Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit,
Tyler Parry, Neil Patrick Harris, Missi Pyle
Director: David Fincher
Audio: DTS HD 7.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: Director Commentary, “Amazing Amy” book
Length: 149 Minutes
Release Date: January 13, 2015
“You two are the most f—ked up people I’ve ever met. And I deal with f—ked up people for a living.”
I was first introduced to the works of author Gillian Flynn, and Gone Girl in particular, because of an abnormally long layover.
I was sitting in the airport with little to do, and I kept staring at a big advertisement on the wall for this novel. I had never heard of it, or the writer, but I popped out my tablet to download the free sample. Ten pages was enough to get me hooked and convinced to purchase the book (a good tip for you aspiring authors out there…get the reader’s attention right away).
The novel was twisted, surprising, and centered around two very real and very distraught characters, told back and forth from the husband’s point of view (in present day) and the wife’s (in the form of a diary). It was brilliant and gratifying, and became the one book I ended up pushing on all my family and friends.
Hearing that it was becoming a movie was not distressful…in the first place, Gillian Flynn herself was penning the screenplay for it, and in the second, it was going to be helmed by director David Fincher, who was absolutely the right choice for this kind of twisted tale.
And the film did not disappoint…to be certain, as will all adaptations, a few things are trimmed here and there, but the overall effect and dramatic play of the story as both the portrait of a marriage in decline and as a first-rate thriller came through with no complaints for me.
Ben Affleck was a good choice for Nick Dunne, the husband who finds, on the day of his anniversary, that his home had been ransacked and his wife seemingly taken. That wife, Amy (Pike) and the couple’s back story begins to play out.
Nick was a successful writer in New York, and Amy was the heiress to an empire of popular children’s books written by her parents ABOUT her (“Amazing Amy”). At first, they were very much in love, but the economy costs Nick most of his livelihood and forces the pair back to his small home town, where nothing much happens, but he has the support of his sister (Coon) in a new bar venture.
While Nick is going to the police and the authorities are trying to find the missing Amy, a series of clues comes together that paint Nick as the most likely suspect, and begin to turn the kidnapping story into a murder one. Amy left a diary that we hear from showing how the marriage went from hot to cold, to finally a little frightening.
The structure of the story really leaves you wondering and guessing…even in the book, though Nick tells his story in first person, he never once utters the words “I didn’t do it.” His attempts at putting on the correct face for the public, who begin to clamor for the return of the girl, fail miserably. He eventually has to enlist the help of the notorious lawyer Tanner Bolt (Perry, in one of my favorite performances from him)…notorious because he’s known for getting the guilty man off the hook.
That’s as much as I want to say…there are some delicious twists in store for those of you who don’t know the story. Even for me, who knew the story cold going in, I found the film extremely satisfying and powerful. The combination of Flynn’s writing and Fincher’s sure-handed handling of a complex plot resulted in one of the smartest and most entertaining films of the year. And the cast is first-rate…I can’t even really talk about the solid performance from Neil Patrick Harris because it might reveal too many facts.
I will say readers and moviegoers have complained in the margins about the ending of the story. In my opinion, they have it all wrong. Watch this movie from beginning to end, and if you feel like the ending fell short, ask yourself: what would have been a better ending for all involved?
Fox delivers a beautiful high definition transfer here…night and day scenes play out with great detail and crispness, which is important with a movie with so many clues to ponder. Colors are natural looking throughout.
This is not the kind of movie that requires a lot of dynamic range, but the all-important dialogue comes through cleanly. There’s also not a tremendous amount of distinct play on the rear stages, but it’s not really needed here.
The set includes a DVD of the movie, and the disc itself has a commentary from director David Fincher. There is also a new “Amazing Amy” story in booklet form to accompany the discs.
Gone Girl is a first-rate example of an excellent book translating into an excellent movie. I still love the book a bit more, but trust me when I say, if you opt to see the movie instead, you won’t be sacrificing much.