With Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens. Written by Gillian Flynn. Directed by David Fincher. Rated R for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language. 149 minutes.
People complaining about the lack of “serious” movies in theaters forget that the last three months of the year present an onslaught of them, all wanting to be seen as potential Oscar contenders. GONE GIRL is a worthy entrant, with a story with many twists and turns and some knockout performances. Plot details will, of necessity, be sketchy.
What can be said is the initial premise of the film. Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) shows up at the bar he co-owns with his twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon) to complain about his marriage to Amy (Rosamund Pike). It’s their fifth wedding anniversary but he sees little to celebrate. He returns home to discover signs of a fight, and Amy is nowhere to be found.
The police, led by Detective Boney (Kim Dickens) become increasingly suspicious of Nick, and the media circus spins out of control. We see Amy in flashbacks and learn how a storybook romance turned into a strained marriage. There’s a growing suspicion that Nick may have killed her, but with no body, it’s hard to prove a murder even occurred. And then the story gets complicated…
Gillian Flynn, adapting her best-selling novel, has crafted an intricate thriller where no one is what they initially seem. Director David Fincher has taken the material and runs with it, turning it into one of sharpest dissections of a dysfunctional marriage since “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Affleck is solid as the everyman caught up in a situation beyond his control, while Pike’s performance may put her in Oscar contention. It’s a complex characterization that she manages to make internally consistent. We believe in her character rather than see her actions as simply plot devices.
There’s not a false move among the supporting cast, with Tyler Perry as a lawyer used to being in the spotlight in messy cases, and Coon having a wry turn as Nick’s sister. Neil Patrick Harris turns up as a former beau of Amy’s who has been carrying a torch for her since high school, and Sela Ward makes the most of a small but pivotal role of an NBC interviewer.
The film runs two-and-a-half hours–demonstrating that it is a serious Oscar contender–but doesn’t feel padded. It is only the ending that will have people arguing. Some will think it is the perfect summation for this story of a marriage gone wrong, while others may feel it’s a cop-out. This reviewer goes with the former view, and suggests that those who feel the ending is abrupt or otherwise disappointing take some time to digest it. Unlike “Fatal Attraction,” a more lurid movie about marital problems, “Gone Girl” doesn’t go for cheap thrills, although there are several shocks in store.
There’s much more to praise about the film but that would be giving too much away. Fincher and Flynn have a lot to say about marriage, suburbia, parenting, women’s roles, and the media, making this a film that will likely reward repeat viewing and engender much analysis. “Gone Girl” is the first serious movie of the fall season and while we can be sure there will be more contenders to come, it has to be noted that this one hits all the marks. It is one of the best films released so far this year.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.