Fast Cut: Mystery/thriller with plenty of twists and a big dose of cynicism.
Special Note: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike steal the show.
Players: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Carrie Coon, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens,
Director: David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), The Social Network (2010).
Rated R for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity and language.
A man’s hand is touching the back of a woman’s blonde head. “When I think about my wife,” we hear him say, “I think about her head – and how I’d like to smash it and watch her brains fall out.” Yes, that opening scene of Gone Girl sets the tone. This is not going to be about a couple who lives happily ever after. In fact, if you have any illusions about marriage being a blessed union, this movie will surely disabuse you.
Amy (British actress Rosamond Pike) and Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) have been married for five years. They were madly in love and full of lust in the beginning. Then the recession hit – and both lost their writing jobs in New York City. They moved across country to more affordable small-town Missouri where they could also care for Nick’s ailing mother. He now teaches creative writing at the community college and runs a local pub called “The Bar” with his twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon). Amy reads books and writes in her diary with colored pens.
Alas, Nick’s Mom died and so did the Dunne’s marriage. Nick didn’t become the rich novelist Amy wanted and she’s never forgiven him. He has grown to hate her for reminding him of his failure. But she refuses to consider divorce. “Why do you want to stay married?” Nick demands—“all we did was cause each other pain!” “That’s marriage,” Amy coos. Ouch.
On their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick comes home to discover Amy is missing and there are signs of a struggle in the living room. The police find blood spatter in the kitchen and in every scene thereafter the female homicide detective (Kim Dickens) uncovers more damning evidence against Nick. And no trace of Amy.
Nick insists he didn’t kill his wife and has no idea what happened to her. He’s not been the perfect husband, we keep finding out, but that doesn’t make him a murderer. Or does it? Can we all remember, or look up on Wikipedia, what happened to California husband Scott Peterson, whose wife also went missing and they never found her body either.
Any semblance of justice is missing in Gone Girl, because the real judge in this story—the powerful arbiter of guilt or innocence – is the American mass media. In press conferences, news reports, TV interviews, social media, reality crime shows, Nick’s every gesture, his every syllable is swallowed up and coughed back without thinking. “I’m so sick of being picked on by women,” Nick complains. Well, the poor sap hasn’t seen anything yet. Remember, the novel by Gillian Flynn on which this movie was based sold over 8 million copies. She had to be tuning into something simmering deep and ugly in the national consciousness.
Half-way through the movie, its major twist is revealed, and from then on you’re guessing about a whole bunch of new outrageous revelations. Director David Fincher is a master at building suspense and letting all the numerous twists of the story jump out at you. My film companion, as well as most other film critics, have loved the movie, all 149 minutes of it. Except for admiring how good-looking Ben Affleck is, I yawned my head off. For me, a shallow, unbelievable story is still shallow and unbelievable, no matter how well made the movie might be.
On the positive side Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike are electric, together and separately. So much so, however, that they distract you from the fact that everyone else in the movie is pretty boring. This is definitely not an ensemble flick. Neil Patrick Harris, emanating reptilian evil as Amy’s former boyfriend, was great for a few minutes. I wish we had seen more of him. Tyler Perry as the publicity mongering defense attorney Tanner Bolt was hilarious.
I accept that my less than enthusiastic response to this movie puts me in the minority. If you want to see some brilliant ensemble acting, see The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby or The Skeleton Twins. If you want a mystery thriller with depth, see The Drop, starring Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini, written by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Shutter Island). If you want a loving look at marriage, see Love Is Strange with John Lithgow and Fred Molina as the long-time couple.
Marcianne Miller is a member of SEFCA (Southeast Film Critics Assn.) and NCFCA (North Carolina Film Critics Assn.) Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.