“Gone Girl” is a movie about the intricacies of marriage, but it happily does away with the melodrama and thrown dishes for a hair-tugging, often brutal noir mystery infused with as much page-turning lust as the book that inspired it. Yeah, it’s that good.
As a result of doing more of a psychological character study than a straight up thriller, director David Fincher has crafted his most humanly rich film since “Fight Club”. It’s not as much about finding a killer as some of his best work (“Zodiac”, “Seven”, and “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), but about watching the people and letting the movie flow out of their mannerisms and behavior revolving around a disappearance.
Take the character of Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck). Affleck—in his best performance, now sporting a full Batman frame—drags himself around with either a vacant look or one of immense and sudden rage. He is suddenly a suspect when his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) goes missing, and it’s not the evidence that makes the people believe he did it; it’s the fact he doesn’t seem to care. He seems to have more sighs of relief than moments of panic, and even when he discovers the scene of the crime in his house he approaches it casually when the police arrive. As the case drags on he smiles for selfies, half-asses his speeches and comes off as just plain ol’ awkward. Even saving Gotham wouldn’t restore his reputation.
An equally ugly portrait of Amy is painted right along Nick. At first she appears as a victim through the narration of her diary, walking us through her and Nicks budding romance, all the way to her living in fear he may kill her. That is before reality sets in and her true self is unveiled and she becomes more of a despicable, smoky-voiced femme fatale—a role Pike with as much detestable complexity you can possibly imagine. These are two very unlikeable people played by two tremendous actors. One is emotionless, possibly soulless, and most likely deserved what happened to them, the other is a rampaging psychopath who you almost wanna strangle. I’ll let you guess which is which.
Fincher once again shows he knows exactly what needs to happen in order to make a story work, cutting quickly between the past and present, emphasizing how suddenly a fairy tale romance can to turn into a nightmare. One moment they’re in love in a New York City loft, the next they’re fighting over money problems, and silliness of reality TV marathons in a recession rattled Missouri town. There’s a haunting realism to their life that may ring true for couples watching in the theater, minus all the ominous lighting and eerie music (thank you Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross).
A lot of the credit can also be handed to screenwriter Gillian Flynn, who decided books were lame and wanted to come to our side. This is a rare move in Hollywood, as most authors who do write their own adaptations are usually accompanied by a professional screenwriter. But Flynn knew what about her novel would transition into the movie and that’s what she focuses on. I haven’t read the book, but she writes the movie just like one. Big moments come just when you need them to keep the page turning, or in this case, on the edge of your seat (I’m sorry, that cliché hurt me too).
This feeling runs straight to the end of the 145-minute movie (or normal Fincher length) to its nail-knawing end. It’s not a puzzling ending that will scramble the brain like “Fight Club”—it’s just highly unnerving. Those last 30 minutes I was fidgeting while holding in what I would gingerly call “pure curiosity” (with the help of some Sierra Mist) out of fear I would miss a single frame. And like any good director, Fincher knew to end the movie with the same kind of shot he opened with, this time with a horrifying new meaning. Your perception will be completely changed. Now that’s how a real mystery story does it, yall.