movie review – GONE GIRL

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Writing, acting, and directing rarely merge together as well as they do here in DAVID FINCHER’S GONE GIRL. This feels like something HITCHCOCK or BILLY WILDER would create. That is to say, this film is a very deliberately paced adult thriller full of unexpected twists and turns hellbent on shocking you in ways you didn’t imagine from contemporary cinema.

In order to properly dissect this film, I will get into (clearly marked) spoiler territory later on. All you need to know now is: watch this movie. Even if you aren’t a fan of the usual OSCAR fare, I feel like you’ll enjoy this exciting mystery. I wouldn’t say it ever really verges into artsy territory. GONE GIRL, simply put, is well-constructed adult entertainment for the average film-goer. Don’t let this SLIP THROUGH the cracks.

BEN AFFLECK stars in this adaptation from GILLIAN FLYNNE’s best-selling novel. I was surprised to learn she wrote the screenplay. Another surprise was REESE WITHERSPOON as a producer. Girl power, right. However, the real revelation here is ROSAMUND PIKE. The mystery largely hinges on Affleck’s and Pike’s performances. Every 10 minutes or so I would change my mind about what happened in this amazingly engrossing dense guessing game. Those flashbacks are so well-crafted. Each glimpse into the past mounts the tension of the present.

Actually, Affleck performs just as well, with half of the critical recognition. He nailed the subtle notes perfectly – even if he’s simply brushing his teeth I was wondering whodunnit. Inappropriate smiles, behaviours of the past, the moment they first met – whichever scene you select to deconstruct, it will be deeply layered with nuance.

I loved the act of watching this film so much. Participating was half of the enjoyment. You’d think with the dark sexual subject matter this would be a movie to watch solo – or definitely not on a first date scenario – but GONE GIRL is perfect to watch with a few friends. This way you can yell your suspicions out to more than the screen. Part of the fun was tossing out theories, wrong or right. GONE GIRL is perfectly ripe for viewer participation where we actively co-create this fiction as it happens.

TYLER PERRY plays Affleck’s JOHNNY COCHRANE-like top tier Hollywood lawyer. I’ve never seen him perform so well on film. He almost steals every scene he’s in. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say, “Gummi Bears”. Perry prepares Affleck for interviews with the media before we even get to a trial. Affleck’s wife is missing, and we are unsure if he is guilty or not. This uncertainty propels every scene making for supremely enthralling conversations. As a viewer, our minds are reeling. We analyze Affleck’s every move and every word. It’s rarely this fun to ask questions about our main character in movies.

Another scene stealer is the actress playing Affleck’s twin sister. She may have doubts about her brother, but she is fully supportive. She doesn’t shy away from calling it like it is. She provokes him but only to understand. Her role grows more complex as the movie does, especially with one of the early twists.

It seems like every role is worth mentioning. SCOOT McNAIRY makes a brief appearance that illuminates so much. I won’t go into why here. I really enjoyed his conversation with Affleck. It only suggests what people are capable of and what else could happen later on in this story.

Another co-starring character I really enjoyed was the bold and no-nonsense lead investigator. She cares about the facts. She needs evidence to go with motive. She hunts down clue after clue, steps behind Affleck, as we wonder if she’s onto the truth. Every piece of evidence, every suspicion, is double-sided. We never know if Affleck killed his wife, or if she went missing, or if there is another suspect.

DOOGIE HOWSE– I mean NEIL PATRICK HARRIS plays a former boyfriend of Amy. Affleck seems to suspect his involvement in his wife’s disappearance. He guides the authorities towards Harris to no effect. I know I certainly had my suspicions, right or wrong. By the end of the movie, we have our answers. I have to say this was a bold choice for Harris.

The media also plays an important role in GONE GIRL. Of course there is a NANCY GRACE-like TV personality seeking vengeance from the get-go. The media here is parasitic. They are vultures. The worse the story, the better the story, for them. At first, the media spins a sympathetic story about a missing rich white girl. The parents talk to the cameras and offer a reward. They even have their own hotline ready for calls. Once it is revealed that Amy was pregnant when she went missing the media turns on good old Bennie. Now that a drop of motive is added to the water, the sharks circle the prey. Affleck is deemed guilty because it makes the better story. It’s more sensational.

