Film Review: Gone Girl (★★★½)


GoneGirl_PosterNEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL: Calculated, meticulous, and completely engaging, David Fincher tackles one of his freshest and stylish films of his career with the adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel “Gone Girl.”  Intelligently structured by novelist Flynn herself, the film features a mannered turn by Academy Award winner Ben Affleck while the absolute success of the picture is indebted to the lavish and grandiose performance of Rosamund Pike.  

If you are unaware with the story, stay clear of any plot spoilers as possible.  Obviously I always respect such a demand.  Simply put, the film tells the story of Amy Dunne (Pike) who disappears from her home on the day of her fifth wedding anniversary to her husband Nick (Affleck).

We have to applaud Gillian Flynn, a novelist turned screenwriter that composes a tense and mystery story that evokes a fascinating social commentary on marriage and media.  A taut thriller, some of which may find bloated, but still satisfying by credits end.  There are quibbles you can find in certain character motivations or certain events that lead to our ultimate resolution but it’s not enough to ruin the experience.  Flynn launches herself in the Oscar race for Best Adapted Screenplay with a very good chance of standing on stage this year.

On one hand we have Ben Affleck, an actor of considerable talent that showcases another notch in his belt for his career.  Reserved and orchestrated with impressive restraint, Affleck keeps the audience on the edge of their seats with audible suspicion.  We’ve seen him in movies like “Hollywoodland” and “Argo,” both of which brought him great acclaim.  This will likely be one that will follow suit.

Unfortunately must admit that I discovered the beautiful Rosamund Pike in Lone Scherfig’s “An Education” over five years ago.  Since then, I’ve only gotten glimpses in features like “Made in Dagenham” and “Jack Reacher.” A career topping turn as evolved in her newest work as Amy Dunne in “Gone Girl.”  I don’t think I’ve seen a more complex female character that allows an actress to go places we haven’t seen in quite some time.  Pike is a revelation, an actress that should run the gauntlet for every Best Actress award in 2014.  She’s passionate, intense, and damn near impenetrable, taking risks that pay off for every single movie moment she’s involved in.  I absolutely loved her.

new gone girl image 9You can’t deny that meticulous and craftsman genius that is embedded within director David Fincher.  “The Social Network” and “Se7en” have been prime examples of how to tell a well executed story.  Stylistically, “Gone Girl” offers nothing amazingly new for his repertoire.  Director of Photography Jeff Cronenweth uses his same techniques that have made him one of the most exciting cinematographers of today.  The real technical highlight is the score of Oscar-winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.  Balanced, unsettling, and musically tense, the duo develop another stunning score for the year.

The supporting cast all have high points, most notably the spunky Carrie Coon of HBO’s “The Leftovers.”  Her quirk and ferocity stand up as an unforgettable highlight.  Tyler Perry gives the world a terrific example of life outside “Madea” and by God, I want some more.  He steals many of his scenes shared with his co-stars.  Neil Patrick Harris also delivers in his brief amount of screen time, one that will channel a new generation’s Anthony Perkins.  Kim Dickens, Casey Wilson, Patrick Fugit, and ESPECIALLY Missi Pyle make their marks accordingly.  Don’t be surprised to see the Screen Actors Guild cite this for Best Cast Ensemble.

As a vehicle for awards players, the big chances will stand for Screenplay and Best Actress, both of which are win-worthy.  In some ways, I feel Fincher has crafted his equivalent to Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed,” and obviously that worked out for very well for the overdue director.  This is something that audiences will eat up, talk about at their water coolers, and probably revisit for years to come.  It’s hard to imagine how an awards member will see it but it will definitely appeal to many out there.

“Gone Girl” is an undeniable winner.  Haunting, unpredictable, and completely unforgettable, Fincher’s film stands tall as one of the best things to be produced this year.  Their might be similarities to “Prisoners,” maybe even “Psycho,” but “Gone Girl” has enough going for itself to stand on its own.

The film is distributed by 20th Century Fox and will be released in theaters on October 3.

  • rb

    Just came back from the opening night screening (one of the side theaters, not the main star-studded event at Avery Fischer Hall). Incredibly intense and riveting movie. You are completely correct in your assessment of the film and all of its individual parts.

    Rosamund Pike is just incredible in this film. She is fascinating and incredibly disturbing. While Affleck is solid in a role tailor made for him, his on-screen sibling, Carrie Coon, was as good as Ms. Pike. I hope it is similar to Blue Jasmine last year, where most of the attention is deservedly given to the lead actress, but there was enough Oscar support for Sally Hawkins to earn a Supporting Actress nomination.

    The direction was fantastic, but the score really made the film. It completely added to each and every scene. I would assume that Reznor and Ross will be nominated for this.

