Gone Girl Review

Gone Girl
Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: Gillian Flynn
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit

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David Fincher seems at something of an impasse. Three long years have elapsed since he made The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and a number of potential follow-ups have fizzled in the interim. Sony wouldn’t commit to a sequel, and the director came to loggerheads with Disney over a planned blockbuster adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He entered talks to direct Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs biopic, but that fell through too. The only concrete credit to Fincher’s name since 2011 is Netflix’s House of Cards. And then along comes Gone Girl.

Based on the bestselling novel by Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl pitches a familiar premise: a woman disappears under suspicious circumstances, and a trickle of evidence begins to mount implicating her husband. The woman is Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike), daughter of two celebrated children’s authors who reluctantly trades her New York City apartment for a flyover-state McMansion at the behest of her husband Nick (Ben Affleck), the kind of guy who plays Call of Duty and watches Adam Sandler movies. After five years their marriage has cooled, and on the morning of their anniversary, Amy vanishes.

Where Gone Girl goes psychologically with that conceit is of more interest to Fincher and Flynn than the physical whodunnit; the central mystery is unraveled by the movie’s midpoint. Owing to his wife’s popularity, Nick comes under intense scrutiny in the press. In turns portrayed as the beleaguered husband and the smirking sociopath, Nick’s every move is examined under a microscope and debated ad nauseum by rabble-rousing TV pundits. Throw in a jilted ex-lover (an icy Neil Patrick Harris) and an unscrupulous lawyer (Tyler Perry) and the crucible becomes even more volatile.

The casting is excellent and everyone impresses — including Rosamund Pike, who appears via flashbacks and narrates from Amy’s ominous diary. Affleck charms with his ambiguous everyman-isms, though those Batman muscles look a touch ridiculous in the ‘burbs. Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry both play admirably against type, and as always, David Fincher directs the shit out of every second of it.

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Scenarios that might feel cheap or tawdry in the hands of a lesser filmmaker are elevated by Fincher’s dark vision and another oppressively atmospheric score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Muted colors, simple framing, neat cuts: there’s a certain stylistic minimalism to the approach that the director seldom betrays. Fincher lets Flynn do most of the talking, and that’s the greatest weakness of Gone Girl. As compelling as the craft may be and as assured the direction, Gone Girl feels more like a beautiful exercise than an essential cinematic experience.

It’s an opportunity for Fincher to jingle his spurs after a prolonged hiatus and an opportunity for the cast to collaborate with one of the best filmmakers working today, but not a whole lot more. Especially as the successor to Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl can’t quite shake the “airport novel” stigma. Both films are perfectly entertaining adaptations, but it’s hard not to wish Fincher would aim a little higher. Gone Girl finds the director no further along artistically than he was three years ago: still at the top of his storytelling prowess, but in search of a tale to match his talent.

Gone Girl digs at the emotional damage men and women inflict on one another beneath the facade of a fairly typical potboiler. In all likelihood, your ability to enjoy the film will depend on the extent to which you appreciate filmmaking on a mechanical level, and your enthusiasm for another murder mystery from the guy who directed Zodiac and Seven. Fincher’s expressed interest in Jobs and Verne prove he’s still committed to telling a variety of stories, and if Gone Girl is a stopgap to projects of that caliber and ambition, it’s all the more worthy for it. — Colin

SCORE: 3 stars



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  • ColinZeal

    LOVED the movie! The performances from the cast were fantastic. Never did I think that i’d want more Tyler Perry in my life. He delivers a line about “you two” in a particular moment and the whole theater erupted in laughter thanks to the tension that we’d been subjected just moments prior. Cinematography and soundtrack were also amazing. And Fincher? He is my personal god. Can not wait until I get to see his next movie.

  • theo

    I love Finchers work too. His first film (ALIEN 3) was totally underrated.

  • PlanBFromOuterSpace

    I would like to praise the performance of the cat in the film, and I’m curious if Frank will bring it up in the inevitable discussion. It’s probably the most convincing portrayal of a housecat, using a practical housecat, that I’ve seen on film. It doesn’t do anything hammy or adorable or out of place, yet it manages to steal every scene it’s in by just sitting there. All of these cops and reporters and lights and everything, and all these people coming and going, and that cat just doesn’t give a fuuuuuuuuuuck. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if I were to find out that this thing is the actual Affleck family pet.

  • frankw35

    Saw it yesterday and really enjoyed it. It does rely more on its plot than on bravura filmmaking but it is still very well done and I’m not sure it’s fair to ding a movie because it’s from David Fincher but not top notch Fincher, when if done by another director that criticism wouldn’t apply.
    One thing that I don’t think was made clear in the film–I thought Amy’s mother was the celebrated children’s author, who had used her daughter’s name to write about a fictionally better version of her own child. It seemed like the Amazing Amy character had been around a long time and at that cocktail reception for a book release the parents seem to be running the show.

  • You’re absolutely right, Amy’s parents were the authors. I caught the movie again this morning and noticed that as well. The review will be updated to correct that error.

  • Tim

    For those of us who aren’t high fallutin enough to apply stigma to airport novels, this movie is a 4/4. I love Fincher’s work and Fincher is doing something a little bit different for him – shooting in the daytime with lots of sun and way less overt digital color filtering, sickly green lighting, etc.

  • Primal

    I LOVED the low light cinematography throughout the film. Of course the opening/closing shot of the film is amazing. Entire cast was fun to watch. Never really seen Tyler Perry in anything except Star Trek, but he was really good in this as well. Although I liked the score, I hope Trent Reznor doesn’t continue to rehash some of his signature melodies in future films.