Directed by: David Fincher || Produced by: Leslie Dixon, Bruna Papandrea, Reese Witherspoon, Cean Chaffin
Screenplay by: Gillian Flynn || Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, Casey Wilson, Missi Pyle, Sela Ward, Emily RatajkowskiLisa Banes, Scoot McNairy
Music by: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross || Cinematography: Jeff Cronenweth || Edited by: Kirk Baxter || Country: United States || Language: English
Running Time: 149 minutes
David Fincher is arguably the greatest American director of this generation. Since achieving firm footing with the release of his dark, brooding serial-killer mystery, Seven (1995), Fincher has entertained and educated viewers across all cinematic tastes and intellectual aspirations by combining Kubrickian perfectionism with a Hitchcockian taste for morbid sexuality and genre violence. The man has proven more than capable of stretching his artistic talents from “lowbrow” to “highbrow” material, as well as being financially lucrative and critically respected for the past two decades. He’s come a long way from the tumultuous days of Alien 3 (1992) at 20th Century Fox. With the release of his latest feature, Gone Girl, Fincher has hit an all-time high in box office success.
Fincher does what he does best and takes an otherwise hokey premise and transforms it into cinematic art. Not only does Gone Girl feature some of Fincher’s best and eerily restrained directing, it also brings out the best acting performances of much of its cast. Ben Affleck fits into his role as the initially suave but also aloof, disinterested, and clueless good-looking husband like a glove. You could not have picked a better actor for this role, and his back-and-forth, creepy relationship with co-lead Rosamund Pike elevates both their characters. Pike plays her deranged, psychologically tortured, and fucked-up female lead well and turns what would have been in most other actress’ hands an unworkable, unbelievable caricature into a terrifying, sexy, and believably batshit crazy “Gone Girl.”
Fincher’s direction and Flynn’s script make further use of some of the best supporting roles this side of The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003). Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, and Kim Dickens play their parts wonderfully. Everyone fits together like carefully constructed puzzle pieces building a mysterious, unsettling portrait of modern American life, marriage, and gender dynamics.
It should be noted that this film may become the marquee cinematic analysis of heterosexual relationships and gender roles of our age. The fact that the screenplay and the novel on which it was based are written by a woman make it that much more notable. While some may cry foul at the supposed hyperbolic actions of some key characters, as well as how certain plot-devices push the boundaries of credulity, Fincher and Flynn use these extreme character motives and relationship dynamics to make a point about how men and women interact with each other. A running theme throughout Fincher’s filmography is his ability to shoot movies that are extremely feminist and portray feminine empowerment while also being politically incorrect, brutally violent, and masculine. A great example of this is his previous film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), to which Gone Girl could be considered a spiritual successor.
Like Dragon Tattoo and the rest of his filmography, Gone Girl eschews modern filmmaking staples like handheld cameras, frequent close-ups, and forgettable background music. This latest film retains his seductive, almost hypnotic audiovisual style that’s both smooth and unsettling. His smooth camera pans and his cast’s subtle performances meld with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ creepy score to project an ominous, voyeuristic presence, particularly whenever characters on-screen are performing secretive or unseemly actions. When the film showcases its inevitable burst of blood, gore, and death, Reznor’s score crescendos and Kirk Baxter’s edits become almost psychedelic. It’s this restrained, surgical, patient direction that imbues Fincher’s long, psychologically taxing films with irresistible tension and immaculate pacing. I wasn’t bored for a minute while watching this film.
Gone Girl has been described as the perfect date movie for couples who dream of destroying each other, and in that respect it is perfect. Like most every film David Fincher ever made, it appeals to the creepy darkness inside all viewers, both critical and commercial, both highbrow and low, both male and female. Perhaps it’s fitting that Fincher and author/screenwriter Flynn “married” their directing and screenwriting talents to tell the pitch-perfect (nightmare) tale of marriage. Gone Girl is very much a story of boy-meets-girl, but what occurs within the details is far more delicious than what we are used to seeing.
Eat your hearts out, ladies and gentlemen… though please don’t consider this a “date-movie,” by any means.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Highbrow-pulp filmmaker extraordinaire David Fincher and nightmarish soap-writer Gillian Flynn combine for a cinematic match made in heaven. Gone Girl tells the perfect story of the most imperfect relationship imaginable. Fincher’s leadership and Flynn’s characterizations bring out the best of a cast of otherwise limited typecast actors. Never before have Affleck, Pike, and Perry been this good, and it’s unlikely they’ll ever be this effective again. Pike portrays the best femme-fatale ever written in this neo-noir for the modern era.
—> HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
? In hindsight, this film produced the first great Ben Affleck role since he starred in (and co-wrote!) Good Will Hunting (1997). This is yet another reminder how people who look like stereotypical “lead-men” aren’t always the best fit for such roles.