Cinema review: Gone Girl

GILLIAN FLYNN’S 2012 best-seller Gone Girl was just waiting to be made into a movie. It is so well constructed with twists and revelations coming fast and frequent you could smell the popcorn popping with each chapter. The concern for book readers was, who is going to make a story of two unsympathetic, spoiled, and frankly unlikable, millennials into a mainstream Hollywood movie without losing its dark originality?

The answer was director David Fincher in what is surely his most mainstream movie to date. The fact he is one of the best visual directors working today makes him a fantastic choice. Combine that with Gillian Flynn adapting her own novel for the screen and it all seems to have come together perfectly.

Nick and Amy are an almost too perfect couple. Having met in New York in 2005 they fell in love and enjoyed the good life working as magazine writers while living off Amy’s trust fund. Enter the 2008 recession, both lose their jobs, and relocate back to Nick’s small hometown in Missouri. On the morning of their fifth anniversary Nick returns home to tell Amy he wants a divorce, only to discover signs of a struggle and Amy vanished.

Having checked out of the marriage months ago Nick struggles to feign the correct emotions in front of police and media scrutiny, leading to him becoming the key suspect in her disappearance. From then on the plot shifts from flashback to present. Two timelines and two perspectives emerge resulting in the audience not knowing who to trust. Nothing is what it seems.

That fact that Fincher is a much better director than Flynn is a writer means if you haven’t read the book you are not doing yourself a disservice by seeing the movie beforehand.

Gone Girl rattles along nicely but some readers will be disappointed at the disproportionate time spent on Nick over Amy. In particular Amy’s great ‘cool girl’ speech from the book is not given the gravitas here it deserves. That said, Rosamund Pike is the true star here, her version of Amy - who is herself a chameleon playing a role within a role - is everything readers of the original novel could want.

Ben Affleck does quite a lot with the pretty unsubstantial character of Nick. In fact, the most interesting thing he says in the entire movie is the opening line. You do begin wonder what Amy ever saw in him.

Some of the casting choices are hit and miss. Tyler Perry was a bizarre choice, and fell a little flat in what could have been a wonderfully smiley role as a big time celebrity defence attorney. Neil Patrick Harris on the other hand is horrifyingly lecherous as an obsessive old flame of Amy. Trent Reznor’s score is, much like his other collaborations with David Fincher, incredibly unsettling and pretty much tone perfect.

Gone Girl has a smart plot with a director on top form. However, like the book, its closing scenes are not entirely satisfying. It is not Fincher’s best work and there will surely be better from the two leads, but Gone Girl is an extremely competent thriller that will keep you guessing. Maybe not a great first date movie though.

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