Before I saw Gone Girl, I wasn’t expecting the best things. Many of the people whose opinions I trust were somewhat underwhelmed by it, so I went in with low expectations.
Needless to say, those expectations were far exceeded. No, it’s certainly not a perfect film, but it’s certainly a very, very good one.
Let’s begin with what’s wrong with it. Like so many of the movies I’ve seen this year, the movie’s biggest weakness is its direction. Arguably the living king of the thriller, David Fincher fails to really find the right tone for his film. Fincher needed to find the right mix between a thriller and a movie about everyday life, as the movie is largely about how Ben Affleck’s character attempts to go on living his everyday life even as it is being ripped up all around him.
Unfortunately, Fincher does not really succeed, and it is not really until the film’s final, more thriller-oriented act that he really finds his directorial stride. The rest of the time, he seems to find himself unable to insert the necessary thriller edge, and the film’s tone is rather too pedestrian for much of the runtime as a result. In other words, the movie should mostly be about and feel like the everyday, but it should always have that thriller edge, which it is oftentimes lacking.
The movie is written by Gillian Flynn, who wrote the source novel, and I really did not come to a full appreciation for her script until I was able to look back on the movie after it was over. The early flashback scenes are utter brilliance as she uses a keen ear for dialogue to create conversations that are too good to be true. The way it never telegraphs anything and only shows you the parts of the picture you should be able to see at any given moment is also quite admirable.
Along a different vein, with their contribution to this film, it seems David Fincher has found the perfect creative team. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score is terrific and rivals the excellence of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Jeff Baxter’s editing and Jeff Cronenweth’s cinematography are likewise excellent.
The film’s acting is probably its greatest strength, and perhaps its greatest surprise as well. Ben Affleck carries the movie quite well. He uses his limitations as an actor brilliantly in creating a character that was completely out of touch with his life before his wife’s disappearance and that is completely out of his depth after the disappearance. His lack of conviction is also handled impeccably well as Affleck makes his reluctant interest feel completely natural. It is an outstanding performance, easily his best since his Oscar-worthy work in Hollywoodland, and another sign, along with the work I just mentioned, that he has talent if he is challenged in the right ways.
As Affleck’s wife, Rosamund Pike is stunning. She takes on a deceptively hard character, and succeeds wonderfully. She takes two seemingly completely disparate personalities, the normal and the psychotic, and masterfully combines them into a single, completely believable human being. Simply stunning.
The supporting parts are also mostly well handled, not least by Carrie Coon as Affleck’s sister. As the investigating detective, Kim Dickens is also effective at portraying the appropriate sense that she strongly believes something but has to put her personal beliefs on the back burner until the evidence shows them to be true.
Tyler Perry is never anything special, but as the big-shot attorney, he exudes a truly astounding amount of charisma. Neil Patrick Harris, while certainly distracting, is not at all close to the terribleness Matt Damon achieved in Interstellar.
All in all, I was far more pleased with Gone Girl than I expected to be.