Gone Girl

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Cast:
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne
Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne
Neil Patrick Harris as Desi Collings
Tyler Perry as Tanner Bolt
Carrie Coon as Margo Dunne
Kim Dickens as Detective Rhonda Boney
Patrick Fugit as Officer Jim Gilpin
David Clennon as Rand Elliot
Lisa Banes as Marybeth Elliott
Missi Pyle as Ellen Abbott
Emily Ratajkowski as Andie Fitzgerald
Casey Wilson as Noelle Hawthorne
Lola Kirke as Greta
Boyd Holbrook as Jeff
Sela Ward as Sharon Schieber

Directed by David Fincher

Story:
On the day of his fifth wedding anniversary, writer Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) returns home to find his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) missing. He cooperates with the investigation by two local detectives (Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit), but as the media becomes more involved with the story, people around Nick start to think that maybe he’s responsible for killing his wife and within days, they’re sure of it.

Analysis:
If there weren’t enough expectations building for David Fincher’s follow-up to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” adapting a book that had already been made into a pretty decent Swedish film, having Fincher directing Gillian Flynn’s controversial bestseller “Gone Girl” could potentially make it the most divisive film of his already controversial career.

Following a similar timeline from the book, the film switches between Ben Affleck’s Nick Dunne in present day while recounting diary entries by his wife Amy over the course of their relationship and years of marriage, while at the same time using two local police officers (Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit) as a Greek choir investigating the scene of Amy’s disappearance while interrogating Nick and others who knew Amy.

It’s hard to say much more about the plot to those who haven’t read Flynn’s novel, especially after a major reveal roughly an hour into the film that changes the very nature of everything we’d seen up until that point. After that, Nick finds himself fighting public perception that he did indeed kill his wife, while at the same time trying to find out what really happened to her. All we can say is that Nick and Amy’s perfect marriage had its issues, including Nick’s affair with one of his students, which gives people more reason to think he had motive for killing Amy.

Having adapted her own bestselling novel into a screenplay, one presumes Gillian Flynn has remained fairly faithful and director David Fincher takes the uncharacteristic role of catering his vision to the source material rather than enhancing it (as he did with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”).

The casting of Ben Affleck in one of the two key roles is fine since Nick is meant to have a dopey jock demeanor, but it’s not a particularly flashy role and Affleck doesn’t bring much to it. On the other hand, Rosamund Pike really shines in a role that offers far more depth and layers than what might be apparent at first glance, but we’re not talking about a performance anywhere on par with some of what Fincher has gotten out of other actors like Rooney Mara in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” or Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network,” in so much as it’s a film that will finally get Pike some much-deserved attention.

Tyler Perry doesn’t embarrass himself as Nick’s defense attorney, but he’s also given lighter scenes, while Neil Patrick Harris turns up as Amy’s creepy ex-boyfriend who we learn earlier had become quite obsessed with her. I wasn’t familiar with Carrie Coon, but she does a fine job as Nick’s sister Margo, a role Lizzy Caplan or Krysten Ritter would have killed.

Much of the film’s subtle humor comes from the media circus surrounding Amy’s disappearance and how the locals and then the country react to new developments. At one point, Nick comments on how the public likes him then hates him and then loves him, which could easily be a crack about how people have perceived Affleck’s own career.

For the most part, the film lacks the sort of tension Fincher has mastered to the point where he should be able to do it in his sleep. Other than Pike and a few others, the generally uninspired casting makes the film feel cold and fairly emotionless, which makes it hard to get too invested into the characters, although the story gets progressively more interesting after the big reveal.

As much as the subject matter makes it feel like it belongs in David Fincher’s wheelhouse, the only thing that really ties it into his recent filmography is Trent Reznor’s ambient soundtrack of warm synths. While it will make a terrific record to listen to, at least during the first half of the movie, it feels like it’s overused a bit much without getting any sort of desired effect.

It’s not like the movie feels safe since it does lead up to a climactic moment as bloody and disturbing as “Se7en’s” mysterious shipment and one of the oddest last acts that’s likely to keep what seems to be a growing war between the genders going, because few men or women will agree on whether the two main characters’ actions were right or wrong.

Ultimately, “Gone Girl” works as an exposé on the lies necessary to make a marriage work while creating the perfect illusion to the outside world, but honestly, when you have so many great serialized shows on television, most notably “Fargo” and “True Detective,” even visionary filmmakers like David Fincher need to step up their game, and “Gone Girl” doesn’t.

The Bottom Line:
Fans of the book will probably be perfectly fine with the way it’s been adapted. For those who expect cinematic mastery from everything David Fincher does, this doesn’t seem like anything special compared to his high watermarks like “Zodiac,” “The Social Network,” “Fight Club” and others.

Gone Girl was the Opening Night Gala of the 52nd Annual New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center. The festival continues for the next two weeks and you can find out more about the films playing and ticket availability at the FilmLinc site.