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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Gone Girl Review: Crafty, Smart Thriller is Just Too Long

Gone Girl bubbles with a sexualized psychosis that's a bit too long for our bladders.
In Director David Fincher's Gone Girl, Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike) are a couple in deep trouble. After five years of marriage, they seem further apart than ever as both their careers and personal lives have dried up. All of that changes when Nick returns home to find his wife has disappeared, leading police to eventually suspect him. They have their reasons, and soon evidence begins to pile up that not even Nick's attorney Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) can overcome. But Amy is not who she appears, and as Nick, Tanner, and Nick's sister (Carrie Coon) begin to put the pieces together, it's clear that no one is prepared for what is coming.

Based closely to the 2012 best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn (who also wrote the screenplay), Gone Girl is a deeply disturbing tale of lies and deceit with plenty of character drama and twists to satisfy just about everyone. The world of Amy and Nick feels fully formed, as do their struggles and worsening marital situation. As Amy writes in her journal about the changing tide, we recognize in ourselves moments when we doubt our lives; in Nick, we see a man pulled away from his life by another woman, ready to make a change until Amy disappears. The social commentary of cable television hosts and selfie vipers is also a strong element that provides needed levity throughout. From Missi Pyle to Sela Ward, these caricatures are enjoyable and perfectly placed. And then Fincher drops the bomb that changes everything. And then he does it again. And at least one more time.

And yet, it's not the Oscar winner that I think everyone has been wanting. At a staggering 149 minutes, Girl doesn't need that kind of time to tell its story. This isn't the brilliant Lincoln, which benefited from every minute Spielberg gave it. Believe me, I'm not opposed to long films; but when I can see the propped up edges of a sequence that drags on the story, I get a little impatient. Here, Fincher adds a somewhat needless series involving Amy and a Hillbilly couple before sending them on their way, never to be seen again. I get why their appearance is necessary, but I dislike Fincher's decision to stick with them for so long. His adherence to the novel also hurts Girl, as Amy and Nick attempt to put their lives back together once she returns. Granted, it's good (and frankly diabolical) stuff, but I wonder what might have happened if they had cut a few minutes off the end.

My other problem with Gone Girl is in the appearance of Neil Patrick Harris as Amy's obsessive and eccentric former boyfriend. He's not around enough for us to care, serving merely as a plot vehicle in Act 3. In those few scenes, Harris rises above his television persona, proving that perhaps he's not a one-Barney pony. Granted, there wasn't enough time to develop the character, but that's Fincher's fault for choosing the wrong stories to tell.

But there's also so much to like about Gone Girl: the graying hues of our leads, the funny social commentary of television juries, and all the man/girl junk throughout. Yes, it's a body part party that's as sexualized as Cronenberg's Crash and just about as evil, too. Affleck is the star here, and his muted performance does keep the audience off-scent. We're not sure if we like or hate Nick, but by film's end he's as tragic a character as we've seen in 2014. Affleck's never been known to play such dark roles, which makes this one so enjoyable. When the big reveal arrives, the story turns to Pike who plays Amy as a deeply disturbed sociopath that's sadly done this sort of thing before to other men. In Gone Girl, she is at her most beautiful and sexual, with Fincher doing his best to show off one of the hidden gems of Hollywood. Perry and Coon also turn in nice performances, rounding out a team that's still nowhere close to matching Amy's accumen.

Gone Girl is a satisfyingly disturbing film that exposes the lies of underlying madness that some marriages become. Bubbling with a sexualized psychosis, Fincher delivers another winner, even if the runtime pushes our bladders to the limit. While not a must-see theater experience, you'll want to catch this in whatever form you choose, as I'm sure we'll be hearing about this come February.

Gone Girl is Rated R for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language and has a runtime of 149 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.


Micaella Lopez March 13, 2015 at 9:52 PM  

Gone Girl is a greatly entertaining film that seems a likely candidate for multiple Oscar nominations, and it is Flynn's script that seems like a sure thing.

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