    The only issue I had was that there seemed to be some convenient ignoring of facts in order to get to the ending. Maybe a second viewing and/or a reading of the novel will show that I was in error in this.

    I am curious as to other opinions, since I really could not gauge the reaction of the crowd. Usually when spotlight films end at these festivals, the audience erupts in loud and enthusiastic applause. When this ended, however, the audience sat in silence as the credits rolled. Many left the theater during this time. At the end of the credits, the remaining crowd applauded, but it was not incredibly enthusiastic.

    • “The only issue I had was that there seemed to be some convenient ignoring of facts in order to get to the ending. Maybe a second viewing and/or a reading of the novel will show that I was in error in this.”

      That is pretty much how I felt.

  • leonie

    Saw this just recently as well and I agree on all points. Well done by Fincher and especially well done by Pike. The entire cast is great as well and Affleck may have a chance at recognition this awards season, but that’s about it. He’s wonderful in the role but as usual the category is stacked and unfortunately he may miss out. Shame, for his performance is great.

  • A.j.

    After I read the book I absolutely hated the character of Amy Dunne and as the movie grew closer I kept thinking if Rosamund Pike can pull out a performance that makes me like that character than that deserves an oscar and would you look at that she’s officially another contender, can’t wait to see the film.

    • She’s a character you love to hate and hate to love.

  • Joey Magidson

    I was there with Clayton and pretty much agree with him on all points, except that I was a little more impressed by Affleck. A terrific film with top notch work all around.

    • Joshua Black

      Affleck was impressive, i was surprised, he’s growing on me since Mallrats, lol

  • Jeffrey Edwards

    I’ve read, and enjoyed, the book so very much look forward to seeing the film.

    Clayton, do you think that Rosamund Pike will have a serious chance to win considering she’ll be up against the “Julianne Moore is so overdue!” narrative? Even if Moore’s performance is just ‘pretty good’ it will be hard for another contender to overcome Moore’s “overdue” narrative.

    • She’ll contend that’s for sure. She’ll also have the likes of Jones, Witherspoon, and maybe Adams. Ultimately, I’m not sure what this will all lead to for her but a nomination, at the very least, seems like a safe bet.

  • Irene acton

    Another great review. Having read the book I’m really looking forward to seeing Gone Girl and how it adapts to the big screen

  • Jamie Teller

    Having won the book in a contest on this very site and having subsequently enjoyed it greatly, and being a fan of Fincher and the Reznor/Ross collaboration, I’m all ready. Less than a week now. A good way to preface Yom Kippur.

  • Ryan

    I know this has been said a hundred time on this site already, but man, the Best Actress race is getting tense. I’m glad to hear that Pike delivered through all of the expectations, and it will be interesting to see how far she goes with he film. From what I am hearing, this film is a “three and a half star movie” if there ever was one.

    A nomination in Best Picture sounds inevitable, Fincher could easily find some love in the Director’s branch, Pike sounds primed for a great awards run, Flynn has the Adapted category seemingly to herself (give or take the golden 3 biopics), the film seems ready to put Reznor/Ross in a place that Dragon Tattoo couldn’t, Cinematography and Editing seem reliable enough for the Academy to default to, and……….

    …….there’s Affleck. Why is it that I am getting the vibe that he will pull a Golden Globe nomination the same way that Mark Wahlberg did for The Fighter? Granted, this is a heavier year for the Actor race than it was in 2010, but there is also the fact that BAFTA loved Affleck enough to nominate him in Actor two years ago. Gone Girl seems like a sure fire SAG Ensemble nominee (winner?), so if Affleck gets in with the Globes, with BAFTA, and SAG, does he have a shot with Oscar?

  • Joshua Black

    ok, let me just begin by saying that I really liked this movie, I love Fincher films and I dont usually dig Affleck. But, I really disagree with this review and others i’ve read. This movie is not a thriller or a taut one. It was a dark comedy, much more war of the roses than fatal attraction and nothing in it is prisoners or psycho except i can see the doogie seems like norman thing a tad. Also, Pike was ok, especially when sharing screen time with Affleck who was the real stand out here (i do agree with the reviewer about his excellent restraint) along with the awesome girl from Deadwood, Dickens, the cop, but sometimes Pike really seemed to lose her footing and could have used some better directing. The scene in the casino with NPH was really crap as was much of the film set at the white-trashy “resort”. Worst of all was the scene with Pike in the scrubs talking to the police when she wasn’t believable at all, was that supposed to be tongue-in-cheek? if so, a little too winky-winky if you ask me. I kind of felt like her character was also somewhat inconsistent in its behavior. I suppose the twin sister girl wasn’t too bad, but i didnt really dig her big oscar scene. I still really enjoyed this movie as a dark comedy, but this was not a thriller, even if it was thrilling to see two wee-wee’s 🙂