This review will attempt to avoid spoilers, but you should really see Gone Girl knowing as little as possible.
From the director of Se7en comes the year’s most surprisingly funny flick about the troubles of maintaining a marriage; or from the director of The Social Network comes the scariest shit that you never saw coming. Those are ways that Gone Girl could have been advertised but, luckily, have been avoided (I’m not a marketing man for a reason). But what David Fincher and Co. have created here defies mere genre pigeonholing. It’s a pulpy neo-noir of the most convoluted sort, teeming with sordid sex, red herrings and Tyler Perry as “the patron saint to wife killers.” Yet, at the same time, it’s absolutely hilarious.
By now, anyone paying attention to anything knows the basic story of Gone Girl: a girl (Rosamund Pike) goes gone and her husband (Ben Affleck) is naturally put under a microscope by the authorities and society as potentially dark secrets are revealed. And that’s all that you really need to know going in. I try to avoid trailers for the most part these days, but what I’ve seen Fox do for this one leaves more for the audience to discover than I’d expect. And, really, you should probably stop reading this now.
David Fincher has recently established himself as a go-to for adaptations, thanks to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Social Network being critical and commercial successes. Gone Girl at face value obviously has much more in common with the former, but what is surprising is how much the source material lends itself to having way more in common with the Fincher of nearly twenty years ago, that being the one that gave us the wonderfully deceptive The Game and the anti-social movie of choice, Fight Club. It is really easy to downplay the humor of this story – which is adapted for the screen by the novelist Gillian Flynn – but it is acerbic and in line with much of Fincher’s work before now.
That’s not to say that Gone Girl isn’t dark and maybe even terrifying to a certain extent. There’s one scene in particular in this that out-horrors any major studio horror release that I’ve seen so far in 2014 and – judging by the audience reaction at my screening – may also be the funniest scene in the whole movie. I guess that’s Fincher for you. At it’s core, Gone Girl is absolute populist, pulp trash and that’s not meant as a negative. If this were made a few decades ago, it wouldn’t be hard to see Bob Rafelson or Adrian Lyne at the helm. But even those comparisons are spoiling too much.
The cast here has been talked up (and down) a lot ever since production was announced and everyone delivers. Yes, even Tyler Perry. Affleck is as Affleck does and he pulls off the performance with gusto but ends up being completely overshadowed by Rosamund Pike who is really …something. Neil Patrick Harris shows up later in the film as a character he deems “sweetly creepy” in the press conference that followed the screening, and Tyler Perry plays a lawyer that may as well be a parody of Johnny Cochran. And then there’s the cat, which one screening attendee referred to as the “only stable character” in the movie. And they’re right.
Gone Girl is glossy genre cinema done right. It’s pitch-dark, uncomfortably erotic, and manages to never overstay its weighty 150 minute run-time. This is the type of crime cinema that audiences are rarely afforded now, one that’s decidedly adult yet isn’t self-serious or pandering. Think of it as a big budgeted, Lifetime movie on the perils of marriage and/or the media. In other words, it’s like To Die For only more narcissistic and less sardonic. But, again, I’ve said too much.