Gone Girl (20th Century Fox, R)

film gone-girl_75Gone Girl seems to subscribe to the common mystery genre logic that the more twists a story has, the better that story becomes.

 

 

film gone-girl

I suspect that a large percentage of the people seeing the season’s biggest movie, Gone Girl, will have already read Gillian Flynn’s source novel, and to that group, the film is less about the whole of the picture and more about how well they adapted the material for the screen. Similarly, when theater critics review the new production of, say, Hamlet, they never really get into whether it’s well written or not (because, well, duh), but just comment on how well the artists involved in that particular production managed to tell that story everyone already knows on this specific occasion. But then, another strong contingency of Gone Girl’s core audience will be David Fincher fans who haven’t read the book and won’t know going in if or how the story works and what twists and turns it might contain; that’s the category I fall into.

The nature of this, though, is that it’s out of place for me to be talking about the plot and if it works or not. A good chunk of readers will already have an opinion about that one way or the other, and besides, Gone Girl seems to subscribe to the common mystery genre logic that the more twists a story has, the better that story becomes, and so those who haven’t read the book will not want me to be giving away any twists.

As such, the minimum you need to know is that, as Gone Girl begins, Missourian bar owner Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) comes home early on his fifth anniversary to find that his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike, in flashbacks), is missing under what look like suspicious circumstances. He immediately calls the police, yet he doesn’t seem too worried about the whole thing, which puts him high on the suspect list, in the eyes of both the police and the viewer.

In the end, I felt pretty much the same way about Gone Girl as I did about Fincher’s last film, 2011’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: It’s above average for a thriller, but below average for a David Fincher film. Flynn’s Da Vinci Code–level blockbuster novel is cinematic enough on its own, and Fincher finds a way to make the material work on top of that. The duration of shots tends to be just a fraction of a second shorter than it seems like they ought to be, which gives you the impression of things disappearing as well as forcing you to stay on your toes. Also, the camera creeps around as if you’re the kidnapper in a subjective shot.

And of course Fincher is one of our best directors of actors. Affleck’s just fine in the lead, but most of the pleasures come from the supporting cast: Pike, who I’m assuming will be new to most viewers but whom I liked a lot in both An Education and The World’s End, is excellent; none other than Tyler Perry is a total scene-stealer as Tanner Bolt, a very good, Johnny Cochran–like defense attorney of indefensible men; newcomer to the movies Carrie Coon holds her own as Affleck’s salty twin sister Margo; and Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit (all grown up from his Almost Famous days) are strong as the police officers handling the case.

So if you go to see Gone Girl, whether you’re a fan of the book, of Fincher, of both, or of neither, would I expect you to be satisfied? Yes. But of those options, the fans of Fincher are the most likely to be the least happy; he already made the best thrillers of the past 20 years in 1995’s Se7en and 2007’s Zodiac. Unfortunately, I wish circumstances would change to where he didn’t have to keep going back to that well. | Pete Timmermann

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