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Friday, September 26, 2014

GONE GIRL Review: NYFF Opening Night

Ben Affleck in GONE GIRL
Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox
NYFF Opening Night
2014, 145 minutes
Rated for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language

Review by Joshua Handler

I always look forward to a new David Fincher film.  His 20+ year career is filled with some of the most memorable and masterfully-executed films of modern times such as The Social Network, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Se7en, and the vastly underrated The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  When it was announced that Fincher's next project would be an adaptation of Gillian Flynn's bestselling novel, Gone Girl, it didn't seem to be much of a stretch, given that his last film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was also an adaptation of a bestselling mystery-thriller.  However, after seeing Fincher's Gone Girl, I can safely say that while it certainly is a mystery-thriller, it is, first and foremost, a savagely satirical, darkly comic film about our society's obsession with people's deeply personal tragedies and the way that the media sensationalizes the tragedies to the extent that they become like soap operas - pieces of entertainment.

Gone Girl tells the story of Nick Dunne, an ordinary man whose life gets tossed into a media circus when his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), disappears.  Nick becomes a suspect, but the question remains, did Nick kill his wife?  Gillian Flynn adapted her own novel for the screen and could very well gain an Oscar nomination for her sharp adaptation.  So much of this film's success can be attributed to Flynn's screenplay.  Every one of her characters is developed and her psychologically complex leads are among the most intriguing characters in recent memory.  Additionally, Flynn's plotting is incredibly tight and the way in which she uses this seemingly sordid tale to critique modern day culture is ingenious.  

Fincher and Flynn begin the Gone Girl as a traditional mystery melodrama before becoming something much more thought-provoking, disturbing, and bitterly funny.  The movie you begin viewing is not the same as the one you end with.  This will put many off, though I thought that was the most impressive aspect of the film.  If you think you're in for an ordinary mystery, you will be very surprised to find that Gone Girl is, first and foremost, a dark comedy.  And I mean dark.  Fincher and Flynn seem to take delight in the dementedness of Gone Girl's humor, and that made it a much more rewarding and surprising experience for me.  

While Flynn and Fincher have earned every piece of praise they have gotten, Gone Girl wouldn't be what it is without the cast.  Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike give career-best performances, with Pike standing out above the rest.  Affleck captures Nick in all of his complexity.  He has a quiet, yet compelling screen presence that he hasn't had in years.  However, Pike is on another level.  She's seductive, scary, and magnetic.  She commands every single minute that she's on-screen.  Pike is so brilliant that she even makes the many voice-overs riveting.  There's no praising her enough.  Tyler Perry is also surprisingly excellent as Nick's attorney and Carrie Coon is also powerful as Nick's sister, Margo.

As usual, Jeff Cronenweth's cinematography is murky and beautiful, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' score is unsettling and nasty, and Kirk Baxter's editing is precise.

Overall, Gone Girl is yet another worthy opener of the New York Film Festival.  While it may prove to be too unsavory for all audiences, Gone Girl will certainly please many and earn a number of awards come the end of the year.  I enjoyed myself immensely throughout the film's epic, yet crazily fast running time and would happily go back to immerse myself in its twisted world again.


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