I’m throwing THAT out there right now. There’s no way that I can give an honest impression of this movie without A) delving into *SPOILER* territory, and B) comparing and referencing the original source material, in this case, the bestselling novel by author Gillian Flynn. I did something with this one that I haven’t done in a good long while…I read the book before catching it on The Big Screen. I’ve done that a number of times in the past, but not recently. I heard that one of my favorite directors, David Fincher (‘Fight Club’) was taking this story as his next cinematic endeavor, and I was naturally curious. In passing, my girlfriend mentioned that she’d read the book and enjoyed it. So I grabbed her copy and dug in.
To give a short rundown, I enjoyed the mystery that was ‘Gone Girl’ (The Book). I was particularly struck by the cynical tongue-in-cheek-ness that Flynn gave the flavor of her sordid lil tale. The book largely maintains two distinct narratives: One from the first person perspective of former journalist ‘Nick Dunne’, a down-on-his-luck thirtysomething year old man who finds himself suspected of murder when his privileged wife ‘Amy’ abruptly disappears on their fifth wedding anniversary. The other is told from a series of ‘Amy’s diary entries that detail the seemingly threatening change in ‘Nick’s demeanor, and the crumbling of their marriage. ‘Nick’ must fight to clear his name…while not exactly appearing (or turning out to be) completely innocent. The book kept me guessing, as Flynn was very clever in the way that she dropped hints and clues as to what was going on, as the mystery rolled along. The end of the book where (SPOILERS AHEAD, People!!!)…it’s revealed that ‘Amy’ is a sociopathic cunt (I’m sorry, ladies…but THIS one deserves it) who manages to stay one step ahead of EVERYONE, and essentially forces ‘Nick’ to continue the charade of a marriage that she’s coerced him back into (through murder, blackmail and a manipulated pregnancy)…well…it wasn’t quite as satisfying as I’d hoped, given all the hoopla about how awesome the book is.
Details of ‘Amy’s duplicity and deception come to light and effectively paint her as a dangerous, manipulative bitch who deserves to spend the rest of her life rotting in a cell or having her veins pumped full of Pentobarbital. As the story ends, she’s managed to get away with it, and ‘Nick’ is forced to fearfully live a lie. I love me a good ‘downer’ ending on a book or movie, but the character of ‘Amy’ was ‘realized’ well enough that I didn’t want her to get away with it…I wasn’t satisfied with the cynical ‘mechanism’ that didn’t allow ‘Nick’ to get justice. Overall, it was a good read…and I recommend it.
Then the movie hit. I’m a huge admirer of David Fincher’s body of work, going back to his ill-received take on ‘Alien 3’ (1992); his first directing gig at the age of 27. The man is a perfectionist, with a distinctly mature style that stands out from the plethora of ‘visions’ that punctuate the contemporary World of Film. After his questionably motivated, yet high quality adaptation of Sweden’s runaway best-seller / blockbuster book/movie franchise ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ let the world know that he was comfortable with handling mature literary source material (although ‘Fight Club’ should’ve put any doubts to rest anyway), his ass in the directors chair just…makes…sense. So…how did he do? This is pretty much a near-perfect adaptation of this particular book. It’s VERY faithful to the novel, right down to using the same font for the Title Cards that mark the passage of time for the characters involved. I don’t have to give you a rundown of the story, because you just read it above.
