Featuring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, Carrie Coon, David Clennon
Director: David Fincher
Screenwriter: Gillian Flynn, adapted from her novel
Movie website: www.gonegirlmovie.com/
Australian release date: Thursday, 2 Oct 2014
Verdict: An expertly managed psychological thriller masquerading as a whodunit until a twist triggers an intriguing tonal switch, pushing the film into some edgy and darkly humorous territory.
So often, literary artifacts sneak through and detract from filmed versions of novels. Not so with Gone Girl. This is a seamless film adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best-selling novel, which is no mean feat, since the narrative is complicated, deftly setting up a game-changer of a twist that triggers an intriguing switch in tone.
It would be spoiling to summarise the story in any detail, but here are the basics. Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) arrives home to find wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) missing on their fifth wedding anniversary. There are signs of a struggle and he calls the cops, but soon finds himself as the main suspect. The local media gets on to the story and casts Nick as a wife-killer. When carefully pre-laid clues to Amy’s disappearance begin turning up, including her diary in which she expresses fears that her husband is capable of killing her, things look grim for Nick. Even his loyal sister Margo (Carrie Coon) begins to doubt him when she catches him lying about an affair he has been having with a young student.
Initially masquerading as a whodunit, the film’s realist skin is shed suddenly and quite unnervingly at around the half-way point, when things take a turn for the bizarre and darkly humorous. One scene verges on splatter!
The tonal shift is initially jarring and could have run the work off the rails in less expert hands, but like a rollercoaster, the ride feels wild yet is superbly controlled all the way to the ingeniously resolved ending.
Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike (the unsung standout in Carey Mulligan’s breakout film, An Education) are as good as it gets as the leads, thriving off a screenplay that demands intelligent, intense and wily performances and makes the actors complicit in the sly manipulations and sleight-of-hand of writer and director. Indeed, all the performances are similarly savvy.
Close scrutiny might uncover some logic flaws, but that’s hardly the point with a work like this that leaves the safe harbour of realism for more intriguing territory. On one level, this is a riveting tale of unreliable characters who betray each other (and the viewer), making for a highly entertaining and suspenseful cinema experience. However, there is also some serious and savage commentary going on here on the irresponsible shaping of public perception by a sensationalist media little concerned with fact, and the nature of intimate relationships/marriage, where lies, truths and the great unspoken swirl beneath the surface in an edgy drama of shifting form and often surprising direction – just like this movie! All round fabbo.
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