Directed by: David Fincher
Produced by: Leslie Dixon
Screenplay by: Gillian Flynn
Based on: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Starring: Ben Affleck
Neil Patrick Harris
Music by: Trent Reznor
Cinematography by: Jeff Cronenweth
Editing by: Kirk Baxter
Studio(s): Regency Enterprises
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Release date(s): October 2, 2014 (United Kingdom)
October 3, 2014 (United States)
Running time: 149 minutes
Country: United States
Production budget: $61 million
Box-office revenue (as of publication): $303, 992, 483
Well, as per usual I'm backed up slightly and it's looking like my review for the month of October is going to be coming along in the middle of November. After this review, I've got Lone Survivor and Child Of God on the way, so keep an eye out. Also, you'll be happy to know that with a few days off work I'm going shoot right into November. If things go to plan (which they probably won't, to be fair), I should see The Maze Runner, Fury, Nightcrawler and Interstellar this week. As I mentioned in my last review, there are good few things to see in the cinema right now, making it a surprisingly full pre-Oscar season period. So, for all the latest and greatest regarding the movies, keep your eyes posted!
Today's movie up for review is Gone Girl, David Fincher's adaptation of Gillian Flynn's bestselling 2012 novel of the same name. I think it is undeniable two years after it's initial publication that Gone Girl is something of a literary phenomenon akin in recent years to the buzz surrounding Stieg Larsson's Millenium Trilogy (specifically The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, also adapted by Fincher), Stephanie Meyer's Twilight Saga and E.L. James' Fifty Shades Of Grey. These days, when so many people are concerned with other mediums, it's nice to see people making an effort to buy a book and engage in conversation about it. Furthermore, having read the book prior to seeing the film, I have to say that unlike some of those said bestsellers, it's actually a damn fine read. Flynn has a mastery of prose, sharp and full of wit, but also wisely constructed so as to balance the tightrope of drawing us into the story, but not give away too much. If you can, I'd sincerely recommend getting yourself a read of the book. With all involved (such as producers Lesley Dixon and Reese Witherspoon) making a point of keeping close to the source, Gillian Flynn adapts her own book into a screenplay. Also, we have director David Fincher, one of the great filmmakers of the past twenty years, someone with a proven track record in genre thrillers with the likes of Seven, Panic Room and Zodiac (for which he won the first ever Stanley Kubrick Award for Best Director from yours truly back in 2007), but also in viable literary adaptations such as Fight Club, The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, all of which though distinctly 'Fincher' films, stick pretty close to their source texts. So, with the context out of the way, now for a quick synopsis: on the day of his fifty wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) returns home to find that his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) is missing. This leads to a media frenzy, as Amy was the inspiration for the bestselling children's books Amazing Amy, authored by her parents. During the course of this, the press interpret Nick's awkward behaviour as indicative of that of a sociopath, and evidence uncovered at the onset of the investigation into Amy's disappearance lead fingers to be pointed in suspicion of Nick as the primary suspect. Got it? Good!
To start off with the good, the two central performances from Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike are career best's for both actors. I've said it before, but Affleck, through his experiences as a director has become a wiser actor, in much the same way Clint Eastwood began to build more layers of depth after he became a director. Affleck plays off of his good guy image, making Nick Dunne a man who is almost uncomfortable in his own skin. He subtly plays awkwardness to the camera, making the act of simply walking into a room seem like it either isn't worth his time or just too much effort. His ability to give us a constant level of doubt in the character of Nick, a liar and a bit of a jerk, sells us on the possibility that he may be responsible for his wife's disappearance. Obviously Pike's performance is the one that is going to get most attention, but Affleck deserves just as much credit for making this story work. Speaking of Pike, she delivers an absolute powerhouse of a performance as Amy. She has always been a good actress, flip-flopping between the likes of 2012's Jack Reacher and lesser projects like Hector And The Search For Happiness from earlier this year, but this is her first major leading role, and boy does she take the ball and run with it. I'm not going to get into a whole lot of detail, because that would involve giving away key plot details, but she infest herself wholly into the role. It's a highly intricate bit of work, so much so that even just watching little facial expressions and certain inflections on syllables in a line of dialogue become important in the game of human chess. This is one of the great performances of the past few years, and I had the same emotional reaction/recognition with this in the same way I did with Carice Van Houten in Black Book, Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler and Natalie Portman in Black Swan. If Pike does not get at the very least an Academy Award nomination for her extraordinary work here, then I vow to eat my hat (and believe me, I like my BMC Racing Team cap!)