Thursday, December 4, 2014

David Fincher Masters Multiple Tones in Excellent "Gone Girl"

Gone Girl is one hell of a ride.
It’s extremely difficult to review David Fincher’s Gone Girl without spoiling much of the film’s twist and turns. What I can say is that it’s the type of tale that in lesser hands could easily play like a Lifetime movie, but that with this talented cast and crew is actually one hell of a ride. In many ways it reminded me of Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects, another incredibly engaging, darkly amusing melodrama that was far better than it should’ve been.

Much has been written about Gone Girl already – with its most fervent fans arguing it taps into the zeitgeist, taking a satiric look at American values, idealistic marriages and tabloid culture, while the naysayers argue it’s just trashy fun.

I’d call it all of the above. While it’s clear this is a crackerjack genre piece above all else, Fincher weaves in some really potent ideas, particularly pertaining to gender politics, the importance of perception over truth and the ways quirks in a romantic partner can seem cute at first but then grate over time.

As one expects from a Fincher outing, the below the line aspects are all top notch. The cast is great too, with Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike perfectly cast as Nick and Amy Dunne, a seemingly perfect couple with a crumbling marriage. The plot takes off when Amy goes missing and clues begin implicating Nick may have murdered her.

Affleck, so often miscast in traditional hero parts, has always faired best when exploring flaws and humanizing asshole tendencies, while Pike puts her natural screen chilliness, an occasional detriment, to great use here. I’d argue they both put up career best work, hitting each note perfectly in roles that run the gamut from intense drama to dark comedy.

The supporting cast is uniformly great, but special mention should be made of Carrie Coon as Nick’s supportive twin sister (she should really be a player in this year’s Best Supporting Actress race) and, oddly enough, Tyler Perry who, despite his boisterous screen history, totally nails it as Nick’s collected, cut-the-bullshit attorney.

There are some plot holes here that can drive you nuts, most particularly the way in which Amy gets out of a sticky situation with a former flame (there were cameras everywhere!), but I think that maybe that’s part of the point – a way to emphasize how perception and plays at emotion really do trump cold hard logic, sense and facts. This is amazingly illustrated by a late-in-the-game interrogation between Amy and the leader investigator in the film (a great Kim Dickens).

I’ve read some claims that this is a misogynistic film, a nightmare scenario that validates man’s worst fears about getting married, but that’s mostly a crock. While it does play with those notions, the book and script were written by a woman (Gillian Flynn) and Gone Girl has three of the strongest female roles and performances you’re likely to see this year.

Really, Gone Girl is a “have your cake and eat it too” movie – a totally tongue-in-cheek exercise in dark comedy that also manages to be a thrilling and involving drama that gets audiences feeling major sympathy for the wronged party. It’s thought provoking, amusingly horrific and tragically affecting all in one.

Needless to say, I’m a big fan of Gone Girl. It’s definitely the most fun I’ve had with a movie in 2014 and a no-brainer inclusion on my end-of-year best list.A