Although he is well respected as a filmmaker, David Fincher is rarely spoken as one of our modern visionary auteur in the same vain as his peers, P.T. Anderson, Tarantino or Soderbergh. Why is that? For one, he has never solely written any of the films he has directed, which would give the impression of being a director for hire. Secondly, from the start of his career, he has worked in mostly commercial films under the studio system, therefore he never had to “struggle for his art”. Lastly, he doesn’t have much of a mythology in which he is an outspoken “rock star”, such as Tarantino nor is he a hermit, who comes out of his cave of ideas every four years to give us a film like P.T. Anderson. Instead, he manages to be reserved, while giving honest interviews about his work and continues making some of the best television commercials you’ll see, simply out of the pleasure to work in the medium. The underrated uniqueness to Fincher is his ability to take a subject matter that seems uninteresting, like the creation of Facebook (The Social Network) or something that seems mediocre on paper involving a house invasion thriller (Panic Room) to a level of vast appeal but yet with one of a kind artistic view. This time around, Fincher was fortunate to get a screenplay: Gone Girl, which was written by Gillian Flynn (who wrote the novel also) that was highly interesting on paper.
Ben Affleck plays Nick Dunne, who on the morning of his 5th year anniversary, comes home after bar tending only to realize his wife has disappeared with what appeared to be a violent struggle in their home. Nick becomes the focal point of the investigation of the disappearance of his wife as his peculiar behavior and evidence mounts up against him. Once the investigation hits the national stage, every step Nick makes is dissected, while personal demons are discovered, giving all the more reason for him to be guilty of the crimes.
Obviously, with a “who dunit” it’s hard to get into much details of the film without giving much away. So bear with me on this one. What can be said is this may be Fincher’s most interesting film when discussing tonal change of acts within a picture. He inhabits his lead character’s point of view in way we haven’t seen him do before. Films, especially films in this thriller nature, change tones quite often towards the end of film as things are revealed but not at all like Gone Girl does. What starts as a Hitchcockian “the wrong man” film, turns into an Albert Brooks comedy mid way through, which somehow gracefully evolves into a sexual thriller towards the end. This is all do to Fincher’s maturity of pacing in his films, something that was cultivated most excellently in his masterpiece, Zodiac. Something that is often overly mentioned in discussing Fincher’s work is style over substance, which may have been fair in speaking about Seven or even Fight Club but with Gone Girl the tonal styles in which he takes makes Gillian Glynn (writer of the novel and screenplay) story all the more better to avoid any thoughts of ridiculousness. This is Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ third score for a Fincher film, helps contribute to the tonal changes through out the picture in perhaps their best musical score to date.
The performances are truly terrific in this film. So well acted it should put to rest the notion of Fincher not being concerned with performances in his films (most famously that of Jake Gyllenhaal, an okay actor complains of Fincher’s direction style in Zodiac). Ben Affleck plays Nick Dunne quite well, in what may be a meta performance for him, in that it closely reflects the ups (Good Will Hunting), downs (Gigli), and triumph ups again (Argo) of his Hollywood career. It’s really a joy to watch a movie star do a non movie star performance such as Affleck does here. Carrie Coon (who plays Nick’s twin sister Margo) was already having a breakout year with her performance in the television show, The Leftovers. She shines bright in this film stealing every scene she is in without appearing to try to steal every scene. I look forward to seeing what she does with a chance to be the lead in a film. Never having seen a Tyler Perry film or performance, I didn’t know what to expect from the already established actor. Perry brings humor and bravado as Nick Dunne’s charming, yet expensive lawyer, Tanner Bolt (the name says it all). The performance that truly deserves praise in this film is that of Rosamund Pike (The World’s End, Jack Reacher), who plays the missing wife, Amy Dunne. Prior to this you may only have recognized Pike has the eye candy in action movies or the older sister in Pride and Prejudice. SOME SERIOUS SPOILER STUFF FOR THE NEXT THREE SENTENCES. Pike in Gone Girl gives an eye opening performance as the supposed victim turned master manipulator to her husband and the many people who believe she is missing or dead. I really don’t want to give much away on what her character does but just imagined Catherine Tramell and Keyser Soze had a kid, it would probably turn out be just like Amy Dunne. Pike’s performance as Amy is a sprawling one, that asks her to be convincible victim terrified, darkly funny and a horrifying psychopath, at any given time. Not sure it’s the kind of performance that would get her an Oscar nomination but one that she should be getting praise for executing such a joggling act.
The fun of this movie for me is it’s an homage to the sexual thrillers of the late 80’s and early 90’s that I wasn’t allowed to see as a kid. You can’t help but think of Fatal Attraction or Sleeping With The Enemy when watching this picture. With that said, Gone Girl’s insight on marital frustrations are all its own a modern view of the class system that can arise in a marriage of two completely different people with two completely different needs for to accomplish happiness.