TV / Movie Reviews

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Gone Girl “2014”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Psychological Thriller/ Stars: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, Missi Pyle, Emily Ratajkowksi, Casey Wilson, Lola Kirke, Boyd Holbrook, Lisa Banes, Sela Ward, Scoot McNairy, Scott Takeda, David Clennon, Kathleen Rose Perkins/Runtime: 149 minutes

I think it is safe to say that if you have ever been married to, was married to a significant other for a significant period of time before the ugliness of divorce settled in, or who knows someone who went through this pain and agony are a rare breed. This is because this trinity of groups know better than most that the mental ward-level institution that is marriage is one that proves to be at times not exactly the road to easy street that some might immediately assume it to be. However fear not reader! Indeed I say this because should things get chaotic in that way and your friend or yourself needs some cheering up then just sit them down in front of a TV, pop in 2014’s Gone Girl, and I promise you that you and/or your friend will rather swiftly be thankful that for all the drama and chaos that was underway throughout the duration of said marriage…..at least it didn’t turn out like this….or at least I hope that is the case. Indeed iconic film helmer David Fincher’s recent analysis on just how pitch black the human psyche truly can be, and terrific adaptation of a taut and riveting novel due to the author penning the screenplay, is one that in the vein of a slice of cinema like The War of the Roses from 1989 in how it showcases a visceral, ruthless, and downright unnerving look at the concept of present day marriage as it gives each and every one of us the complete and utter dissolution of a relationship that seemed perfect in every way and which eventually gave way to machinations, scheming, mind games of the worst degree, and just plain mental issues that managed to change a look of love into a desire to stab one another in the back as much as they could without literally stabbing the person in the back….hopefully. Indeed this is one slice of cinema that, as movie goers have come to expect from Fincher, is riveting, a tad creepy, and chillier than being stuck in a walk-in fridge, and expertly made on both sides of the camera. Not only that, but this is also one slice of cinema that reveals some pretty harsh truths not only about both genders, but also just how potent of a role the media is able to play in the world around us nowadays. Suffice it to say then that this is one cinematic voyage that is riveting and taut in the best way possible, but with how these characters are don’t be surprised if when this slice of cinema is over you find yourself breathing a sigh of relief because after darn near close to 2 and a half hours you never have to spend time with these outright delightfully despicable people ever again….unless you want to. Then that is entirely on you.

The plot is as follows: Gone Girl gets its riveting and nightmarish narrative underway as we witness our hero, a man by the name of Nick Dunne, get up on the morning of his 5th wedding anniversary to his wife Amy and proceed to go about his day. However for as routine as his day has been, we see that things are about to take a pretty dark turn. A turn that begins when Nick comes home to discover the front door is open, the glass coffee table in the living room completely annihilated, and worse of all Amy missing. Yet despite Nick’s repeated and passionate claims that he really does not know what has become of his wife, we see that it isn’t long before he really starts stoking the fire of suspicion in the lead investigator on the case, a Detective Rhonda Boney, who soon discovers through both a comprehensive sweep of the property and in-depth search into the Dunnes’ private life that their marriage in quite a few aspects is nowhere near as sunny as they would like people to be believe. Thus as the days drag on with no sign of any hint of Amy and Nick starts getting seriously dragged through the coals by the media for not acting in the way they feel a grieving husband should whilst also becoming more and more of the main suspect in the eyes of law enforcement, it isn’t long before you too find yourself asking: does Nick know more than he’s telling and either way then what truly did happen to Amy? Suffice it to say that by the time this slice of cinema is over you will know the answers to these questions and so much more….

Now I will say that in her truly remarkable first time at bat as a film’s screenwriter, Miss Flynn has managed to streamline yet not alter in any significant way her novel right down to keeping its two person and playing with time foundation and pretty much every single one of the twists that made the novel so iconic. Suffice it to say with how complex this story is, it is quite fortunate to have Fincher at the helm since he is one of only a few directors who is able to take apart this couple’s marriage with such skill and eye for detail that you might find in his 1995 film Seven for example. Suffice it to say this dynamic duo are able to take this analysis of a difficult relationship and turn it not only into the marriage from hell, but also a box cutter-sharp allegory on just how little so many people know or even trust the people they are married to. Yet as the film goes on, it soon starts to become obvious that the core puzzle at the heart of this film is not what has happened to Amy. Instead it is more about who she and Nick genuinely are as people and the circumstances that have led up to this point. Something that the immensely talented cast is not really desiring to answer as quickly as possible. Indeed be it the film going back and forth between things that occurred in the past and in the “here and now” or comparing Amy’s enigmatic diary entries with clues she has left for Nick as part of their yearly wedding anniversary “treasure hunt”, this film’s screenplay is blessed with the gift of keeping the narrative operating on several distinct levels whilst also keeping you hooked with barely (but not none) any graphic violence for the majority of this movie’s close to 2 and a half hour runtime. As a result, when this slice of cinema unloads one of several downright shocking twists about halfway through, the satisfaction is not necessarily from how shocking they are, but rather from how delighted Fincher and his team are in pulling us ever further through the maze. At the same time though, Fincher is a master in misdirecting an audience and his work at the helm is on point. I mean this may not be the first time he has had an audience question the reliability of the narrator, looked at how the media can make an already nightmarish situation worse, or even given us a pair of both distinct timelines and points of view. Yet what makes this slice of cinema such a terrific fit for how he sees humanity is this film has a wonderfully cynical approach to the core relationship and how the line between this couple adoring and loathing one another is razor thin at best to say nothing of being immensely skilled at showing the manipulative behaviors some couples can start to engage in with one another as time goes by. As a result, when this film reaches a conclusion that is wonderfully faithful to the conclusion of the novel, we find ourselves realizing that, much like Nick and Amy, we are not going to ever know everything about the person we married, but based off this couple maybe we shouldn’t. Finally, we also see that, in typical fashion for a Fincher film, his other partners behind the camera also do exceptional work. This starts with d.p. Jeff Cronenweth who manages to give each location in this film a look that is equal parts moody and colorless as his camera just patiently observes all the various events that occur, and includes Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross who once more have given a Fincher film a musical score that gives the film a necessary pulsating degree of dread, and editor Kirk Baxter who, despite his usual collaborator not coming onboard this one, is able to expertly cuts this film whilst also permitting individual moments and just the comprehensive composition to work at its own pace thus resulting in a slice of cinema you can immerse yourself in even whilst being hooked into your seat.

