EDIT *I don’t know why, but I remembered Affleck’s character named as Martin when it’s actually Nick. So ignore that little mistake. 🙂
Truth be told, if David Fincher hadn’t directed this movie, I would never even have had this film on my radar. But Fincher is one of my favorite directors who can do no wrong in my book. So when I saw his name attached to yet another film based off of a popular book (Fincher’s last movie was The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) I was intrigued. The film stars Ben Affleck as Martin Dunne husband to Rosamund Pike’s Amy Dunne. The film is deft at shifting gears and making the viewer think one thing before pulling something out of its sleeve, like some slick magician, only to make the viewer question that thought just a few minutes after. The film is smart, dark, chilling, and surprisingly funny just from the sheer absurdity of some of the things that happen. In a less than competent filmmaker’s hands, this movie would have played out like a jumbled mess trying to be too smart for its own good. Which is why Fincher is one of my favorite directors. He’s able to take a story that’s filled with drama, mystery, very light comedic hits and flat out what the f___ moments and carefully balance everything so it fits seamlessly into a cohesive film that I’m sure will be the talk of the fall movie releases.
Parts of the first half and middle of the film are told through flashbacks, showing the budding relationship of Martin and Amy, which plays like some sexy romantic comedy before switching gears, turning into a Lifetime, depressing movie of the week where the couple falls (or plummets) out of love. People like to put down or make fun of Ben Affleck, but when given quality material, he shows that he can actually act with the best of them. The entire first half of the movie hinges on his portrayal of Martin as a man whose aloofness and inability to show the slightest bit of emotion for his missing wife makes him the prime suspect in her disappearance in the eyes of everyone, including the viewer of the film. Affleck is wonderful playing the role which keeps you guessing as to the guilt or innocence of his character. Which brings me to spoiler portion. Normally I try to stay away from spoilers when talking about a movie, but it’s kind of needed since the second half of the film rides on this important point of the plot. So…SPOILERS from here on out.
The reason Martin can’t stir up any emotion over his missing wife is that: 1. He felt trapped in a loveless marriage. 2. The day of her disappearance he was going to tell her he was going to leave.3. He was seeing a much younger woman (actually he’s still seeing her even after his wife goes missing) and 4. it turns out his wife is a crazy bitch (no, really, trust me on this) who set up her whole disappearance just so he could go to prison because she had had enough of his infidelity, the fact he’s no longer the man she fell in love with, and she felt just as trapped in that loveless marriage as Martin did. Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunn comes off well in the flashbacks as the funny, far too smart for her husband, rom com character before things turn for the worst , playing the victim to Martin’s apathy of her, their marriage, and life together in general. Its Amy’s vulnerability that sucks the viewer in to thinking maybe her husband is some monster, before she removes the mask of the victim, revealing herself to be the biggest monster of them all. There are a couple of other twists that I won’t go into, but suffice it to say, Pike’s Amy Dunne will be included along with Glen Close’s Alex, Rebecca De Mornay’s Mrs. Mott and Kathy Bates’ Annie in the pantheon of crazy women in film.
The big twist of the film is the genius of it. The viewer finds themselves rooting for someone they really shouldn’t. Martin is not a good guy in this. He’s a cheating husband who took the love of his wife for granted and lacked the manhood to leave a marriage he no longer wanted part of. But compared to his wife, he’s a boy scout. The other thing that makes this film smart and original compared to films featuring women who are a bit unhinged is that it forgoes the obvious ending, instead giving an ending that’s both poetically satisfying for the viewer concerning both characters, but also very disturbing in its poetry.
Gone Girl is up there on my list of best movies of the year. Definitely one of the best releases of this early fall schedule. Carrie Coon (as Martin’s sister) is great in her supportive role, which is actually a supporting role since she’s the only one willing to stand by her brother when everyone else has already tried him as guilty in the court of public opinion. Tyler Perry, delivers a grounded performance of his own as a lawyer, showing when he’s not playing cartoon characters, Perry can pull of a convincing role too. And of course, Fincher’s eye behind the camera and his caring of the story to steer it clear of flat out insanity, despite some of the insane things that happen, shows why he’s one of the best directors around today.