October 6, 2014

Review: Gone, Baby, 'Gone Girl'

"I'm so sick and tired of being picked apart by women."
Ben Affleck Rosamund Pike David Fincher | Gone Girl

Meticulous filmmaker David Fincher's latest twisty thriller, based on the Gillian Flynn bestseller, Gone Girl is pulpy yet high-class melodrama at its finest. Perfectly cast, Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike are devilishly delicious as a troubled married couple, where the wife mysteriously goes missing on their fifth wedding anniversary. The film adaptation acts as one, long, dark, disturbing metaphor for a toxic marriage and playing the victim, exploiting its own material as lurid, trashy fun. Fincher takes the boilerplate material and infuses a dark, atmospheric tone throughout to heighten the unfolding drama so precisely.

Affleck is in fine form, playing different aspects of the husband, both the concerned spouse and focus of suspicion. Early on, we sympathize and relate to his confusion before being introduced to shadier elements and more details from Amy's point of view. He shows his thoughtful intelligence and how his good looks and square jaw can work against him with an often smugly evaisive, arrogant demeanour despite others generally knowing he means well. He anchors the film with a quiet yet mysteriously affecting and complex performance as the reluctant celebrity figure who clearly has issues despite always trying to be the nice guy and please others.

In total contrast to Affleck's more mannered, layered, and nuanced Nick Dunne is Pike as "Amazing Amy" in a revelatory, star making turn, where she's asked to play the angel and the devil with ease from scene to scene. She's everything wrong with our public image of the female victim archetype with shades of being a femme fatale. To say anymore about her stunning portrayal would risk revealing the character's tricky motives. Pike really goes for it and shines in a multi-facted, deeply affective portrayal.

Carrie Coon | Gone Girl

Fincher and Flynn take on celebrity culture and explore the phenomenon of victimization in the media, particularly focusing on the coverage around good-looking white women disappearing. Fincher uses his arsenal of tricky, clever filmmaking to take the audience through all the twists and turns of the engrossing plot. Any prior knowledge of the material wavers compared to the execution of the journey through remarkable storytelling. Some might say Fincher is playing with material beneath him but it's because the story seems so lurid and pulpy is where he shines, using gorgeous but muted cinematography from Jeff Cronenweth and a minimalist score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to accent the film.

Every speaking role seems so delicately thought over from Neil Patrick Harris as Amy's creepy college boyfriend to Tyler Perry as Nick's wise-cracking, high-powered lawyer. Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit as the straightforward, good cop/bad cop detectives baffled by the strange case bring us into the step-by-step procedural element as we try to stay ahead of the characters. Carrie Coon (The Leftovers) as Nick's twin sister, Margo, is a delightful foil, comedic relief, and audience surrogate, having a great sibling chemistry with Affleck's tightly wound Nick. The characters are nicely covered by the midwestern Missouri backdrop as Fincher revels in using a middle America aesthetic to exploit the plot and scandal as a media sensation.

Fincher, Affleck, and Pike delight in translating Gone Girl as a sort of moody suburban noir full of gripping turns, particularly in the acting and seamless editing together of sequences through time, switching back and forth between the unfolding missing persons case (and possible murder) and Amy's revealing diary entries. It's a procedural told with the most amount of flair and flourish in the style of the best possible episode of a primetime soap opera like Scandal mixed with aspects of a Law & Order. Its cast and filmmaking elevate the checkout stand material to comment on the idealism of modern marriage and the perils of wedded bliss. It's a real page turner.

More | YVArcade / The DissolveThe Playlist / Vulture

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