After reading “Gone Girl,” I had my doubts about Hollywood being able to successfully adapt it into a movie.
Those doubts turned out to be unfounded, as David Fincher has directed a truly dark thriller with a wicked sense of humor. I shouldn’t have expected anything less from the filmmaker who brought us “Seven,” “Fight Club,” “Zodiac” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” his most recent directorial credit being the first two episodes of Netflix’s “House of Cards,” setting the tone for what may be the best TV drama at the moment.
“Gone Girl” has two narrators, and most films tend to have one, so my main concern was that the movie would be a simplified version of a complex story. But the film is just as complex, which can probably be attributed to the fact that the book’s author, Gillian Flynn, also wrote the screenplay.
The film follows Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) as he copes with the mysterious disappearance of his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike). The media circus quickly points the finger at him in his wife’s disappearance and likely death.
And while Nick’s current struggles are being showcased, the story also unfolds the couple’s past through the filter of Amy’s journal entries. They met and fell in love while working as journalists in New York City, eventually moving back to Nick’s small-town Missouri birthplace once the recession hit and his parents fell ill.
The split points-of-view are what make “Gone Girl” a compelling story, and they were successfully transferred from the book to the movie.
The whole film is a slow burn, which is accented by the absolutely brilliant score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. It is there in the background to help keep the plot going, gradually building to a roar when the film hits its climax.
I could probably write a whole article on the film’s climax, but since I detest spoilers, I will leave it at this: Both the score and the editing of that intense sequence make it one of the most memorable movie moments of the year.
Everything about “Gone Girl” is spot-on, including the casting and performances. Affleck is perfectly cast as the lovable-but-deeply-flawed man caught in the media’s sights, an obvious and effective choice for Nick after surviving a media circus of his own when he dated Jennifer Lopez.
And then there’s Pike. Previously known for supporting roles in films including “Pride & Prejudice,” “Jack Reacher” and “Die Another Day,” she is on fire in “Gone Girl,” giving the performance of her career as Amazing Amy.
Neil Patrick Harris is equally terrific as Desi Collings, a basic creep from Amy’s past. Harris is known for his comedic performances, but he is just as unnerving as Pike in this complicated puzzle of deceit.
The film’s other supporting players - including Kim Dickens as Det. Rhonda Boney, Carrie Coon as Nick’s twin sister, Tyler Perry as lawyer Tanner Bolt and Lisa Banes and David Clennon as Amy’s parents - are pitch-perfect, too, giving just the right amount of nuance to make their characters fleshed-out no matter how many or how few scenes they have.
All of the performances are reflections of Fincher’s directing style, as he painstakingly makes sure his films are detail-oriented, whether it’s doing dozens of takes of scenes or making sure the art department has placed everything just so.
It could’ve been easy to get lost in the details of “Gone Girl,” but the film takes what it needs to effectively tell this story, making two-and-a-half hours whiz by as you are fed one engrossing detail after another.
Having a movie adaptation be better than its source material is a rare accomplishment, especially in a Hollywood production, but Fincher may have just achieved that with “Gone Girl.
Five out of five stars.
Rated R for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity and language.