The constant peeling of the onion leads to a deeper and deeper mystery. David FINCHER, the man behind the lens, balances each element perfectly. His meticulous eye frames each shot for dramatic effect and subtext. By the time he pulls the rug out from under us we are ecstatic with Fincher tricking us rather than angered by the challenging detour.

ENTERING SPOILER TERRITORY…

IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED IT, DON’T RUIN THE MOVIE FOR YOURSELF… YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED…

I haven’t read the book, so I’m not sure how all of these plot details are balanced in comparison. Maybe the novel better describes the actions of our characters. But for me, the way events unfold on screen was pitch perfect. Tonally harmonious. Executed with responsibility and care.

I’m thinking of that moment about half way into the movie, where we realize what’s really happened. We get a RASHOMON sort of experience, as our story shifts to another point of view. The first portion of the movie focused on Affleck’s character a.k.a. Suspect Numero Uno. This spotlight on his guilt or innocence was captivating enough, like thoroughly engaging. And then that knob gets cranked to 11.

Our new point of view is Amy’s and what happened to her that night. This is where we get into spoiler territory – the point my jaw dropped. Fincher has done it again – that moment where the audience realizes they had no idea what the hell happened – just like he did so effectively with FIGHT CLUB years ago.

I love how Fincher portrayed these moments. He hands the reins over to Rosamund Pike and let’s her go to work. And she definitely earns her money here. She has to convey such a range of emotions. Her physical transformation during the flashbacks are commendable. She transforms in more ways then one in this section of the film. She deliciously chews up every scene. Her journey from motel life to mansion captive is unforgettable and totally mesmerizing.

She delivers what very well could be the best performance of the year. The scene where she is covered in blood and acting as if her life is in danger was deeply disturbing and completely effective at demonstrating the pure evil within. We get a villainous turn way scarier than FATAL ATTRACTION. This movie suddenly becomes a horror movie for men.

I’m sure couples everywhere were scared watching that first half of the movie. What is my mate capable of? Whereas women may be used to exploring these emotions from countless horror movies casting them as captives. For men, this is new territory. And I’m happy to be shocked. I’m happy to be scared.

Fincher delivers this content with the brushstrokes of a master. I’m sure it was all there on the page, but coaxing this incredible level of performance from the actors and framing it in such a spectacular way, ensuring the story flows with the energy required, must be at least partially attributed to the cinematic legend of David Fincher. Seeing this devious plotting unfold step-by-step was completely captivating.

 I felt every moment of this twist. It didn’t knock me silly, it didn’t confuse me, it didn’t piss me off, it thrilled me, it made me dive deeper into the mystery, it compelled me even further. And it continues to do so until the film reel runs out. It makes me wonder. In recent cinema, has there been a more dramatic shift in story at the mid-way point than what happens in GONE GIRL?

Despite a 150 minute runtime, I could still go for another 30 more. That is a masterful ability. Most movies force us to check our watches. Most run out of steam or go over the top. GONE GIRL is so perfectly balance across multiple scales that it leaves you wanting more. A rare feat indeed. I’m sure we all wonder about what happens next. Will this charade of a couple live happily ever after? Will one of them kill the other? Will they actually raise a child together? I suppose there is no perfect answer, and no real reason to let us know what happens. This way the movie sort of takes on this individual ownership. You make up your own ending, and that version of the movie is yours.

Don’t you love how the movie begins & ends with that same image of Affleck stroking Pike’s hair – as she looks up – right at us.

For me, I’d like to think the next moment after Pike stares at the camera suggestively would be her placing a new post-it on her calender, another one reading: “Kill Yourself”. Her ultimate final chess move. Upon suicide, Affleck would be the number one suspect. Again. No matter who defends him in court, they will have quite the challenge convincing a jury. I’m assuming she will kill him or herself rather than run away with their newborn baby.

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What did you think? How does GONE GIRL end in your version of the movie?

Or did the ambiguous ending totally miss the mark?

Did you enjoy Affleck’s performance, or was it lost under the shadow of Rosamund Pike’s amazing portrayal of Amazing Amy?

Did you read the book? How does this film adaption hold up in comparison?

What do you think of David Fincher’s legacy? Where does GIRL rank against his previous efforts?

So... What'd you think?

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