When it comes to mystery, more than any other genre, trust between author and audience is essential.
The audience has to believe that the movie is taking them somewhere they want to go. That it’s worthy of their attention now because it’ll pay off later.
Gone Girl, adapted from the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn (who in one of those rare instances also wrote the screenplay), starts slow. We meet all of the major players. An investigation is launched. Something’s just not quite right.
It’s mystery writing 101, but Gone Girl is far from your typical mystery. Sure there are movies it harkens back to – a list difficult to name without in part ruining the sense of discovering that makes Gone Girl so interesting – but it’s not any single one of them. No, Gone Girl, if anything, is original.
On July 5 , on the same day as their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) disappears from her home in Missouri.
Left behind is a shattered glass coffee table and a small trace of blood just above the stove. Her husband, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) quickly suspects something is wrong and calls the police.
What proceeds is split between flashbacks of Nick and Amy’s early marriage – told through the lens of her diary – and Nick’s story to the police. And it doesn’t take long to see that those two stories conflict with each other.
Nick isn’t acting like a husband whose wife has gone missing. What’s worse, he seems to be lying about something. But why?
And so the question becomes whether Nick killed his wife. That’s also about as much as I can give away plotwise without ruining something, which frankly makes my job a whole lot tougher.
So if you’re wondering why the rest of this review seems like me cryptically fumbling through the movie without ever actually referring to the movie, know that it’s because the twists and turns work far better on the screen than they ever would here.
In truth, Gone Girl is far more than just the mystery film I’ve described above. It actually feels like three movies in one: mystery, thriller, and psychological horror.
And it’s the way the film manages to transition seamlessly through these different modes that makes it such a unique piece of cinema. To do one of these well would have been an accomplishment, all three seems a bit greedy.
But with David Fincher at the helm, not to mention some pretty great writing for Gillian Flynn’s first time out as a screenwriter (moving from author to screenwriter is a bumpier transition than one would think), Gone Girl finds its grip and never let’s go, no matter what genre it sticks its hands into.
Ben Affleck, who seems to be better known for his directing these days than his acting, should get some well-deserved praise here as Nick. He does great work in the part.
The bigger surprise though is Rosamund Pike who comes in with a lot less name recognition and just about steals the whole show.
As for that trust between author and audience, I’d say it remains unbroken. The ending is worth the wait, even if it is where most of my complaints in the movie lie.
If anything, it’ll be one that sticks with you long after you leave the theatre. It just takes a few awkward character send offs to get there.
Given its creepy, dissonant tone Gone Girl doesn’t feel at all out of place in October.
Honestly, there’s something a lot more unnerving here than what you’d find in the typical Halloween crop. Ghosts and demons just can’t trump the terror of a dysfunctional relationship.
Final Score: 4/5