Now in terms of casting I can honestly say that Fincher, as is typical for him, manages to do a wonderful job of getting a truly top-notch effort out of each and every performer no matter how big or small their role may be. Indeed in the lead role of Nick Dunne we get wonderful work from Ben Affleck. Indeed it is no lie to say that some of the best performances that Affleck has given us in his career is whenever we get to see him portray a man of some stature who Lady Fate decides to give a slap upside the head to (see his excellent portrayal of George Reeves in 2006’s highly underrated Hollywoodland and a recently let-go executive in 2010’s potent The Company Men). As such, I think it should be said that Affleck is a phenomenal casting choice for the role of Nick Dunne as Affleck manages to contribute the perfect degree of man walking on airs whose life is turned inside out to an individual who finds his honor and confidentiality turned inside out as horrifically as possible. Indeed he may every now and then have been chastised in his career for not appearing to really want to put in any kind of effort in his performances, I still think Affleck is distinctly fit to take on the part of a guy who is staring down those very accusations from a fictional public that is every bit as nit-picky and stress-inducing as the one found in reality. Suffice it to say that the role of Nick is a very tricky one to pull off to it necessitating a significant degree of both cautious unpretentiousness and emotional distancing, but Affleck does absolutely terrific. However, more than anyone else, I can honestly say that, if this title doesn’t say as much, this slice of cinema is one that is owned through and through by the completely phenomenal work of this film’s leading lady Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne. Indeed Pike is without a doubt the kind of glamorous blonde that Hitchcock would easily have tried to be the leading lady in one of his pictures. Yes some may feel that Pike’s chilly and slightly uptight British demeanor might not fully showcase for audiences Amy’s golden girl side. However make no mistake this is one actress who has the chops to say nothing of the screen presence to keep us hooked into the narrative throughout and it is an absolute blast to see her make the most of what is now regarded as one of the finest performances she has given to date. Indeed it is Pike who we hear through voice over that helps us navigate the early parts of the narrative and it is her take on Amy that ultimately gets the most range from a single performer in this film from annoyed yet vulnerable to insidious and just straight up ice queen level chilling. Now the phenomenal work from our leads aside, this slice of cinema is also filled to the brim with a collection of top-notch support performances that all fit into the world of the film beautifully. This starts with Tyler Perry (yes that Tyler Perry) and Neil Patrick Harris who do terrific in their against type roles as Nick’s infamous yet media-skilled defense attorney and a slimy ex-boyfriend of Amy’s respectively and even goes on to include such people as Missi Pyle and Sela Ward in their distinct pair of TV personalities who put their own distinct twist on the ongoing series of events for the world, David Clennon and Lisa Banes who do a terrific job at portraying the very essence of entitlement as Amy’s uppity parents and also wonderful work from Kim Dickens and Carrie Coon who do a terrific and dependable job as both the small town sheriff and Nick’s loving and concerned sister respectively who find themselves trying to give Nick a break and finding at the same time that is something that, more often than not, is infinitely easier said than done. Suffice it to say therefore that this is one cast from top to bottom who all bring no less than their best and the result is pure cinematic magic.

All in all I think it should be said that the finest entries in iconic film helmer Alfred Hitchcock’s filmography were the ones that, among other terrific components, were always able to a delightful balancing act between brutality and style thus making these slices of cinema an intriguing blend of expensive and bubbly champagne being imbibed and bright red blood being spilled. The reason I bring this up is because I strongly feel that the phenomenally constructed and incredibly well-acted Gone Girl, with all its riveting curveballs that it throws your way and all the pitch black commentary it works with that manages to work in truly unpleasant reveals and fabrications that are most assuredly even worse, is a slice of cinema that manages to be a brilliant present day take on the kind of cinema that Hitchcock made superbly well back in his day. Indeed this is one slice of cinema that shows the “time honored concept” that is marriage is not just the seemingly endless series of skirmishes that it can be when things go sour. Rather, it is also something that can be fought on other levels as well namely in terms of conflict in the spouses’ social classes, the utilizing of sex to get the upper hand on your partner, and bickering endlessly about the future, having kids, finances, and what have you….with blood eventually being shed. Yet for as bleak and dark as this slice of cinema gets, I also think that is a significant key for why this slice of cinema is so engaging and riveting as it turns out to be. This is because Gone Girl is that uncommon slice of cinema that not only aims for your emotions as well as the jugular, but also praises you for being intelligent rather than gives you grief for it. Suffice it to say then that when you give this slice of cinema, it may result in you being surprised and astonished, but there is one thing it will do best of all. That of course is that it will most likely inspire you to take a long hard look at your partner and, following a silence that borders on eternal, say to them that perhaps a long conversation is in order. On a scale of 1-5 I give Gone Girl a solid 4 out of 5.

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