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Gone Girl (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 21, 2023


GONE GIRL (2014)

Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, Casey Wilson, Missi Pyle, Sela Ward, David Clennon, Lisa Banes, Lola Kirke, Scoot McNairy, Casey Wilson, Emily Ratajkowski, Boyd Holbrook, Lee Norris, Kathleen Rose Perkins, Jamie McShane, Lynn Adrianna, Cyd Strittmatter and Leonard Kelly-Young.

Screenplay by Gillian Flynn.

Directed by David Fincher.

Distributed by 20th Century Fox.  145 minutes.  Rated R.

It’s always an iffy thing when Hollywood tries to bring a best-selling book to the big screen.  Readers tend to create a distinct picture of the novel in their head, and if the movie does not live up to the expectations, the complaints of rabid readers will be loud and damning.

Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl was the book of the summer a couple of years ago, a twisty-turny dissection of a toxic modern marriage torn apart by a violent act.  It was a smart, funny, scary, harsh, cynical book, but it also made us care about two rather unlikable lead characters.

Therefore, it was with excitement and trepidation that fans of the book received the news that the novel was being made into a film with Ben Affleck and British actress Rosamund Pike.  That uncertainty was heightened since director David Fincher (The Social Network, Se7en), while an extremely proficient filmmaker, had a few years ago fumbled his last adaptation of a literary blockbuster, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

On the plus side, novelist Flynn wrote the screenplay for the adaptation, so the film is very savvy upon which parts of the book to keep and which ones to jettison to fit the time confines of a film.  Yes, sadly the film by necessity loses a lot of the depth of the novel, dropping or barely touching on some of the situations, subplots and characters which made the book so intriguing.  However, as a pared down version of the story, the film of Gone Girl works quite well.

It’s hard to tell much of the story of Gone Girl without giving away spoilers (in fact, pretty much anything that happens in the entire second half of the film could essentially be a spoiler), so we will try to be very careful about what we share.

Affleck and Pike play Nick and Amy Dunne, a young, gorgeous New York power couple who have hit upon hard times.  He is a laid-off journalist.  She is the daughter of a pair of children’s book authors who have made a fortune off of the Amazing Amy books, which are based on their daughter.

We see flashbacks to the good times, but eventually when Nick’s mother gets terminal cancer, they move to his small hometown in Missouri to be there for mom.  To Amy’s surprise, when the mother dies, they stay in the heartland.  Amy puts all of her money into buying a bar for Nick, but she feels out of place and they both grow increasingly distant.

On the day of their fifth anniversary, Nick arrives home to find the door open.  A struggle has happened and blood is visible – and Amy is gone.  Quickly Nick becomes the lead suspect in the disappearance (murder?), with the cops (Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit), the press (led by a cheesy Nancy Grace-type rabble rouser wonderfully played by Missy Pyle) and neighbors all certain that there is a murderer in his midst.

In the meantime, Amy had always made a tradition of an anniversary scavenger hunt, and Nick must follow the clues to find a way to clear his name, which is not easy because only his twin sister (Carrie Coon) believes he is innocent.  And even she is shocked and conflicted by some of the evidence.

And that is really as far as I can go, I think, without giving away any of Gone Girl‘s myriad of twists, turns and secrets.  Just assume that every time you think you know what is happening, you don’t.  (Unless you’ve read the book, in which case you already know what is happening.)

The good news is that while Gone Girl the movie is not quite as good as Gone Girl the book, it gets pretty darned close.  The acting is spectacular – particularly Pike, who has an extremely difficult, layered role and nails it.  The story holds up and works on the big screen, despite having to skip over some of the more subtle details of the book.  Fincher knows how to ratchet up the tension and he has a story that plays to his strengths.

Gone Girl is a good example that beloved books can be turned into very good films.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2014 All rights reserved. Posted: October 3, 2014.


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