Gone Girl, directed by David Fincher, is the hot novel adaptation of the fall. You can read my book review here, and since Gillian Flynn, the author, adapted her own book, there are no major differences between the two. In the hands of Fincher, though, I ended up liking the movie a bit more than the book, perhaps because it’s more entertaining watching despicable people than reading about them.
A quick summation: the Dunnes are an unhappily married couple exiled from New York to Nick’s hometown in Missouri. They are both out of work. On their fifth anniversary, Amy goes missing. The cops, led by Detective Boney (a terrific Kim Dickens) investigate, and all signs point to Nick’s guilt. A media circus descends.
The first half of the film is alternated by current events and flashbacks to the couple’s beginnings, as narrated by Amy’s diary. But can we believe what we are seeing? A reveal about halfway through changes everything. I knew what was coming, but Fincher does well with it (I was completely taken by surprise in reading the book). Therefore it would be unseemly of me to discuss any more of the plot here lest I ruin the effect.
This film is ideal for Fincher’s cold examining eye. Because the two main characters are liars with slippery moral centers, there is no need for warm and fuzzy, which Fincher is not interested in doing. The film unspools in a methodical, police procedural vein, and the more we learn about the two characters the less we like them. That being said, most viewers will probably root for one or the other, if only because we are living out our vicarious evil selves.
Ben Affleck was a perfect choice for Nick. Affleck has always exceeded as playing bland, nonthreatening handsome men. Nick is something of a doofus, a weak-willed guy who is usually depicted in beer commercials. Rosamund Pike is Amy, and this is quite a revelation for an actress most associated with British films. I can’t go into too much about her character because of the reveal, but suffice it to say she makes for one the great villainesses of recent years.
The supporting cast is excellent as well. In addition to Dickens, who serves as sort of the moral compass of the film, Carrie Coon is a standout as Nick’s twin sister, who stands behind him no matter what. “I was with you before we were born,” she says. Neill Patrick Harris is amusing as a former boyfriend of Amy’s, who is so rich his lake house has heated floors. When a character tells him she wants to go to Greece with him, he replies with delight, “Octopus and Scrabble?” which I think would make a great band name. Tyler Perry, as Nick’s lawyer, steals every scene he’s in, summing everything up late when he says of Nick and Amy, “You two are the most fucked up couple I’ve ever met and I deal with fucked up people for a living.” Kudos also to Missi Pyle, who does a wicked Nancy Grace impersonation.
The ending, which disappointed me in the book, is fundamentally unchanged here. It makes sense psychologically, but not for a thriller. The book and the film are very cynical about marriage, likening the inhabitants to prison inmates. Affleck says to Pike at one point: “Yes, I loved you and then all we did was resent each other, try to control each other. We caused each other pain.” She coolly replies: “That’s marriage.” Anyone thinking about getting married may have reason to pause after seeing this film.
Gone Girl is a crackerjack entertainment (it’s fairly long, and takes a while to wind up) but it doesn’t transcend its airport book trappings. It’s not on a level with Fincher’s Social Network; it’s more along the lines of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It makes for a good date night, although married couples may be wary of each other on the drive home.
My grade for Gone Girl: B+.