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Monday, October 6, 2014

(Jesse's Take) Gone Girl 2014 * * 1/2 Stars

Gone GirlDirector: David Fincher
Year: 2014
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris

Warning: this review contains spoilers. If you like your reviews sans spoilers, I would suggest you read no further. I apologize for this but in order to justify a mixed, two and a half star rating, I have to include a few of them from time to time.

On that note, I just wanna start off things by saying that David Fincher is for the most part, a brilliant director. If you tap him to helm films that are based on true stories or events, he shines. 2014's Gone Girl is his latest foray into all that's dark and dangerous. Unfortunately, it's not based on true events but rather on a best selling novel by Gillian Flynn. Along with "Gone" (the flick I'm reviewing) and 2011's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (another novel turned into cinematic fodder), Finch dives into themes that although look good on paper, left me uninterested, exasperated, and in need of a shower. Sure his marks as a prominent taskmaster are all over the project (lots of wide shots, great musical score collaborations with Trent Reznor, smooth camera tracking in terms of movement) and "Gone's" first forty five minutes are moody and involving. But because his newest release has to stay so faithful to the novel it's based upon, well we get a plot point that completely deflates any dramatic momentum that could have been sustained. If you've seen the trailers, you've probably figured out that this movie is about the disappearance of an unemployed, female writer. At a screening Saturday night, I found out early on that's she's not dead and I guess hasn't really disappeared. This kept me at arm's length from coming up with any sort of reason to a recommend this thing. It's well done, well acted, and stylish. But despite all this, it still manages to come off like a limp Forensic Files episode coupled with a thriller masquerading as soap opera innuendo.

Produced by Reese "I need a hit movie stat" Witherspoon and clocking in at roughly two and a half hours, Gone Girl chronicles a married couple living in rural Missouri. The Dunnes (Nick and Amy Dunne played by Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike) are initially living a quiet life as they move from New York City to the Midwest. They are there mainly to take care of Nick's dying mother. They are sort of unemployed and their marriage is I guess, on the outs. One day on their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick's wife goes missing and everyone assumes that he either killed her or kidnapped her. This causes some cold-hearted detectives to get involved and an unnecessarily large media frenzy to develop. Nick is interrogated to the point where it's repetitive and the cops are constantly camped out at his house looking for forensic evidence. Eventually, he is forced to live with his ill-tempered, twin sister (Margo Dunne played by Carrie Coon) until everything eventually blows over. In truth, Affleck's Nick gets put through the ringer throughout. To say that this dude is having a bad week, is a glaring understatement.

Of note: I think the acting in Gone Girl is close to being of the highest order. I mean I've never thought of Ben Affleck as anything special (except for his triumphant turn as a bully in 1993's Dazed and Confused) but he is very effective here. His character is easily vulnerable and manipulated. You can clearly see the distention in his face. In fact, he's probably the only person in "Gone" I considered likable. Everyone else played their parts well. However, they were intolerable to the nth degree (the script might be the culprit). For instance, lets examine Tyler Perry's character, Tanner Bolt (Nick's attorney). Perry is quietly efficient in his role as Tanner but he is constantly seen giving Affleck's Nick bad advice. He tells Nick to stay married to a cold blooded killer for money, huh? Plus, he throws candy at Nick while he's trying to practice an interview for a television appearance. What a jerk. Then we have Nick's wife Amy played by budding star Rosamund Pike. She's good enough to garner an Academy Award nomination in the same vein as Rooney Mara did with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It's physical appearance, it's physical transformation, and just plain weirdness that might get her the nod. There are scenes where I caught her looking into the camera that really chilled me to the bone. Veteran actress Kim Dickens really comes into her own playing a nagging detective who seems to badger Affleck's Nick at every turn. She gets the film's best dialogue but she's about annoying as anyone you're likely to find in a crime thriller. Her Rhonda Boney is like a pestering gnat that just won't go away. But hey, I'm thinking Dickens could possibly get an award nomination of some sort. Just a hunch. Finally, there's Affleck's character's sister played by Carrie Coon. She overacts, overreaches, and you want her to just stay completely out of frame. First she's with Nick, then she's against Nick, then she's yelling at Nick, then she's joking with him, then she's looking to persecute him. Just go away woman! Go away!

Now for the most part, Fincher has always been solid with his actors and with as much creative control as he can handle, this Denver born director employs a lot of aptitude from his more better films (to facilitate "Gone"). For instance, he adds flashbacks here like he did almost completely in The Social Network ("Network" is in fact one giant, brilliant flashback all together). He also adds a lot of nervous, biting humor like in his 2007 killer thriller, Zodiac. "Gone" falls short of the aforementioned vehicles because at times, the script by actual writer Flynn contains dialogue that doesn't quite sound the way actual human beings talk. And it doesn't help that Flynn's screenplay is littered with (not intentionally I suppose) laughable sex scenes between Affleck and Pike's spousal couple. Look for a tryst where they indiscreetly get it on in a library. Talk about bad manners.

Queasy, suggestive dialogue and cartoony sex scenes aside, I found it interesting that this whole movie is bent on harassing Affleck's Nick and insulting our intelligence into thinking that he actually killed his wife. And when his eerie looking better half is the one who ends up committing actual murder, well she gets off scot-free without any real investigation. Her psychotic behavior is clearly on video and it blatantly shows her cutting some one's throat with your standard box cutter. Nonsense. Pure nonsense I tell you.

I mean let's face it, "Gone" is absurd to the point where it takes itself way too seriously. The events depicted seem to be the only darn thing on the television (playing loudly in the background of almost every scene). In reality, the story of this married couple wouldn't really be fleshed out, national news. Pike's Amy is what you call an B-list celebrity (she wrote children's books I guess) and Affleck's Nick, well he's a stultified bar owner. Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco they surely ain't.

In conclusion, director David Fincher can do no wrong when he is able to take a simple subject, darken and deepen it a bit, and develop what's on screen into a full blown masterpiece. With Gone Girl, the material is already sullen and twisted enough. As a result, his vision gets compromised and it resorts to being fully overblown. It basically becomes too much. "Girl" will inevitably arise as 2014's poster child for psychological mumbo jumbo overload. Instead of being mesmerized and taken by it, you'll just feel icky inside (I know I did). I mean, I literally felt guilty wanting to know how things were going to end. And to be honest, you shouldn't by swayed by the title. Gone Girl doesn't really involve a missing person. It's about a female character who is far too "gone" and needs to be put in some sort of institution. Am I accurate in saying that Pike's Dunne is your typical cuckoo bird crazytown? I sure as heck hope so.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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