GONE GIRL. Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Carrie Coon, and Tyler Perry. Directed by David Fincher. Rated MA 15+. Restricted (Strong sexualised violence, blood, sex scenes and coarse language). 149 min.
This American drama is a film version of the best-selling novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn, who wrote the screenplay for the movie. It deviates from the book, but its thriller components are mostly faithful to it.
On his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) tells the Police that his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike) has gone missing. Pressured by the Police, and harassed by the media, it soon becomes obvious that Nick's relationship with Amy was not a happy one. Nick has deceived her, it is clear that he isn't telling the entire truth, and he is acting oddly. Also, Amy has kept a diary, and has written in it that she has begun to fear for her life.
David Fincher, the Director of the movie, brought us "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (2011), and here he constructs a taut psychological thriller that keeps the viewer guessing. At one level, the movie comments on the deception and aggression that could be lurking, it says, beneath so-called marital bliss, but it is also a satirical foray into what people choose to think and say about events they don't understand.
The film dissects the marriage of Nick and Amy coldly with precision, and both Amy and Nick emerge as people trapped in a matrimonial nightmare. They are people, who have pledged to live their life together, but they have developed a relationship that is characterised by total mistrust.
The movie heavily uses flashbacks showing Amy and Nick experiencing happier times. Under financial stress, the couple moved from New York to Missouri, and now struggle to cope with life's stresses and each other. In the less affluent circumstances of North Carthage, Missouri, the film exposes us to the dividing line that separates misery from happiness, mistrust from trust, and hate from love.The film exposes us to the cruel routines of people, who have become skilled at manipulating each other. Marriage for Nick and Amy has drifted into a pretending happiness for others to see. Both of them are not what they seem, and life together has shown that to each other. "What have we done to each other?", one of them asks, "and what will we do?".
Amy and Nick are dysfunctional people, but one of them is seriously pathologically disturbed. Amy is a schemer and Nick is a philandering, uncaring husband. The movie spends time keeping the viewer on the edge of the seat trying to guess who has outwitted who, and for what reason. They are both unpleasant people for different reasons, and the film offers us contrary views of them both.
The acting of Rosamund Pike as Amy, and Ben Affleck as Nick is excellent. Pike communicates a mixture of terror, style and graciousness that would mark her as a person of interest to Alfred Hitchcock. Her performance is fascinating to watch. Ben Affleck captures exactly the look of a man who looks sensitive and engaging to others, but is obviously not that way inclined. There are excellent supporting roles by Nick's wily lawyer (Tyler Perry), Amy's luckless ex-boyfriend (Neil Patrick Harris) who meets a terrible end, and Nick's confused twin sister, Margo (Carrie Coon).
Fincher directs the movie with careful attention to detail. This is a film about not very nice people, directed by someone who knows precisely how to bring their nastiness out. This is also not a wholesome movie at all about marriage, but the sinister plot keeps the viewer involved. In a particularly effective way, the movie makes excellent use of ambiguity by weaving twists and turns into its story-line that keeps the viewer constantly surprised that appearances can be so misleading.
This is an entertaining "noir" film about a relationship that has gone seriously wrong. The movie is not one at all to provide good insights about how to make floundering relationships better. However, it baits its audience in thriller mode craftily, and very well. In its final scenes, it succumbs to the lure of "Fatal Attraction" (1987) by going down the path of melodrama a little carelessly (who gives a media-interview while soaked in blood?), but by then the viewer is hooked and might not notice.
Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
Twentieth Century Fox
Released October 2nd., 2014