For better or worse.
The sacred wedding vows that couples take are taken to glorious extremes in David Fincher’s Gone Girl, based on the bestselling phenomenon of a novel written by Gillian Flynn. She also wrote the screenplay and I am pleased to report she remained faithful to her work.
While author Flynn’s faithfulness to her novel will undoubtedly make her readers happy, unbridled devotion is not a trait the principal characters of Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) share with one another. Their romance starts on a positive note, but the complications of life eventually wear their union down. Jealousies arise. The everyday boredom of an existence in the Midwest away from her native New York takes its toll on Amy.
And on their five-year anniversary… Amy becomes the title character. She’s gone. There are clues to what may have happened. Blood samples. Notes left by Amy that she always made for Nick as kind of a scavenger hunt to retrace the history of their relationship. In this case, they may serve as something more.
Nick quickly becomes a suspect as the husband in these instances usually do. The tabloid media feasts on the tale of the missing woman and her significant other who dares to smile at the missing persons press conference. Along the way, Flynn’s screenplay gradually reveals more and more about this couple. For those unfamiliar with the source material, it won’t be what you expect.
Writing a review of Gone Girl is complicated, to say the least. Just as you didn’t want to reveal the many twists to one about to read the book, the same holds true for its film adaptation. So I’ll put it this way – David Fincher was the right guy for this project. Through Seven and The Game and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there is perhaps no director better at this kind of dark material. As you’d expect, Gone Girl‘s technical aspects are flawless, from the cinematography to the score (by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) to the production design and so forth.
There are details about Amy and Nick’s personas that couldn’t possibly be fully explored in the way the book manages, but the picture come awfully close. The casting is key here and Affleck and Pike nail their roles. Nick is neither your typical panicked husband whose wife has vanished nor the sinister monster who may or may not have done the unthinkable. And Amy is far from just the victim. Pike’s performance in particular is something else with the range of emotions she must go through. Expect her to get a Best Actress nod come Oscar time.
Fincher has a habit of unconventional casting choices and there are two here worthy of special mention: Neil Patrick Harris as a former stalker of Amy’s and Tyler Perry as a brilliant criminal defense attorney. Both shine in their against type casting parts. Carrie Coon also merits a shout out for her strong work as Nick’s twin sister.
Gone Girl, more than anything, is about the facades people put on to get into their relationships, maintain them, and possibly lose them. It’s about asking the question of whether or not you ever truly know the individual you call your soul mate. For better or worse, Nick and Amy take a journey in Gone Girl to find out. The results are often shocking and consistently enthralling to the audience.
***1/2 (out of four)