Friday, December 5, 2014

Gone Girl: Medium Fincher.

Movie Review: Gone Girl

Director: David Fincher

Reviewed: 24 November 2014

jamesintexas rating--***

I hold director David Fincher in such high regard for past films like Se7en, Fight Club, and The Social Network that even when his newest film Gone Girl does not reach those heights, he still has created an admirable, stylish fast-moving thriller based on an enormously popular novel. Like he did with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Fincher adapts a wildly popular and beloved work, elicits strong performances, and makes judicious choices for how to compress the storytelling, but as was the case with Dragon Tattoo, I feel less connected and visually impressed with where his film goes and how it goes there. For a director capable of masterful sequences, jaw-dropping cinematography, and general artistry, Fincher delivers a lesser achievement in Gone Girl. But, it is still an achievement.

Gone Girl introduces an estranged couple Nick and Amy Dunne (Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike) in small town Missouri, and very quickly, Nick arrives home to find a smashed up room and no Amy. Police are involved, blood stains found, and Nick becomes a primary suspect in the potential kidnapping. Retreating to Margo (Carrie Coon) his twin sister's house, Nick begins to unravel a mystery that he may or may not be the cause of which corresponds with a series of clues left behind for him by Amy to celebrate their anniversary (a treasure hunt tradition of sorts between the two). Twists and turns abound, and to reveal more would remove some of the surprise from Fincher's work here. It winds and winds, with a structure that carries us into the world of Amy's parents, their history, Nick's complexities, and our American obsession with missing persons. A supporting cast of detectives, lawyers, and more show up, and everyone seems game for elevating this lurid tale which seems to relish its darkness and ugliness.

The film has an alternating structure that attempts to mirror Flynn's novel, though it fails to achieve any sort of balance which may be to the film's detriment. Or not.  Showing us one character more than the other may naturally align our sympathies, but there are several moments that attempt to shift our perspective on characters that we think we know. The nature of novel to film comparison is such that compression and elimination of moments leaves a lesser impression. As a result, Nick's hometown gets short shrift, as do the detectives investigating the case. The examination of social media's influence on a crime of this sort is interesting as is the twisty path that the story takes.

Affleck, like in Argo, seems still to be a bit of a cipher here capable of withstanding whatever emotion we project upon him, but the standout is Rosamund Pike as Amy, conveying a wide range of emotions quite effectively. Fincher is truly a master of concision, having adapted everyone now from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Gillian Flynn. His work is always stylish and well-crafted; all his surfaces have a glossy sheen to them, even when covered and dripping in blood. He does not shy away from gruesome violence and the hard R rating, and his films have always been watchable. I did not find his attempt here to be as effective as his best work, but that standard is an impossibly high one to reach. Gone Girl reaches for a powerful knockout of an ending that did not fully work for me, but the sum of its parts is a truly intense, dark thriller well worth your time.

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