Tuesday, October 7, 2014

He Said / She Said in Gone Girl

     When it was announced that David Fincher  would be directing Gone Girl, based upon the runaway bestseller full of killer plot twists, super-fast pacing, and a far-fetched story, it seemingly was a match made in cinema paradise: the book's acerbic take on marriage and the occasional flashes of brutal violence begged to be filmed by a director like Fincher whose skills as a filmmaker rely on cool style and an amazing visual eye. And Gone Girl--as a whole--is a success: it's entertaining and at nearly two-and-a-half hours, it never drags even as the plot twists edge closer and closer to ridiculousness. However, I will say that I was hoping for a little bit more. David Fincher has created some modern masterpieces in his career: Seven, Fight Club, even The Social Network. With Gone Girl we just get a good movie--one that is completely self-aware and strikes a peculiar tone between being sarcastic and scary.
     Gone Girl tells the story of a dream (or nightmare) marriage between Nick and Amy Dunne. It's as simple as this: one day, Nick comes home and the living room looks like a crime scene--the coffee table is broken, a ottoman is flipped over, there are spots of blood in the kitchen. But there's no sign of Amy. Nick calls the police (naturally) and so begins the investigation that makes up the entirety of Gone Girl. The film is told through two distinct lenses: the present day one, focusing on Nick and the investigation and corresponding search, and the past one: flashbacks from Amy's written diary, which depicts a far-less-than-perfect marriage as the years went by. It's impossible to know who to trust since we're seeing two differing stories of the relationship, and that's the best part (and the point) of Gone Girl. And in an era of deceit and 24-news coverage of crimes, opinions and allegiances are played like a game of chess.
    The plot twists in Gone Girl hit a bit harder if you've never read the novel, and it's definitely not essential to have read the source material to enjoy this adaptation. It's probably better if you haven't read Gillian Flynn's phenomenon. Once the film gets going, Nick becomes a suspect--too many things are "off", and he has such a weird attitude toward possibly losing his wife. Part of the fun is deciding whether it's just the way he acts or if he's a sociopath. He has plenty of secrets of his own--but so does Amy: she disappeared on their wedding anniversary, and she has left behind a treasure hunt of sorts complete with written clues that may lead the investigators to the actual truth of what happened between this couple.
     Ben Affleck always gets criticized as an actor--many people wish he would stick to directing (which he is great at). But I actually like Affleck as an actor, and this is a great role for him. Some of his detriments--his smugness, his inability to show a wide range of emotions--are actually total positives in Gone Girl: it jives perfectly with his personality, and he also has plenty of experience with a relationship in real life (with Jennifer Lopez) that was covered 24 hours a day by the media. Rosamund Pike gives the film's best performance: her Amy is mysterious and beautiful and cunning, and her performance is fearless in its depiction of a woman thrown deep into dangerous situations. Carrie Coon, as Nick's sister Margot, injects the film with emotion and humor: she's essential in having us relate to Nick, even if it's only a little bit. And even Tyler Perry shows up, which makes Gone Girl a success in itself: it's the first film that Perry stars in that doesn't totally suck.
    Gone Girl is far from perfect. My main complaint deals with the film's tone: Flynn adapted the script from her own novel, and it's actually a bit overwritten. There's too much dialogue, too many attempts at humor (and the film is funny at times, but I just didn't think it corresponded well with the seriousness of domestic violence and murder), too much focus on the pretty obvious satire of The Media, particularly the Nancy Grace-esque character that the film's main stars are constantly watching. And it's views on marriage are a little concerning if you're not the most cynical person in the world. If it wasn't for Fincher's skill at moving things along at a flashy and brisk pace, Gone Girl could have been the equivalent of US magazine: a sleazy, guilty-pleasure waste of time. Instead, it's something a bit more: a not-quite-trash not-quite-treasure entertaining story of one insane marriage.      (B)

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