Gone Girl (2014) (R)

David Fincher is known for incredible book-to-film adaptations. Pretty much everything the director has done has come from a novel first, with few notable exceptions. Naturally, it seems perfect to give Gillian Flynn's super-seller to this man first and see what he can do with this. Add the uncontrollable madness and the nasty twists and turns this mystery takes and Fincher then seems like the perfect director.
But "Gone Girl" isn't you mother's movie, or your father's. The theater I went to was packed with horrified grandparents who hadn't read the book. I did. I was prepared.
I was no great fan of Gillian Flynn's novel, in fact, I'd go so far as to say that I hated it with a passion. But the movie, also written by Flynn, takes the time to not take the time the book took for certain moments. It's very true to the book and runs perhaps just a little bit longer than necessary, even for such an intricate work as it is.
The movie begins with Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) in a state of indifferent mopey-ness. He goes to his sister Margo for consolidation. Margo (Carrie Coon) is his twin sister and they jointly own a bar named The Bar and this morning they decide to start drinking hard liquor a little early.
For much of the first section of "Gone Girl", unlike the novel, the movie spins and whirls from perspective to perspective. We jump back and forth in time with fade outs, like we're dreaming each progressing scene. It's very hypnotic and beautiful to look at, as most of Fincher's works are, and makes for clearer entertainment than the book.
This morning that Nick walks out of his house on is the morning that will change his life forever. When he comes back home to talk to his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), he finds a few tables overturned and Amy missing. Not missing a beat, he calls the police and in waltzes Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and Officer Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) who quickly comb his house. There is what appears to be blood splatter in the kitchen and Boney is keen to make sure that forensics scours the house while Nick stays at his sister's.
Amy is missing and the Missouri community bands together to make sure that she will be found...but as the days pass and her body still doesn't show up, warm or cold, Nick starts to become more and more uncomfortable with the spotlight, particularly as the evidence starts to suggest that he may have had something to do with his wife's disappearance.
As far as a Fincher movie goes, this one is pretty tame. We don't really get the grit of "Fight Club" or even the universal "screw you" of "The Social Network"; and so that may be a bit of a disappointment. I will say this, knowing what happens or not knowing could make the difference between a good and a great movie for you. Having read the books, all the plot twists were no surprise to me.
Yet there is a break-neck speed that the events come to a boiling point and for this the first half of the movie is more enjoyable, though they don't compare to the last twenty minutes. Like the book, the last section of the movie is a nasty turn, a surprising and incredibly evil and lovely mind-scramble.
I feel like there is not much I can say about the plot without spoiling something, so let's talk about the movie instead.
Trent Reznor and Atticus Rose return as composers and their score is almost sheer perfection, it's eerie and very reminiscent of their work on "The Social Network", it's the uniting force of the movie.
What's curious are the names that pop up now and again. Reese Witherspoon is one of the producers and then we get both Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris who both seem very out of place in this dark movie. Tyler Perry, for his part, nails his small but pivotal role. Neil Patrick Harris on the other hand has a much more complex role and he doesn't seem to understand it quite right. There is so much evil to the book and the movie, to the point of overkill. The world is a horrible place, we get it...that doesn't mean that every person has to be evil or have a dark side.
I think my complaints about the book translate well to the movie; but the performances keep me from hating the movie. Ben Affleck wouldn't have been my first choice for Nick Dunne and I don't think he does as well as Pike; but it's a solid performance. If there are two people who make the movie they are Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit because every scene they are in shines and passes too quickly. I would have liked a whole movie with just them. Dickens in particular is the epicenter of the movie and the actor who can walk away with her head held very, very high.
"Gone Girl" is a mystery about a woman gone missing, but it's also about marriage and about the demons that come with any relationship. It's not exactly a date movie, but something in the way Fincher shoots it makes it so wonderfully fun to see situations crumble.
Sadly, "Gone Girl" pales in comparison with Fincher's previous recent works and it doesn't let us really connect with it. It's beautiful, complex, mysterious, and exciting; but never a masterpiece...it's far too calculated for that.
It's a movie well worth seeing if for only that first time; but I don't think that this movie will be remembered when awards season sweeps by, nor do I think it deserves to be. It took a crowd-pleasing book and turned it into a critic's movie...I'm unsure of how this will do; but it should be seen. Watch it, and don't spoil.

Score: ★★★½

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