Past the Popcorn: Affleck Stars in David Fincher’s Gone Girl


by Jeff Walls

Adapted from the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the screenplay, Gone Girlis one of the most anticipated movies of 2014.  After seeing it, I certainly anticipate that it will also become one of the most talked about movies of 2014.  The material is a perfect fit for director David Fincher, even if the tone of the movie seems very familiar to that of his last novel adaptation, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The movie stars Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, a writer-turned-bar owner who returns to his suburban Missouri home one day to find the place trashed and his wife missing.  The entire community becomes obsessed with the missing Amy Dunne and Nick finds himself in something of a media blitz.  Before long, both the police and the community begin to question whether Nick had something to do with his wife’s disappearance.  Meanwhile, after following clues that Amy had left for him as part of their annual anniversary scavenger hunt, Nick begins to suspect that there is more to his wife’s disappearance than meets the eye.

gone-girl-insetThe pacing of the movie in its first half is right on.  Feeling similar to the tone and pacing of both Fincher’s Zodiac andThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the movie slowly builds in tension towards the mid-point.  At this point, as readers of the book already know, the story kind of resets itself.  It’s a great twist, but it does work better in novel form than it does cinematically.  Fortunately, the uneven pacing in the middle of the film soon works itself out and the tension begins building again towards a shocking climax.

The cast of Gone Girl is universally terrific.  The standout is definitely Rosamund Pike as Amy.  In the role of a lifetime, Pike hits all the right notes playing a woman with serious issues (to say more would be to give away too much).  It’s virtually a guarantee that we will see a lot more of her come Oscar season.  Meanwhile, Ben Affleck does an excellent job playing a guy who falls somewhere in the middle of the good guy/bad guy spectrum.  On the surface, he is just your average, laid-back guy, but you sense that there might be a mischievous character just slightly beneath that surface.

Noteworthy among the supporting players is Kim Dickens as the police detective assigned to the case and Carrie Coon as Nick’s twin sister.  The only possible misstep is the casting of Neil Patrick Harris as Amy’s former high school boyfriend Desi Collings.  Harris’ performance is fine, but some of his character’s actions are actions that hisHow I Met Your Mother persona Barney Stinson might have taken, making it difficult to separate the character from the actor for those who have watched the TV show.

Fans of dark, twisted thrillers full of dark and twisted characters will likely rejoice when they see this movie.  At 149 minutes, it does feel a bit long, especially when the story resets itself and then again in what is essentially the epilogue, but it is never boring.  There is also just enough humor mixed into the film to keep the tone from getting too gloomy.  Gone Girl is definitely a must-see movie as we move into closer to awards season.

Gone Girl opens today at the AMC Southcenter 16, the Kent Station 14, and the Century Federal Way. Won’t it be nice when Des Moines has its own theater again?

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