodiac, The Game and Panic Room. Fincher never stoops to making his characters likable, and in Ben Affleck he’s found the right actor to play Nick. Affleck is not afraid to look like a jerk and we admire him for that. He’s cocky, yet there’s something about his questionable union with Amy that gives us a measure of sympathy for him even when his guilt seems to be staring us in the face.

Affleck shows the strain of a man who slowly begins to realize that he is married to a woman that he never really knew, and begins to come apart at the seams under scrutiny from the cops, his sister, the media, Amy’s parents, the public, and his own attorney. Everyone has a perspective on the case; everyone has a point of view that makes Nick look guilty of something no matter whether he’s done anything wrong or not.  This may be the timeliest film of the year.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2014) View IMDB Filed in: Drama, Recent