Monday, November 17, 2014

Gone Baby Gone

Nick and Amy Dunne have been married for five years. On the day of their anniversary, Amy suddenly goes missing. Nick returns home to find evidence of a struggle, and immediately calls the police. Foul play is suspected, and before long, the media decides to publicly crucify Nick on the charge of murder, lack of a corpse notwithstanding. Is Nick truly a sociopath as the media declares, or is he simply handling the situation awkwardly, as best as he can?

This is the plot of the movie Gone Girl, based on the smash-hit novel by Gillian Flynn. Though the plot may seem rather conventional, the story is very cleverly structured, combining the main plot with excerpts from Amy’s diary. The picture the diary paints is one of a marriage which starts as a fairy-tale romance, but with financial troubles come hard times, and before long the relationship is strained almost to a breaking-point. Yet the story that Nick tells is a very different one. This forms something of a he-said-she-said plot which is easily one of the most interesting things about Gone Girl.

That being said, there is a twist coming. And if you have any experience in mysteries whatsoever, you know exactly what the twist is before five minutes of the film have gone by. I truly do not understand why this aspect of the story has been so hyped-up; it was the very first thing that I thought of when I first heard the plot idea. Yet millions went mad for the book, and as a result we now have a film adaptation starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, and Tyler Perry. Rounding out the crew is David Fincher, who has made some slick, fascinating thrillers in the past – I particularly enjoyed Se7en, Panic Room, and Zodiac. Usually, I don’t bother with books or movies that are guaranteed to be smash-hits, but I finally decided to make an exception for this movie. I was interested enough to see it and see what all the fuss was about.

So what did I think of the film? If you’ve made it this far, you might think I hated the movie. But the truth is, I enjoyed it tremendously. Though the obvious twist is what it is, the movie really downplays it, almost as though everyone in the audience knows the twist is coming. Instead, David Fincher saves his most effective tricks for the final act of the film, with the tension really ratcheted up to the breaking point. It’s really tough for me to explain without going into full-out spoiler mode, but if you’ve seen the film, you probably know what I mean. The characters have been journeying to this moment throughout the film – and it’s been an interesting moment – and the final act is full of glorious payoff.

Gone Girl is one of the best-casted films to come out of Hollywood in recent memory. Ben Affleck almost becomes Nick Dunne – the role seems tailor-made for him. He’s perfect as the charmer that Amy falls in love with in 2005, but he’s just as effective as the darker, more brooding man her diary describes as we get closer to present day. Rosamund Pike adds yet another excellent role to her resume – she’s absolutely perfect as Amy and gives the character a layer of complexity another actress may not have been able to pull off. The real surprise of the show, though, was Tyler Perry as Tanner Bolt, a calculating defense attorney who knows exactly how to present the case to the media – Perry is genuinely funny in the role, delivering comic relief at precisely the right moments without lessening the dramatic impact his character needs to have in key scenes.

I have not read Gone Girl, so I cannot say how the film compares with the book. I hear it’s a very close adaptation, and if that’s true, it’s probably a good book. The criticism I often hear levelled against the book is that the characters are intensely dislikeable. Hey, I’ve heard of worse reasons for disliking a book. Maybe that’s more true of the book than of the screen, but I thought the leads did a great job making the characters likeable and interesting. I was certainly engaged in the film – though I went to a late night showing, I was not getting bored or nodding off. So the movie did its job: it kept me entertained and engaged.

Would I recommend Gone Girl. It depends. If you liked the book, you’ll probably like the movie. I have no clue what your reaction will be if you hated the book. What if you haven’t read it and have no interest in reading it? Well, that was my initial attitude, and here’s the take I walked away with— I thought the movie was worth watching: well-acted, well-directed, well-told. Gillian Flynn did the screenplay based on her own novel, and although she’s no Agatha Christie (or Margaret Millar, for that matter, which would be a much more apt comparison), she has her heart in the right place when it comes to plot. And if you like the work of David Fincher, you’ll probably like this movie. I’m not sure I’d go out and read the novel after having seen the movie – after all, it’s supposed to be a very close adaptation – but I’m not averse to the idea of reading a different book by Gillian Flynn.


  1. You liked this one a lot more than I did Patrick - the low key revelation of the twist seemed very 'off' to me as it\s a pretty melodramatic movie otherwise and I found the end went on, and on, and on! But then I had read the book so new exactly what was coming - I agree, the cast is absolutely terrific and Fincher on a and day is a lot better than nose :) And glad to have you back chum! Did you and your sister feel the same about the movie?

    1. Sergio, my sister and I have pretty different interests and tastes, but we agreed that we enjoyed the movie. She also found the big twist in the middle predictable, but she enjoyed herself and also didn't fall asleep. ;)

    2. Sorry for the torrent of typos - must not type on the go! What I meant to say was that Fincher on an off day is better than most (though I can live without seeing PANIC ROOM again).

    3. We must agree to disagree entirely there. I loved PANIC ROOM for its story, and the fact that both the heroes and villains are intelligent and anticipate each other's next moves -- it's like a game of chess with lives at stake.

  2. I wasn't thrilled with it either. I hadn't read the book. Hubby and I kept guessing correctly what was going to happen just before it did. I didn't go to sleep either--which I do sometimes--good acting, just wasn't that thrilled with the, to me, guessable plot.

  3. The plot has too many holes for me - I have recently completed the novel. Amy may have thought out the perfect murder, she just forgot how to live the perfect after-life. I didn't buy her committing suicide - someone demanding such retribution would never consider death as a way out. It would be too much like giving in & admitting defeat.
    The premise is great, I just think a more experienced and talented writer would have pulled it off, but Flynn doesn't. The ending is such an anti-climax & so bloody weak.