GONE GIRL isn’t as frightening or as visually inventive as David Fincher’s previous films. It doesn’t deliver that gut-punch head-fuck of brilliance that stays with you over repeated viewings. The movie, though technically accomplished, doesn’t push the envelope technically or strike one as self-consciously modern. Worse still, it’s a movie based on a bizarrely popular and intensely badly written thriller by Gillian Flynn - a book so bad at the sentence level I only forced myself to read it to inform this review. The poor quality source material hampers Fincher in two ways. First, even those who haven’t read the book probably know whodunnit and how. Second, even with all of Fincher’s intelligence brought to bear, there are certain leaps of faith and improbability that trouble the careful viewer.
For the very few out there who don’t know, however, GONE GIRL is a contemporary thriller centred on the married couple Nick and Amy Dunne. They fall in love and marry but years later they have descended into mutual dissatisfaction - something that we might at first believe is caused by financial difficulties after they both lose their jobs and move back to Missouri, making Amy a fish out of water. However, as book-readers will know, the conceit of the novel and film is that for the first half both Nick and X are unreliable narrators. It turns out that he is adulterous and selfish and that she has a history of seeking extravagantly worked out revenge on men who get in her way.
What carries this movie is the central performance of Rosamund Pike who has to play five shades of her character: the young girl who falls for the handsome writer; the disaffected and calculating housewife; the frumpy “gone girl” on the lam; the ultra-glamorous Sharon-Stone-esque murderer; and finally the icy cold but contained returned wife. At each stage, even thought we know what happens next, we are captivated by her narcissism, cruelty and slipperiness. It’s just plain impressive to see her alter her physicality and demeanour to encompass the roles.
Sadly everyone else in the film is just reflective paper for her to work off of. Affleck and Carrie Coons are credible and just fine as the twins upon whom the accusations of murder fall. Missi Pyle is just fine as the by now cinematic cliche of shamelessly ratings-seeking muck-raking journalist. And Tyler Perry is - well - himself. The most ill-used actor is however Neil Patrick Harris as Amy's obsessive high school boyfriend Desi. He’s just a cartoonish stalker in a classy suit. I mean, there was something melodramatically over the top and stupid about his final scenes, but was anyone still taking it seriously at that point? If so, only because of Rosamund Pike.
Ultimately, the film is worth watching. It’s compelling and well-made. Will it be remembered among Fincher’s cannon? No. It cannot surprise the rather thin and trite finger-pointing at the media and the decidedly implausible plot. But I guess at least Hollywood knows who to turn to when it comes to the inevitable BASIC INSTINCT remake.
GONE GIRL has a running time of 149 minutes and is rated R. It is on global release.