What is there to say about Gone Girl? David Fincher's follow up to his 2011 film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one of the most anticipated movies of the year. Fincher's films are an event and Gone Girl is no different. The clever and cunning film adaptation of Gillian Flynn's best-selling novel experiences the same twist and turns as its source material, but goes in a different direction to keep all viewers on their toes while watching the new film. While the revisions might anger purists; keep in mind Flynn wrote the film's screenplay starting with page one. The result is a lengthy look at marriage, the criminal justice system, and the lookie-loo modern cable and online media.
Let's get this out of the way, Gone Girl is not only one of the best films of the year, but it's also one of David Fincher's best. The director surrounded himself with some of the best actors, producers, and writers in Hollywood to bring Gone Girl to the big screen. Ben Affleck plays Nick Dunne, a down-on-his-luck man who is at the center of a murder investigation and a media frenzy. He is believed to be the sole suspect in the murder and disappearance of his wife Amy Dunne, played wonderfully by Rosamund Pike. When Nick comes home on a sleepy post-Fourth of July day, he finds his home in shambles with his wife missing. He immediately calls the police and a long string of twist-and-turns begin.
One of the best things about Gone Girl is that it's immediately engaging with ostensibly a "whodunnit" murder mystery, but as the movie unfolds the filmmakers remain a half-a-step ahead of the viewer. We get different perspectives on the marriage from husband and wife, and what you bring to the movie is how you'll see each character in the first third of the movie. When the perspectives shifts, it's unclear what's fact and fiction in the murder investigation. As the audience, we get an objective view of the crime, as if we're part of the police procedural, but ultimately placed in the jury box without enough evidence to convict guilty or innocent. It's a bizarre tale of violence and sex that keeps the audience invested in the outcome of the trial (of public opinion).
David Fincher and Gillian Flynn smartly structure the film as if it were a house of cards, before all the cards fall over in the second act and re-constructed again on shaky ground. The filmmaking pair pull it off with the help of amazing and outstanding performances from its cast. Ben Affleck was inspired casting, as I can't see anyone else in Hollywood able to play the role of Nick Dunne. To be honest, Affleck's smug demeanor really packs a punch when the film needs it, as his pathos and sympathy builds up as the film paces forward. Rosamund Pike has finally landed a leading role that lets her shine as the complex Amy. We soon realize that there's more to this story and characters than what's on the surface and Affleck and Pike play it to a tee, as a married couple with various degrees of happiness and sadness. The film supporting cast such as Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry almost steal the show, as both characters are more than meets the eye as well. Harris plays Amy's past ex-boyfriend, while Perry plays a tell-them-how-it-is attorney, and really the only real likeable character in the film.
David Fincher is a master of genre style, which is apparent in movies like Panic Room, Zodiac, and Se7en. Gone Girl shares a lot from that style, as it is, at its core, a genre movie. A rather pulpy and trashy genre movie, but a genre movie nevertheless. Fincher plays deep with the murder mystery conventions and almost turns them on its head. He's not afraid to shy away from those nasty and sleazy elements and sometime plays them up for dramatic and horror effect. Gone Girl works and in lesser hands it wouldn't. In fact, if a director without the same caché and clout in Hollywood made Gone Girl, then it's doubt that the movie would be made in the same way to a general audience with an R rating. Fincher takes advantage of his prestige tag in Hollywood and really plays up the movie's violent and sexy side. The only other director I can see making a movie like Gone Girl in the Hollywood system is Paul Verhoeven, but I think he would make it even sleazier.
The true mark of Gone Girl is its beginning and ending. The opening and closing shots of the movie is a haunting image and proves the real power of cinema. So what is there to say about Gone Girl? Much like every element of the film, it comes down to perspective and context.
New York Film Festival 2014. Gone Girl opens on October 3, 2014.