By Marc S. Sanders
David Fincher is best when he builds tension in dark cinematography. It’s eerie and moody, but it all seems to make appropriate sense.
A skilled director like him proves that even with Lifetime television soap opera material, if delivered with care for detail and with genuine acting he can hold on to the attention of a scrupulous movie going audience. Haunting filmmaking, like Fincher is known for with movies like Seven or Panic Room, can also work in sensational material that at first might draw the attention of lonely housewives pigging out on Rocky Road ice cream while watching hours upon hours of scorned victim gossip material on the WE Channel. Gone Girl adapted from the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the screenplay, is a thrilling cinematic piece even if the story’s ending is a little disappointing.
Ben Affleck plays Nick Lowe who discovers a broken glass coffee table in his home and realizes his wife of 5 years is missing. Rosumund Pike is Amy, who seemingly vanished without a trace.
Fincher closely shoots Flynn’s story with developments you might expect or have experienced with various news stories and documented investigations by sensational legal journalists like Nancy Grace. Nick, with Amy’s parents (Lisa Banes, David Clennon), initially form a united front for the press but that falls apart when it’s uncovered that Nick has had an affair. Amy had a close neighbor who expresses tearful concern that cameras latch on to for ratings. The cops (Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit) grow more and more suspicious of Nick. Nick eventually hires a high-priced lawyer (Tyler Perry). Nick is eventually considered to be an abusive husband as well. It all adds up.
These are the steps you’d expect from a missing persons case. You might also suspect murder, but no one can claim that out loud if there’s no body to be found. So, toe the line carefully detectives, journalists, & gossip mongers!
What is not expected in Gone Girl are the surprises that open up midway through the picture, and the book. Flynn is a really inventive storyteller, and Fincher as director gives ample opportunity to answer for every surprise up the writer’s sleeve. Gone Girl plays with a lot of internal character thought to process its details.
I had read the novel long before the movie was even cast, and I couldn’t put it down. That being said, I was frustrated when the conclusion arrived. I can say the same for the faithful film adaptation. It’s an ending that could happen but, wow, is it a long shot.
Rosamund Pike was Oscar nominated as Amy, the complicated wife in this marriage. She’s good at occupying the complexity of her past shown in flashback. She’s likable in many moments, but then Amy is also a character that we are reluctant to trust based on her relationship to Nick, as well as her own parents.
Affleck remains a good actor with this picture. I think it takes an honest actor, writer and director to accurately show a man who might not be responding to this crisis like a general public expects. I think much of Affleck’s personal issues of infidelity and alcoholism in the public eye lend credence to how genuine he makes Nick out to be. Could this guy be handsome enough to think he could harm or actually murder a woman as beautiful as Amy; the “Amazing Amy” as she’s widely known in her mother’s series of best-selling children’s books? Is Nick that good at hiding his evil side? On the other hand, is Nick simply innocent, despite all the skeletons that are gradually uncovered? That’s a fair question as well.
Again, Gone Girl is superb in its delivery. It’s ending, though, is the setback. At least I felt that way. For every reader, like me who considers it dubious, I’m sure there are readers who applaud the inventiveness of Gillian Flynn’s gripping and modern mystery.
I guess if a good story prompts a group discussion on a Saturday night, then a really good novel or a great movie has achieved its purpose. At the very least, I consider that a great compliment for an outstanding cast, director and writer.