Gone Girl, reviewed
Don't prepare to leave unshaken.
In a way that can't be described, David Fincher's Gone Girl feels like a sort of demented quintessential American romance. Oddly, it somehow feels right, in part that Fincher, who has made humanity's dark corners his uneasy home since 1995's iconic Se7en, and Gillian Flynn, who pens the adaptation of her relentless 2012 novel, are a match made in a strange part of heaven reserved for movies like this. Don't prepare to leave unshaken.
Flynn's stellar book was a brutally realistic, he-said, she-said portrait of a marriage gone beyond wrong. Her screenplay, and Fincher's subsequent film, tones down the novel's sheer objectivity and takes the form of a sprawling question as to what love can possibly become in changing times.
Gone Girl begins with the introduction of Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), who we see stroking the hair of his wife and asking the eternal question married couples: "What are you thinking?" reflecting that he'd like to crack her head open to discover just that.
Fincher takes us on a tour of Dunne's hometown, Carthage, Missouri, a chronically boring St. Louis suburb where he owns a bar with his sister Margo (Carrie Coon) and lives with his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike).
Nick is the tired cliche of a man forced back to his childhood home well into adulthood, and his wife Amy seems to be the cliche of the wife who knows no better than to nod her head in agreement with Nick's every command.
On their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing without a trace, prompting a nationwide media circus and intense pressure from local authorities Rhonda Boney (played with intelligence and humor by Kim Dickens) and Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit), detectives hot on Nick's case.
Woven among footage of the proceedings in Carthage are entries from Amy's journal, which offers a chilling first-hand account that reacts uneasily with a more subjective lense of Nick's epic fall from grace. Narrated by Pike, it dates back to the fairy tale beginnings of her relationship and marriage. That is, until their money runs out, and they're forced to relocate to the suburbs to Nick's hometown. Amy never has much say in the matter, and is strung along like a child, feeling like "something to be jettisoned if necessary" and being neglected by her own husband.
Pike, a newcomer to leading roles (she's been featured lightly in the likes of Wrath of the Titans and Jack Reacher), is revelatory as Amy, capturing every nuance of the multi-layered character, as well as Flynn's feminist sensibility that is all-too relevant in an era when women are told to be strong, but not so strong that they should disrupt the Nick Dunnes of the world. Pike is everything that Amy is supposed to be -- at once a frustrating enigma and an oddly potent portrait of womanhood interrupted.
Affleck is scarily good as Nick, somehow managing to retain Nick's humanity even as an entire nation turns against him and his downfalls and mistreatment of Amy are shockingly revealed.
Even the unlikely castings of Tyler Perry as Nick's sharp, funny, corner-cutting lawyer, and Neil Patrick Harris as Amy's creepy childhood friend pay off remarkably.
Fincher tackles the movie's deteriorated morals with deviate expertise, handling the incendiary relationship at the core of the film in way that forces us to connect the dots to it's haunting implication.
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, whose score for Fincher's The Social Network won them an Oscar, contribute an indelibly unsettling, beautiful score that meshes with Jeff Cronenweth's unnerving cinematography and Kirk Baxter's razor sharp editing. It culminates in a dark, intoxicating fantasia that only an artist of Fincher's caliber could conceive.
Gone Girl is a special achievement in that it relishes in darkness that most don't want to think about, but remains humanely relatable to its last moments. It works tremendously as a thriller, a drama, and at its best, an unsettling zeitgeist for modern day relationships. It isn't pleasant, but it's something that needs to be witnessed.