The casting, as usual, is great. Ben Affleck (‘The Town’) is a perfect choice for the character of ‘Nick Dunne’. He has a certain charm about him that can be both endearing and / or repellent, given the situation that he’s in. Given how much scrutiny his life and ‘character’ come under when it becomes clear that he’s a murder suspect, that boyish charm gets him into trouble more than once. When he realizes the truth about what’s been going on, his personality takes on a decidedly icy and guarded edge…with VERY good reason. Affleck brought his ‘game face’ to the table here. Rosemund Pike (‘Jack Reacher’) was pitch perfect as the scary, ‘damaged goods’ bitch ‘Amy’. She could be very endearing and sexy at the drop of a hat…only to turn it, on a dime, into something calculating or lethal. The veiled menace that this woman could convey with just a tilt of the head and a narrowing of the eyes gave me shivers. I wanted to throttle her myself…and that’s a compliment! We also get good ole Neil Patrick Harris (‘Starship Troopers’) as ‘Desi Collings’, a former boyfriend / accused stalker of ‘Amy’ who, too late, finds himself embroiled in her self-serving web. ‘Madea’ herself Tyler Perry pops up as a high-priced lawyer who takes on ‘Nick’s plight, and helps him get to the bottom of what’s happening. THIS casting choice was really questionable for me, as I haven’t seen anything to make me think Tyler Perry is worth my time and attention. I was wrong. He’s VERY good here as ‘Tanner Bolt’. Carrie Coon, whom I’d never seen before, was pretty much how I pictured the character of ‘Nick’s twin sister ‘Margo Dunne’, funny, sarcastic and capable of some serious anger when provoked. The rest of the supporting cast were all top-notch as well.
As with ALL David Fincher films, this one looks beautiful. The man is meticulous in his compositions and lighting. He’s the master of what I like to call ‘Muted Crispness’, and that is certainly on display here. His careful plotting with the camera movements meant plenty of long, gorgeous shots of key things happening. There is no impatient, ADHD-inspired editing here. This is a patient film for a visually more mature audience.
The word ‘patient’ can just as effortlessly pertain to the overall pacing of the narrative. Everything feels like it happens right when it should. Which is a little amusing, as it reminds me of one plot twist (*SPOILER*: the reveal of ‘Amy’ as alive and well), that came at the same point in the narrative as it did in the book…and it bothered me there too! I felt that it was too abrupt and early in the story that was being told to elicit what I thought should’ve the proper amount of surprise and shock. But…at least it shows that they were faithful in the translation.
The Score was again composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who both now seem to be Fincher’s Go To Guys now for haunting and tonally-intense music that consistently accents and fills the visuals that he crafts onscreen. I hope he keeps working with them in the way that Steven Spielberg and John Williams, or Zack Snyder and Tyler Bates do; where their work seems tailor-made for each other’s style.
If I had to render a legitimate complaint, I would have to say that my biggest issue with ‘Gone Girl’ was the casting of Neil Patrick Harris. Don’t get me wrong, I think that he’s hilarious and nearly Chuck Norris-like in his proximity to Ironic Hollywood Awesomness. But here, he didn’t fully fit in because he WAS NPH. He was just fine as the ill-fated ‘Desi Collings’, but I couldn’t get past the fact that he was ‘Doogie Howser’. Granted, (*SPOILER*!), his mid-sex death-by-exacto blade had me wincing and cringing in my seat. It was an uncomfortable and messy death that the character certainly didn’t deserve. NPH ‘sold’ that shit like a champ! But still, his face in the crowd pulled me out of the story at times. A lesser known but equally skilled actor would’ve carried more clout, in my humble opinion.
All in all, ‘Gone Girl’ is another successful notch on Fincher’s cinematic head-board. He has proven time and again that he’s a talented force to be reckoned with behind the camera; who clearly understands The Art of Filmmaking on a nearly cellular level. Too often do we get a decent book that then gets picked up as a film adaptation that simply doesn’t live up to expectation. There’s always that “The film was ok / passable / not bad / bullshit…but the book was better” discussion we have all heard before. In THIS case, the two versions compliment one another nicely. Virtually every element of the story comes together just as it should. I found myself very satisfied when the credits rolled…despite my annoyance that the bitch got away with it…again!! I’d hoped they might’ve changed up the ending to give ‘Nick’ a lil deserved justice ala ‘Fatal Attraction’ (1987), but…no. A faithful adaptation (which this most certainly is) doesn’t allow for such niceties. As for seeing this on The Big Screen…Fincher’s visuals are beautiful, but you’d probably enjoy it just as much on Blu Ray. I effortlessly recommend “Gone Girl’…The Film AND The Book.
“You two are the most fucked up people I’ve ever met, and I deal with fucked up people for a living.” -Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry)