Marriage is a leap of faith. If you are lucky, you’ve found a lifetime of fulfillment with a friend, lover, and partner. If you are not, you’ve bought a one-way ticket to Crazy Town.
The brilliant thriller “Gone Girl” plays out the latter scenario to the nth degree where an initially idyllic marriage takes repeated turns for the worse.
While toxic nuptials are usually the stuff of the Lifetime network, in the hands of best-selling author Gillian Flynn (who adapted her novel to the screen) and paranoia-auteur-director David Fincher, “Gone Girl” ratchets up the tension with Swiss-timepiece precision and delivers a movie you’ll probably still be talking about long after the credits roll.
Our couple in question is Nick and Amy Dunne, who are played to perfection by Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. Amy is an enigma, a brilliant New York socialite who seems poised and elegant in any situation.
Nick is transfixed and as we flashback to their whirlwind courtship, the pair seems destined for wedded bliss. But when we drop in on the couple on the morning of their fifth anniversary, things appear to have gone horribly wrong.
Nick and Amy are now living in Missouri (the movie was filmed in Cape Girardeau, about an hour down the river from St. Louis) after they both lost their jobs and Nick was called home to help with his ailing mother.
Nick owns and operates a bar with his twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon) and comes home that afternoon to find signs of a struggle and Amy nowhere in sight.
Nick calls the police and almost immediately becomes a source of suspicion for nearly everyone from Det. Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) to the national media. It’s not long before Nick finds himself in the middle of a publicity firestorm as questions continue to mount and Amy fails to turn up.
I wouldn’t dare spoil any of the wicked twists and turns this movie delivers, but I will say fans of Flynn’s novel will be more than pleased as this is one of the most faithful and effective book-to-movie adaptations you are ever going to see.
Fincher’s bona fides as a Hitchcockian master of suspense and atmosphere have been firmly established (and he gets another sublimely-eerie assist from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross on the soundtrack), but one thing he doesn’t get as much credit for is for how great he is at casting.
Dickens is an underappreciated actress who really shines here as the dogged detective and Coon gives a breakout performance as Nick’s quick-tongued, world-weary sister.
Fincher even does some sly casting against type bringing in Neil Patrick Harris as Amy’s mysterious ex-boyfriend Desi and Tyler Perry, who gives the movie a jolt of energy as slick, high-profile defense attorney Tanner Bolt.
Pike, whose career kicked off as a Bond Girl, is probably most recognizable in roles where she is being rescued by various male movie stars. Here, she finds a whole new gear and gives a performance that is both haunted and haunting, which is not as easy to do as it sounds.
But really this movie lives or dies on the shoulders of Affleck and the dude pulls it off with what is arguably the best performance of his career.
He certainly knows a thing or two about being raked across the coals by the tabloid press after living in a fishbowl during his “Bennifer” days, so I’m sure that was one aspect of the role he didn’t have to dig that deep on.
I’ve always liked Affleck and thought he was a smart guy in spite of some near-catastrophic career choices, but he has one of those faces that just makes him look like an insufferable d-bag.
He keenly plays that up as Nick, a charming guy we just can’t fully bring ourselves to trust. He knows he looks like a handsome wife-murderer and watching Affleck play off of that perception in so many subtle levels is really something to watch.
You should go in knowing this is a darkly-twisted (and occasionally darkly-funny) movie that packs quite a punch, but it is more than worth your time for being as thought-provoking as it is tense.
In the end, “Gone Girl” echoes what experience has taught, in that with marriage you think you are getting what you desire when in reality you are getting what you deserve.
“Gone Girl” is rated R for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language.