That great master of dark storytelling David Fincher is back with the brilliantly twisted GONE GIRL.
‘No one does the dark stuff quite like David Fincher’ I tweeted after coming out of his masterful version of Gillian Flynn’s novel GONE GIRL And as this brilliantly acerbic tale of marriage includes some terrific twists and turns that will leave you gasping, I’ll try to keep this relatively short and sweet (and definitely spoiler-free) because the less you know, the better your enjoyment is sure to be.
The set up is pure mystery thriller – Nick Dunne, a regular kind of a guy in a midwestern town, returns home one day to find an open door and signs of a fight in his living room. Where is his wife Amy? When the police arrive in the shape of Detective Rhonda Boney and Officer Jim Gilpin, he amiably assists with their questions but as the hours and the evidence mounts, maybe he knows more than he’s letting on about what’s happened to Amy, maybe he even had a hand in her disappearance?
His twin sister Margo though is by his side believing in his innocence until one revelation means even she starts to doubt the man she’s known all her life. During this early part of the movie as we’re introduced to all the main players, I was reminded a little of Fincher’s superb The Game, where you start to get the feeling that Michael Douglas’ Nicholas van Orton is at the mercy of a puppet master who’s controlling his every move. Here, you feel these seemingly not so ordinary people are being wound up by puppetmaster Fincher and then when they’re let go, everything will unravel.
That’s sort of what happens in GONE GIRL and it was the latter half of the film when things get very dark, very twisted and also very funny, that it had me really hooked. It’s here that the slightly extreme elements of Flynn’s novel that probably work fine in print are cleverly smoothed over by Fincher, as he moves things swiftly along, keeping up the fluidity of pace that was used to such wow effect in The Social Network. We watch how quickly the media seize on the story and how hungry the appetite is out there right now for true crime, turning people into celebrities with the enjoyment of watching someone have their every move scrutinised under the spotlight.
This is cleverly illustrated in the casting, as watching Ben Affleck as Nick grow increasingly uncomfortable with this media situation he can’t control, you think back to his own experience of that earlier in his career. Affleck’s nuanced performance gives us a portrait of guy way out of his depth who can only rely on his sister when things get tough. And it’s here that the movie delivered its ace for me in the shape of the fantastic Carrie Coon as Margo. She’s an actor I didn’t know at all but her performance knocked me out. Her scenes with Affleck are the best in the movie, underpinning all the events that unfold with a subtle but absorbing chemistry. I’m now a big fan of her work and want to see her in more.
Fincher’s supporting casts are always uniformly excellent and GONE GIRL is no different. Tyler Perry turns in a very winning performance as super attorney Tanner Bolt to whom Nick reaches out for help when events really take a dark turn and Neil Patrick Harris is quite transfixing as Amy’s old college friend Desi Collings – his softly spoken presence will keep you guessing.
It was also lovely for me to see Kim Dickens again because although she’s been part of Treme and Friday Night Lights on TV, I remember her opposite the always fabulous Bill Pullman in the marvellously quirky comedy-drama Zero Effect. Here as Detective Boney, she’s hard when she needs to be and also rather devious at trying to get the truth from her prime suspect. Teaming up with Patrick Fugit – great as her straight-as-an-arrow sidekick Gilpin – she drives the first part of the film as we watch her piece together what might have happened to this seemingly golden couple.
But at the centre of all this and matching Affleck scene for scene is Rosamund Pike as Amy. What a role and you see Pike inhabit Amy with every fibre of her being, bringing an alluring but not always likeable woman into sharp focus. It’s a terrifically accomplished portrait because there are times we root for Amy and times we most certainly do not. I’m guessing that was Gillian Flynn’s intention, to create in Amy a constantly intriguing female character whose behaviour brought to my mind Patricia Highsmith’s great psychopath Tom Ripley. I’m sure that will have you pondering.
David Fincher makes movies that you can immerse yourself in, filling every frame with the most beautiful detail and letting you walk out of the cinema having had an extremely nourishing movie experience. GONE GIRL is another example of this – a thrilling, provocative drama that’s also a telling satire. Once again you think, he’s quite simply ‘the man‘.