The opening scenes of “Gone Girl” are filled with so much rapid-fire dialogue and whip-fast editing that I thought Aaron Sorkin had re-teamed with director David Fincher. But then I remembered that author Gillian Flynn, who wrote the hit 2012 novel, adapted her own work into this screenplay.
Set in the summer of ’12, “Gone Girl” stars Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne. He and wife Amy are living in a small city in Missouri, having moved there from New York City. On the morning of their 5th wedding anniversary, Nick returns home after running some errands to find the front door open, the house cat in the yard, and a shattered glass coffee table. Who he doesn’t find is Amy. She is gone.
The police begin to investigate Amy’s disappearance and Nick quickly becomes a suspect and the target of major media attention. And three main questions immediately emerge: Where is Amy? What, if anything, is Nick hiding? And did Nick actually kill his wife? Through a combination of flashback scenes of their early years together, and the first few days of the investigation and search, we start to develop our own possible answers to these critical questions.
But then, somewhat surprisingly, all three questions are answered by the end of the first hour (and the film runs 2 hours and 25 minutes). At this point “Gone Girl” becomes more than just a typical “Missing
Person” movie. It’s amazing how one five-minute montage drastically changes your perception of everything that’s happened up to that point.
However, outside of that sequence, the script provides few legitimate surprises. This is a one-note story, which does, thankfully, include multiple layers. Fincher adds a few chuckle-worthy moments to break-up the suspense, and he lays it on thick with the over-the-top media coverage, including a Nancy Grace look-a-like TV host, whose show, apparently, is watched by everybody. The real Nancy Grace would love to have the ratings this show must have. An image of the cat looking out the window at the mayhem of satellite trucks and news crews nicely sums up all the craziness and the obvious point Fincher is trying to make.
Without a doubt, the best thing about “Gone Girl” is the phenomenal performance by British actress Rosamund Pike as Amy. This is star-making work. From the subtlety in her voice as she narrates the flashback scenes in the first half, to her exceptional range of emotions in the second (blank stares, meltdowns and everything in between), this is the showcase role every actress dreams of, and she nails it.
As for Affleck, it’s tough to judge his performance because, for most of the film, we’re not quite sure if we can believe Nick or not. If we don’t know if the character is acting, it’s tough to tell whether Affleck is portraying him correctly. The supporting cast includes Tyler Perry, who only has a few scenes as defense lawyer Tanner Bolt (great name), though he does seem comfortable not playing Madea for once. Neil Patrick Harris is also underused as one of Amy’s former lovers. And Carrie Coon (HBO’s “The Leftovers”) is very good as Nick’s sister.
“Gone Girl” is rated R for language, sexual content, nudity, and violence. There’s enough intrigue and tension to hold your interest, and the work from the strong ensemble cast certainly helps. But was I ever “wowed” by anything in this film, or on the edge of my
seat at any point? “No” and “no”. Instead, I sat, somewhat removed, as batch after batch of questions were presented by the police, the media, family members and Nick himself, most of which I already knew the answers to. Unfortunately, nothing in this film, including Fincher’s visuals and the far from-“Social Network”-memorable score, is groundbreaking.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Gone Girl” gets a solid B. I’m guessing, as is often the case, this story works much better as a novel. Still, this film is worth seeing for Pike’s amazing performance and the original take on an unoriginal subject.