Movie review: Gone Girl

What goes up, down, up, down, up, down? No, not a happy penguin on a pogo stick, it's actually Ben Affleck's career. He may well have won two Oscars, but his career has seen more dips than a 'lap dancer' on a large stag do.

With the relatively recent success of Argo behind him, and playing Batman on the horizon in the high profile Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, it appears that Affleck is having his third, maybe fourth, professional renaissance in Hollywood; and with the release of Gone Girl, he's clearly on the highest of highs right now.

It's July 5th, and it's the morning of the fifth anniversary of Nick (Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike) being a couple. If you didn't know any better, you'd think that they were just as in love as they so obviously were at the start of their relationship.

Nick arrives home and finds just the cat waiting for him. He looks around and discovers a glass table of theirs shattered, as if perhaps in some kind of struggle, and Amy is nowhere to be found. After trying to contact his wife, he decides to call the police.

Soon Detectives Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and Jim Gliplin (Patrick Fugit) arrive on the scene, and Boney in particular suspects that something is indeed wrong here.

With still no word from Amy after a few days, her parents decide to be proactive, setting up an impressive campaign to spread the word regarding her missing daughter. The fact that Amy is quite famous – for being the 'Amazing Amy' character in the popular books written by her parents – certainly gets the media interested in a big way.

As the days start to add up, and still no sign of Amy, the media begin to speculate as to what could have happened to her exactly. With their relationship coming under heavy scrutiny, it transpires that Nick and Amy's relationship was far from harmonious, placing Nick in the spotlight as a possible suspect – but did he really kill his wife?

Considering director David Fincher's films to date, it's no surprise that he wanted to helm this adaptation of Gillian Flynn's 2012 New York Times best seller of the same name. After all, it's just the type of thriller with a dark underbelly that appeals to him; in fact you could say it's the perfect marriage.

Slowly but surely, Fincher drip feeds just enough of the plot, like a trail of bird seed, to pique the audiences' curiosity throughout. He's helped considerably by both his leads, with Affleck and Pike doing sterling jobs, as they flesh out their characters with great skill and effectiveness from either end of their relationship spectrum. Affleck does the everyman with very little effort, whilst Pike - who obviously has the part where she can have more fun – pours it on thick when the occasion asks.

What you have for three quarters of the film is a compelling thriller that is nothing short of mesmerising. So it's both a surprise, and sadly a disappointment, that for the final quarter, Fincher ties things up in the most Desperate Housewives of fashions; from out of nowhere the film's dark tones are replace by comedic ones, giving an unwelcome black comedy finale to proceedings.

In fact the film's ending is so at odds with the rest of it, ending on a song would have been less jarring.

The fact is though, Fincher does such a satisfying job up until this point, he can almost be forgiven. Almost. It can't be denied though that it scatters a thin veil of the absurd – the type you would find in a silly murder melodrama on the Hallmark channel in the afternoon – over the entire film, leaving you with a slightly bitter taste over the whole thing.

Yes it does do a lot right before it descends into silliness, but it might be too much for the more discerning viewer to take, tainting what could have been one of the brightest dark thrillers in years. Oh well.

3 booms

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