(2014 - Director: David Fincher Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike)
On its surface, Gone Girl is little more than Lifetime TV Movie fluff. It’s a crime story. A whodunnit story. A story that Dateline does every week. In normal hands, at worst, it would have ended up being a very good mystery film. But under the guidance of a master director (David Fincher) and a capable cast, Gone Girl becomes a methodical epic with effective commentary on marriage, image, power, and tabloid media.
I won’t spoil the plot. The twists and turns in the story aren’t what matters. What matters is the incessant questioning we as an audience have about what is really going on in Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike) Dunne’s minds. Yes, we are trying to figure out who did what and who to believe and so on and so forth, but the marital chess match is what Fincher is going for here. Although the Dunnes obviously take marital issues to the extreme, their issues are something all married couples can identify with: manipulation, control, communication, pretense, boredom, and money.
Affleck gives what may be my favorite performance of his career in an understated and complex role. He was beautifully cast for this film; as was Rosamund Pike. She will come out of nowhere and blow you away with how expansive and multilayered her character is. We can look into her eyes and have no idea what she is thinking, all while knowing she’s in complete control. It’s scary. In an Oscar race that doesn’t seem to have a front-runner, expect Pike to make a strong case for best actress come February.
Gone Girl is obviously a stylistic showpiece by Fincher, but one that is analytical and gives power over to the actors. Much like his other recent crime dramas (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Zodiac) the story is so rich with detail and character nuances that we start to care less about how the crime will be solved/unsolved and more about characters’ journeys. I always have and continue to think Fincher may be the best director at blocking, coverage, and setting a tone through shot selection. Stacked on top of that, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ musical scores continue to take Fincher films (Gone Girl, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) to new heights. They are doing music different than anyone out there right now.
Gone Girl isn’t an overwhelming movie. It’s not something that demands oohs and ahhs. A film where you intimately know the characters from start to finish and still can’t guess what they will do next is one that will boggle your brain. It’s sure to be a draining experience. Its higher concepts are consistent (to a greater degree) with what any relationship can be like at times. How can we know someone so well, yet sometimes, not know anything going on in their head? Does a relationship require some lies and some manipulation in order to continue being happy? Is it easier to ignore a partner's flaws? Simply put, if you're about to get married, Gone Girl should be the last place you look to for advice.