Based on the novel of the same name, “Gone Girl,” directed by David Fincher and starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, is one of the best films I have seen this year and likely to be one of the most talked about. A tense, psychological thriller, and examination of modern marriage and obsession with appearances, the film is worth seeing by anyone who enjoys well- crafted cinema. If possible the film should be seen without any spoilers beforehand, and so this review will do its best to be spoiler-free.
The plot focuses on Nick Dunne (Affleck) and his wife Amy Dunne (Pike). Their marriage on the rocks, Nick Dunne spends the morning of their fifth anniversary having a drink with his twin sister at the bar they co-own. When he returns home he finds his wife gone and signs of a struggle. Soon the police are on the scene. A widespread manhunt quickly springs up for the missing wife whose fame as a character in her parents’ children book series gets the story national news coverage.
The plot moves a little slower in the first half of the film, and the film does run long at 149 minutes, but the extra time and setup helps make the climax have a greater impact and high tension. The film never feels like its wasting time, but makes sure every scene enhances
characterization, mood or plot.
Affleck and Pike do great in their starring roles, allowing the characters to inspire both sympathy and aversion throughout the film. Pike in particular does an excellent job of letting her character’s actions speak for themselves. Neil Patrick Harris, as rich ex of Amy Dunne, and Tyler Perry, as morally gray attorney Tanner Bolt, also provide standout supporting performances in roles that either warp or go against their typical casting.
However, Fincher’s directorial style is makes the film standout. There is a realism to the coloring and scenery similar to what Fincher displayed in “The Social Network,” but with the added darker undercurrents that run through much of his work. Occasionally, moments go too overt with the meaning such as in a later scene involving a shower, but overall the film works with great sense of modernist style.
The film says a lot about the use of appearance over reality in contemporary culture and how people desire for others to play to their preconceptions of them in both the media and in private life. Whether when revealing the difference between Amy Dunne’s real life and the life of her fictionalized counterpart or Nick Dunne preparation for a big television interview, the disconnect between who people are and who others want to make them to be plays heavily throughout the film. When the Dunnes’ marriage hits multiple roadblocks and can no longer meet their initial grand expectations it starts to unravel.
The film is one that will hold up to multiple viewings and further exploration. It does earn its R rating, though sex and violence always take backseat to the psychological elements. “Gone Girl” is one of the rare film which will likely have both Oscar buzz and popular success, and it should not be missed.