Gone Girl – 2014
Director David Fincher
Starring Rosamund Pike, Ben Affleck, Kim Dickens, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, Carrie Coon, Missi Pyle, Sela Ward, Emily Ratajkowski, Patrick Fugit, Casey Wilson
Screenplay Gillian Flynn based on her novel
There is no better director thank David Fincher. Really, no one even comes consistently close to what he does every time out. Every film is different, yet all are distinctively and elementally his work. Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl has a vigor and original storyline rarely seen in contemporary literature, but it is rendered comprehensively by Fincher. Everything that is good about Flynn’s book is made great by Fincher and his team of cinematographers, actors and composers. Even the key grip probably does their job better than most.
The gist of the story – without spoilers: Amy Dunne, the model of a happy and beautiful wife, disappears on the day of her 5th Wedding Anniversary. Her husband, Nick, does not shoot right to the top of the persons of interest. He does work his way up though, brick by brick. He seems clueless, but he has a temper and the clues at the scene don’t add up. One such clue, left for the police to see, points to other clues. Nick says this is a traditional treasure hunt that is done on each anniversary. Then, there are those pictures that leave him looking cheesy at best, heartless at worst. We hear of two suitors from Amy’s past who there had been trouble with. Then there’s all those credit card bills (over $100k) used to buy things in his name.
Meanwhile, we get back story, courtesy of a journal Amy kept, a little at a time. We see images of perfection at first, followed by cracks in the façade. Amy harbors doubts about her self-worth, given that her likeness was used by her mother to create a series of children’s books, called Amazing Amy. Instead of being exclusively about her Amy, though, the books show a girl who succeeds at every turn. We hear of her wanting to have a baby in her journal, yet Nick says it was he who went to the fertility clinic. As much as we learn from the journal, no one else has their hands on it for the first half of the movie. Then they find it, at the same time someone follows the trail of clues left by his wife to find…all the crap that had been bought on credit card.
Here the film takes a turn, and Fincher handles it deftly. What we think we know or could predict is true to a point. The momentum of change is perpetual through the end of the film. Trust me, the ending is whack, even if it varies, only slightly, from the book. The tone throughout is just like life. Some moves are dumb, honest, deceptive, shocking and funny. Such are the quirks of each character that people who should not stand out in a film are presented in a gloriously ludicrous fashion.
Fincher has a knack for finding great actors who have not had the spotlight for a while and there is no exception here. Officer Gilpin (Fugit) has some of the best lines in the story, but we only get this because of the subtle reactions of Kim Dickens’ Detective Boney. Carrie Coon’s performance as Margo is the kind of turn of which award-winning careers are made. Tyler Perry never approached this good of a performance before, especially when doing his own material.
There is no letdown with the leads either. Ben Affleck does the best work of his (spotty) career as Nick Dunne. He is not a real good guy and not a real smart guy. He’s a complete numskull either. His romance started as an act that got weary as time rolled on for both he and his wife. Pike’s Amy is the complete other end of the spectrum. There is so much intelligence, drive and ingenuity to her character, it is hard to figure out what to think of her character other than…wow. If she’s not nominated, it would be a crime approaching Sam Jackson’s omission last year.
Which brings me back to Fincher. Outside of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, every film he’s done in the last decade is worthy of Oscar consideration. This is no exception. Shades of Gone Girl have the flavor of Hitchcock, but to call the work Hitchcockian would be a slight to the original vision that Fincher brings to everything he does, even Alien3, as much as 20th Century Fox decimated the film. My love of movies started with Star Wars, but it has flourished with David Fincher.
Watching the film with my Public Service Assistant (read Librarian) wife was a unique experience. She had read the book when it came out and she grinned and laughed at certain inopportune (some might say inappropriate) moments. What was she laughing about? To ponder this question is to ponder the state of our marriage. I think we’re doing fine, of course. My wife is the picture of a perfect bride and mother. She’s smarter than I am. Much more driven. Come to think of it, she has way more ingenuity than I have. Well, I hope she doesn’t think I am not a real good guy. I never could put on an act if my life depended on it. That just might be my saving grace.
(***** out of *****)