Prepare for the ride of your life! This spellbinding crime/mystery drama will have you on the edge of your seats from the time acclaimed director David Fincher opens the film with an incredible cinematic shot of Amy to the time the credits roll. If you have been lucky enough to have not read the book prior to watching the film, you will be glad you waited*. There are few directors who can visually capture the very essence of a novel cover to cover, and that is exactly what Fincher has done. If you have read the book, rest assured that Fincher stays true to the novel (90%) and the few minor changes that were made were actually good changes for the film. In fact, I would even venture to say he improved the original novel with his indelible sleekness. From the writing to the directing, from the acting to the cinematography, David Fincher will captivate your attention for the entire 2.5hr roller coaster of a movie.
Gone Girl is a crime-mysery-drama based on the best-selling novel by the same name. Reminiscent of the infamous Scott Peterson case of the early 2000s, this movie is a deliciously twisted movie about Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), an unemployed writer turned community college creative writing instructor, who reports his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) as missing to the authorities on the day of their 5th wedding anniversary. Nick and Amy are the most picture-perfect couple, or are they? Because of Amy’s parents being world-famous writers, the case is picked up by the local and national media quickly. Although the investigation first begins to look for the intruder/kidnapper who ransacked the house, after a bizarre turn of events, the investigation places Nick in their crosshairs. Still claiming innocence despite the circumstantial evidence piling up against him, Nick and his sister Margo (Carrie Coon) hire famed defense attorney Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) to help solve this missing person’s case. Determined that his wife is still out there, Nick mounts his own counter investigation into the whereabouts of his wife. But is this just to throw off the authorities? Did he actually do it (as was the case with Scott Peterson case)? And, if so, why? All these questions and more can only be answered by watching this amazing work of cinema. Dive right into this twisted and bizarre thriller that takes places in the most nondescript places away from the hustle and bustle of the city. As soon as you think you’ve got it, guess again!
Aside from the brilliant direction of David Fincher, this movie benefits greatly from the screenplay written by Gillian Flynn, the author of the original best-selling novel. This proves to be an excellent move because the movie is so incredibly close to the book. Fortunately, the facts that were changed to benefit the structure and pace of the movie, were strategic stings that actually enhanced the narrative. Because this movie is a mystery movie, I won’t be discussing any of the minor changes. But, if you’ve read the book, you will be delighted at watching the images seamlessly leap off the pages and onto the screen. Not every literary writer can make a successful transition from writing novels, which are internally driven, to screenplays, which are visually driven, but Flynn has proven her ability to adapt a screenplay beautifully. It’s almost as if she started with page one of the novel and wrote the dialing, visual elements, and stage directions as they appear in the novel and transposed them to the screenplay.
Ben Affleck truly gives the performance of his career in the role of Nick Dunne. He has stepped up his game in such a brilliant way and it shows throughout the entire film. One can easily draw the conclusion that, after having made a name for himself as a successful director, that he has gained greater insight into improving his acting skills. Interestingly enough, Affleck walked off the set of another film in order to act in a David Fincher masterpiece. The role of Nick Dunne was a perfect suit for Affleck, as it captures his stunning good looks and apathy, with occasional aloofness and cockiness, in regards to the disappearance of his wife. His performance truly puts the audience in a place of whether to sympathize with him or by repulsed by him. And, throughout the movie, you will be asking yourself whether or not you believe his story of the disappearance and the story of their marriage.
Contrary to the name recognition that Ben Affleck, Tyler Perry, and Neil Patrick Harris receive in this movie, there is a strong possibility that you did not know who Rosamund Pike was prior to her excellent portrayal of Amy Dunne. However, after this impeccable performance, you will not soon forget her name. From the moment the movie opens on a closeup of her gazing into the camera, you know that she is going to completely sell her character. From her devilishly good looks to her complicated (and we all know what a “complicated” women is) attitude and high society demeanor, the audience is caught at a crossroads as to how to receive her. Much like the audience is asked whether or not to believe Nick, the audience is faced with whether or not to feel sympathy for her. Throughout the story, she reveals how her marriage actually was, or does she?
The film also benefits from an excellent supporting case of players. Kim Dickens is outstanding as Detective Boney. Carrie Coon plays the role of Nick’s twin sister Margo with an amazing performance that highlighted both the sibling rivalry and the unconditional love sib lights should have for one another. In a stark contrast to How I Met Your Mother‘s Barney, Neil Patrick Harris is awkwardly wonderful as Amy’s ex-lover Desi from boarding school. Rounding out the cast of notable supporting players is Typer Perry as the brilliant defense attorney Tanner Bolt.
As this movie could easily be a dramatic depressing soul-sucking story, Flynn and Fincher add the occasional satirical joke and dark humor related to “perfect marriages” and searches for rich white women. These subtle humorous elements coupled with the dark and twisted story create an uncanny atmosphere for this crime-drama to unfold. In addition to being a narrative crime-drama mystery, it’s also a self-reflexive crime-drama mystery in how it deals with the sorted circus surrounding the search for Amy. It’s self-reflexive in that the movie comments on the infrastructure of a missing person’s search when the person is of a high profile in a community.
Rounding out the beautifully orchestrated Fincher film is the breathtaking cinematography and well-crafted coloring that is standard equipment on a Fincher cinematic work. If you are familiar with the editing and coloring of a Fincher film, you will notice similarities between films like The Social Network and Fight Club and Gone Girl. He worked with the post-production house Digital Domain and with cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth to give the film the “Fincher” look, which both is aesthetically pleasing and, in its own way, helps reveal the subtext of the film. Although not as prominent in the film and juxtaposed against the gritty plot, the score provided by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, is very much like the innocent music one may encounter in a spa or meditation retreat.
This is not your Agatha Christie or Lifetime crime-drama, it is a journey full of perfectly crafted twists and turns that keep the audience guessing the whole time. Well, those who have not read the novel that is. Get ready to be captivated by the stories of love, betrayal, murder, and mystery in this masterpiece adaptation of the best-selling novel not for the faint of heart or “sensitive” movie patrons.
*My recommendation is to NOT read the book prior to watching the movie to keep the element of mystery in tact.