John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

Gone Girl

Gone Girl

Genre: Thriller

Director: David Fincher

Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, Carrie Coon, David Clennon

MPAA-Rating: R

Release Date: October 3rd, 2014

Like his last two features The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, more about director David Fincher’s new movie Gone Girl takes a distinct look at oftentimes unsympathetic characters. Like in those features, more about Fincher relies on his performers to reel viewers in.  The Social Network would’ve faltered if its cold, order calculating portrayal of Mark Zuckerburg was given by a less gifted actor than Jesse Eisenberg. Such would have been the fate of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo were it not for the title performance of Rooney Mara. In both cases, the films presented cold— oftentimes hard to like characters— and asked viewers to try to understand them.

So too is the case in Gone Girl, a new movie with few sympathetic main characters but with the power and the intrigue to draw viewers into a dark and complex world.

The world isn’t the movie’s setting— a well-off town in Missouri— but the hostile and fragile environment that the main characters inhabit. Ben Affleck stars as Nick Dunne, a Missouri bar owner who constantly feels belittled and punished by his wife. He takes solace in the comfort of his sister Margot’s sarcasm (Carrie Coon). They both agree that Nick’s wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) is needy and often difficult to understand.

Nick’s life abruptly changes though when he receives a call from a nosy neighbor stating that something at the Nick and Amy’s house is amiss. The door has been left open and their innocent cat stands wandering outside the front door. Nick returns home to find the girl he married— the girl who he was celebrating a fifth anniversary with— was gone.

She’s disappeared and it’s up to Nick and the local police to find her. The story sounds simple enough but succeeds in presenting a painful portrait of a marriage on the verge of disarray. While Nick is tired of his wife, Amy’s diary entries— which are slowly revealed to present a back story here— suggest that her marriage had become packed with hatred, lies and sometimes even violence.

Fincher is brilliant here at creating a disquieting and creepy atmosphere for their characters to live in. Even when Nick and Amy are falling in love, it’s in a dark alley with sugar floating through the atmosphere like snow. It’s a beautiful scene but one presented in a mournful way as if this romance was doomed from the start. The score by Trent Raznor and Atticus Ross plays an integral part here in letting the viewers know there are darker elements at play here, an undertone that isn’t fully realized until halfway through the story.

Pike and Affleck steal the show here. Pike embodies a controlling and sometimes obsessive woman who never fully accepts herself. It didn’t help that her parents created a book series about her– Amazing Amy– that made the real Amy feel inferior and bitter (“Amazing Am” has always been one step ahead of me,” Amy notes.) Affleck here is asked to present a character who is both unhappily married and incapable of faking his way through the process of “playing” the grieving husband for the cameras. Standing in front of a photo of his missing wife, he can’t help but smile.

Alongside Affleck and Pike, Fincher has hired a uniformly great cast including Coon and Kim Dickens, who plays the investigator assigned to Amy’s case. Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry also score in supporting roles as men who play major roles in the latter half of the story. Gone Girl isn’t as great as the Gillian Flynn it was adapted from (Flynn also wrote the screenplay)– it would’ve been hard to top that– but it’s a magnificently unsettling thriller that will surprise, intrigue and fascinate viewers until its last powerful shot.


Review by: John Hanlon