‘Gone Girl’- Throwback Review

What’s the Story: Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy Elliot Dunne (Rosamund Pike) are a married couple living in the small town of Carthage, Missouri. First meeting at a party in 2005, his former occupation was a New York-based writer and now a creative writing professor, while she’s also a writer with her mother’s series of children’s books “Amazing Amy” based on her. They settled in nicely in New York until the recession happened, and they had to move to Missouri after Nick’s mother got sick with cancer. Though it may seem to be absolutely perfect together, the two of them become disinterested in each other as time goes on. Then, on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary (July 5, 2012), Nick arrives at home to discover signs of a struggle while he was out: The glass table smashed from the open door, indicating that Amy has suddenly gone missing. While the police continue with this ongoing investigation, it’s become apparent for some residents to believe Nick has something to do with his wife’s disappearance. As a result, everybody questions what could’ve happened to her, including wondering if Nick killed his wife.

As we were neck-deep into the biggest dramas of the remaining year and the good stuff comes always come our way for the beginning of October, Gone Girl was hands down one of my most anticipated films of the year. Not just because of the story and the cast, but David Fincher’s name alone is worth the price of admission. Fincher is one of my favorite filmmakers in the world. Besides the one blemish on his resume, everything after in his filmography is never a miss. I’ve already become an established fan of his around the time this came out, especially when The Social Network is nothing but a masterpiece. With a pilot shrouded in mystery, my mind knew he would be perfect to adapt Gillian Flynn’s best-selling novel from 2012 to the screen. It would’ve been the ideal book to read while being bored in school or at home, but I decided to go into this knowing nothing but the bare minimum about the premise. Also, I didn’t want to compare and contrast what was changed and wanted to be surprised with its potential reveals. But I still went into the theater hoping for one of the best films of 2014, and I left loving it, to no one’s surprise. Gone Girl is genuinely phenomenal. 

Since I was only 18 at the time, the one thing this had me convincing, along with most men, is that marriage should be out of the question. Imagine seeing this on a typical romantic night and being unaware of the type of psychological thriller to pose several questions that make us view things differently. That’s what you get with Fincher. You’ll be enamored by how meticulously he directs every scene to keep every asset of this ingenious mystery till the next moment of interest to get us through the next, which explains how he shot over 500 hours of footage over a hundred-day filming span. Combined with the editing, beautiful cinematography, and another eerie musical score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross very much so elevates the tighten state of greatness to become unforgettable. 

The standouts were the performances from both Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike because casting them was perfect. But, more importantly, Affleck as Nick Dunne was terrific. Affleck has proven himself to be a great director with three back-to-back hits at that point, but watching him shows a strong point of how talented he is as an actor. As he’s someone desperate to know where his wife is, there’s so much dynamic subdued controlled in his role making this one of the best roles in his career. But, again, just proving that he has become a better actor as time goes on. Quite possibly the best performance he’s ever given in decades. But Rosamund Pike gave a tour de force performance and quite possibly the best performance of the year as Amy. I can’t tell you a performance of her from the past I loved since she doesn’t stand out in whatever she’s in, but she’s the one I would picture if I were to read the novel. Every scene Pike’s in embodies the characteristics of a nuanced and fascinating character that makes her one of the richest females to possibly never mess with if you come across her. You can tell she drew inspiration from familiar femme fatale in past films. Without spoiling it for those who still haven’t seen it yet (which you should), she carried this entire movie, and as her character is more developed, it gets very interesting and almost unsettling. There’s no way big names such as Natalie Portman or Reese Witherspoon would’ve made the film great if either of them took part.

But it’s not just them, but the supporting cast is also excellent. Carrie Coon, who was starring in The Leftovers around the same time, came out of nowhere with her breakout performance as Margo, Nick’s twin sister and essentially his voice of reason. I loved their chemistry with each scene they were in together. A year before this release, if someone had told me that I would like Tyler Perry in a David Fincher movie, that would be impossible to understand. But for someone who hasn’t been on the good side of critics, Perry’s performance as Tanner Bolt, the defense attorney Nick hires, was actually good. Watching this again is proof Perry can be a good actor when a unique script catches his eyes. That means none of that overdone Madea crap or Alex Cross. Personally, the only actor I felt was miscast was Neil Patrick Harris as Amy’s ex-boyfriend Desi Collings. I’ve always liked Harris, yet I can’t really picture him in this role when it calls for him to be creepy. Not something I usually associate him with.

Though the fantastic direction Fincher puts on display, Gillian Flynn adapting her work into her screenplay was a reasonable choice for his investing it was throughout. She was up to the difficult task of making this into a full-length feature. How faithful is it to the book I don’t know. But some said it keeps it faithful enough to what the readers had the chance to stay attached to. Much like Any herself, it’s smart and unpredictable to where you’re always wondering what could ruin it and it didn’t. The story is told from different angles, including flashbacks of Amy writing in her journal as the unreliable narrator, shifting to her perspective, and the trailer made it mysterious without giving anything away, thankfully. Without Flynn’s writing, nobody else would’ve crafted a unique style to the story.

The way the film portrays the news takes on how it is in real life believing in these stories thinking it’s true or not, which could turn to gossip you hear every day, wondering if it’s all true or false. It can affect any situation straight to the ground. We look at the news practically every day, either on the Internet or on television, but we don’t always know the whole story; only bits and pieces are given to the public about a person who don’t even know. Everybody wants to dig into what might’ve happened and most of the time when a spouse or partner is nowhere to be found, fingers point directly to the husband for a number of reasons. The media will go out of their way to portray someone in Nick’s case as an unfaithful husband regardless if he’s involved or not to destroy his life as the days goes forward.

The twist and turns that occur surprised me when it just keeps getting better, especially suitable when the second act begins. After that, it’s like you’re falling down a steep hole after it happened to leave your thinking. Only this could have people second guess their marriage one way or another. Knowing how Fincher doesn’t go for fluff in his films leads to this dark atmospheric mood that stuck with me when it ended. A thriller like in the vein of Gone Girl is perfect to be watched on a chill, fall evening that lets you experience what would be a classic of sorts. Even for a runtime of149 minutes, it goes by fairly quickly, thanks to Fincher’s directing and his film editor Kirk Baxter to keep the pace flowing. That said, my tiny nitpick had to do with the ending. When I first saw it in theaters, I don’t recall being fond of how things wrapped up. But after thinking upon it years later, I’d let it slide.

In terms of thrillers from the 2010s, this ranks amongst the best I’ve seen. However, the following years have seen its fair share of other similar adaptations (The Girl on the TrainThe Woman in the Window) that lasting impressions were more disappointing. Despite receiving positive reviews, making on many top ten lists of the year (it was in my top five), and becoming Fincher’s highest-grossing film at the box office, it baffles me that Oscars largely ignored something this talked about during that fall movie season. Only one nomination: Best Actress. Seriously, this should’ve easily up for multiple awards, including Best Picture, Director, and most importantly, Best Adapted Screenplay. Flynn’s script was I could think about that awards season, and it was better than what actually won that year. Pike getting the sole nomination for the film was great, and I might be in the minority for saying this, but she gave the best performance out of everybody in the category. I would’ve loved to see her win over Julianne Moore, honestly.

Overall, Gone Girl is a superb suspenseful thriller that had me glued to the screen from start to finish. Nothing ever feels boring when Fincher’s pristine direction turns this adaptation to full effect, using social commentary on the media and marriage to bring it all home. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike’s performances remain career-best for both and a great story that explores darker than you think.

Grade: (9/10) A-

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