Thursday, December 25, 2014

Movie Review: "Gone Girl"

I'll admit I was one of the few people who wasn't entirely enamored with Gillian Flynn's novel Gone Girl.

When I read it two years ago, I remember enjoying some of the plot twists, but ultimately I had trouble because I found the main characters so immensely unlikeable. But since it didn't make that positive of an impression on me, I didn't remember much about the book save the major gist of the plot, so I had no worry about whether or not the film adaptation would be faithful to the book. After seeing David Fincher's movie (filmed from a screenplay Flynn wrote), I can unequivocally say that, unlike what occurs in most cases, this is a film adaptation that far surpasses the book on which it's based.

It's the fifth wedding anniversary for Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike). The couple met cute at a party in New York City and had a few good years of marriage, but after they both lost their jobs and they moved back to Nick's Missouri hometown, their relationship has been strained, to put it mildly. But when he returns home after spending some time at the bar he and his twin sister (Carrie Coon) own, he finds his front door open, Amy missing, and evidence of some kind of struggle in his house.

Nick has no idea what happened to his wife, but as his actions as the concerned, grieving husband are met with increasing skepticism by Amy's parents, his fellow townspeople, and the media, a dogged police detective (Kim Dickens) is determine to figure out exactly what happened to Amy, and what role Nick played. And as more secrets about Nick come to light, there becomes increasing sentiment that Nick must have killed Amy, even among those closest to him.

If you've read Gone Girl you know this is where Gillian Flynn totally flips the script. And on the off chance you haven't read the book and don't know the twist, I'm going to just say it changes everything—some say for the better, some for the worse. (Count me among the former.)

Fincher brings his trademark style to this movie, which is part mystery, part social commentary on how quick the media is to make judgments which influence so many people in our society. The music, by frequent Fincher collaborators Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, brings a chilly feel to the film which suits it perfectly.

The film runs just over two and a half hours, but other than wondering exactly how the movie would tie itself up, I never looked at my watch. (I did continuously glare at the man on one side of us who kept texting, and a couple who spent the entire movie talking—loudly—but that's another rant for another day.)

The performances in this film are wonderful, led by the exquisite Rosamund Pike. You can't take your eyes off of her, because she's stunningly beautiful, of course, but more because her performance is full of fleeting glances and expressions that give her character so much depth. Pike's Amy is everything you'd think a man would want in a woman—sexy, smart, romantic, naughty, supportive—until you realize just how crazy f--king psychotic she truly is. This is a woman you do not want to mess with, but Pike is utterly mesmerizing, and completely worthy of an Oscar nomination.

Ben Affleck turns in another strong performance, once again proving that early jabs about the longevity of his acting career were unfounded. You don't quite know what to make of his Nick—is he grieving, relieved, guilty, or just a lying psychopath? Affleck's performance is slippery enough to keep you interested, and you don't know whether he's presenting Nick as genuine or as the person he thinks people want to see. He more than holds his own against the charismatic Pike.

The supporting performances in the movie are terrific as well—notably Carrie Coon as Nick's sister, who is simultaneously devastated for what is happening for her brother and wondering exactly what he isn't telling her; Neil Patrick Harris as a creepy ex-boyfriend of Amy's; and Kim Dickens, as the police detective who doesn't want to get taken in by the public cry for Nick's arrest, but doesn't know whether to trust her instincts or trust the facts that she is finding. Missi Pyle has some fun moments as a Nancy Grace-like zealot voicing outrage at the case.

I enjoyed this movie far more than I expected, and while it's obviously a depressing commentary on marriage, I found it truly compelling. The one thing I remembered about the book is that when you're presented with the story of two flawed, not-entirely-honest people, you don't know exactly what to believe is true. And you may very well walk away from this movie with questions, but that's part of its charm. I wouldn't be surprised—and I'd be pleased, actually—to see this nominated for Best Picture as well this year.

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