! Aside from the two leads, the film is also host to a number of good performances from supporting members of the ensemble cast. Carrie Coon is vivacious and spunky as the better half of the Dunne twins, Nick's sister Margo, Kim Dickens is solid as Rhonda Boney and model Emily Ratajkowski is surprisingly effective in the part of Andie Hardy. Also, it's great to see Neil Patrick Harris, an actor known primarily for his comedic work on television, get a major supporting role of this prominence, and I thought he was the standout of this bunch as Desi Collings. Despite his quiet and soft-spoken demeanour, his immaculately-dressed and meticulous attention to detail indicating a darker perversion underneath. Well, with performances done, I better get into the rest of the film, because we've a lot of ground to cover here. The picture is immaculately shot by Jeff Cronenweth, David Fincher's regular DP. His photography here is exemplary, with just the right juxtaposition of moody lighting and textures with his use of focus, a little less than subtle move maybe, but what it registers is is the question as to what we ourselves should be focusing on. The movement of the camera on the long tracking shots is also aesthetically important, in that not only are we, like the camera, flowing through the spider-web of the story, but also that oftentimes when things are happening Cronenweth takes his time before entering a given space to reveal what's going on inside. It operates well in conjunction with Kirk Baxter's seamless work in the cutting room, which is just as responsible for giving the film it's sense of flow. I have more to say about the film's running time and other things later on (in due course), but that was among the quickest two-and-a-half hours I've had at the cinema in a long time. It was so smoothly done that it almost seemed effortless how Baxter made all the pieces in the puzzle, despite time and chronological order at times being eschewed, slot together appropriately. Returning for their third collaboration with Fincher, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have put out another fine score. As far as career moves, transitioning into film scoring was one of the best things Trent Reznor has ever done, for he and Ross put out a rich, textured aural soundscape for the film, matching the emotional pitch every step of the way. Be it contemplative, melancholic, suspenseful, Reznor/Ross have a sound that fits it to a tee, their primarily electronic compositions being reminiscent of Tangerine Dream's film scoring days in the 1980s. Also, they have a strong ability to be able to churn out an incidental theme, something that is just designed to take an expository scene from point-A to point-B. The screenplay too by Gillian Flynn is as good a bit of adaptation as you are going to get of an author translating their own literature to the screen. Unlike Cormac McCarthy, who it seems needs people like the Coen brothers to bring his work to life in film, Flynn has a good idea of what works and what doesn't. Retaining the sharp ear for dialogue that was one of the finer qualities of the book, she also has done an excellent job of compressing her four-hundred page text into a feature film. For instance, in the book we have two detectives, Boney and Gilpin, on Amy's case, but it's obvious reading it that the real tete a tete, the tango if you will, leans towards Nick and Boney, so for the film we have Detective Boney and Officer Gilpin, in a much lesser role than in the book. Smart things like this ensure that the pacing doesn't get too baggy. Also, the labyrinthine web of intricacies, deceits, lies, double-crosses is nigh-on impenetrable. It's as strong a script as I've seen in a film over the past few years. Finally, what you have here is a maestro in David Fincher in the midst of a creative peak. He's got to that stage of his career where he has worked out his formulas, knows what works and what doesn't, and has got a strong source text upon which he can ply his craft. He has a history of literary adaptations which, though faithful to the text, are distinctly his films. Also, with Gone Girl Fincher is responsible for a lot of the more audacious stuff involved in the book making it to the big screen and getting across appropriately. I talked about The Equalizer being bold, but as far as a mainstream cinema goes, Gone Girl puts that film in the pale. There's a lot of sex in the picture, as well as scenes of strong graphic violence, and in the hands of another director, this could have been pure titillation, candy-floss padding out all the dramatic segments. Fincher gets across through the sex scenes not only an incredible eroticism but ensures that each has meaning of some sort to the story and characters, and the violence is never any small, throwaway act, it's high-impact, painful and wince-inducing when it happens. We've also seen Fincher work well within genre confines, and in much the same way Flynn used the mystery genre for her book, Fincher translates all of that rich thematic content to the big screen. It's a highly twisted exploration into the many facets of love, the effects of the economic crisis on contemporary America, manipulation of public image by the tabloid media, revelatory gender politics (the 'Cool Girl' monologue is as pertinent a statement in feminism as anything in mainstream entertainment over the past decade), our perceptions of each other, deceit, lies, and when we pull back at the climax to see this labyrinthine web in all of its glory, the best film of the year so far.
Now, in case you haven't guessed by now (which, if you haven't, to be frank, I ask you to place serious doubts upon your judgement), I loved Gone Girl. A lot. However, I'd be lying if I didn't mention some of my concerns regarding the running time. I know that there is a good bit of ground to cover with this material, but I have a feeling that even though it is still a masterpiece, it could have been a bit leaner cut back to about 135 minutes. At near two-and-a-half hours, it does feel just a little bit like it is starting to scoot around a bit. Shaving that off of the film would have automatically cemented this into GOAT (Greatest Of All-Time) material.
What a pleasure, after reviewing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to be given the privilege to experience such a fine film as Gone Girl is. Aside from my doubts as to the necessity of the significant two-and-a-half hour running time, this was a film that delivered in just about every department. As far as a mainstream film goes, we get the genre thrills and twists of the mystery genre, but also the artistry that comes across with the rich thematic content, and the meticulous craftsmanship of David Fincher, his regular collaborators, and the two career-best performances of leads Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. Gillian Flynn's book was a literary phenomenon, and judging by the resounding response, both critically and commercially to the feature-film adaptation, the buzz created by the word-of-mouth has yet to reach it's climax.
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 9.3/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Je suis fatigant (I've been finding it hard to wake up. Three alarms and I still slept in. I'm learning so much from my dreams that it's like I've been shot with an elephant gun!)