Thursday, 16 October 2014

Movie Review: Gone Girl (2014)


A missing person mystery wrapped into a drama about dysfunctional family relationships, Gone Girl is an entertaining romp through the physical and psychological wreckage of a wild tabloid crime story.

In a small Missouri town, Nick Dunn (Ben Affleck) returns home one day to find that Amy (Rosamund Pike), his wife of five years, has mysteriously disappeared. There are signs of a struggle in the house, and police detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) quickly spots blood traces in the kitchen. Amy's parents (Lisa Banes and David Clennon) arrive from New York, and the community rallies around Nick to organize searches and ramp up efforts to find Amy.

But Nick's behaviour is awkward, and as the case starts to generate a national media frenzy accusatory fingers start pointing in his direction. Nick's twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon) stands by him, but even she starts to have her doubts when Nick's affair with nubile college student Andie (Emily Ratajkowski) becomes public, and a nosey neighbour reveals that Amy was pregnant when she disappeared. With Rhonda becoming more convinced that Nick had something to do with his wife's disappearance, Nick turns to famous attorney Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) for help, but this case will have some unexpected revelations.

The synopsis can only recount half the story, because Gone Girl's major twist comes midway through the film. What appears to be a standard missing woman case, routine fodder for the tabloids and the kind of story that regularly helps to fill hours of brain-deadening cable TV "news", suddenly takes a turn into darker territory. Nick and Amy's marriage was in deep trouble, but not in any way that Nick fully understood. Amy's role in the disintegration of the relationship emerges like a spectre to knock the mystery on its head, and Gone Girl engages the evils that lurk in twisted minds. But after expertly negotiating the mid-stream gear shift, the film ends with a spectacular and bloody somersault that is maybe too ambitious in the context of the story's solid anchors in realism.

Written by Gillian Flynn based on her own bestseller, Gone Girl is directed by David Fincher (Seven), who enjoys nothing more than morphing worrisome events into previously unimagined extremes. Gone Girl gets down to business with brisk efficiency: the disappearance happens early, and the couple's dynamic is introduced in flashback, as Amy narrates from her diary. Fincher allows the past story of the marriage to comfortably run in parallel with the present search for a missing woman. The first few years of the relationship in New York are filled with boundless love and the electricity of frequent sex. But then a recession kicks in, a parent gets sick, the couple relocate to nowheresville and the marriage is thrust into troubled terrain.

Amy's creepy childhood is also revealed: her parents used her as inspiration for the adventures of Amazing Amy, the fictional heroine for a children's book series. The real Amy was much less emotionally buoyant than her fictional counterpart, and the blurring of the lines between the real and fake Amys in the eyes of the books' fans, and maybe also in the eyes of her parents, did not contribute to stability.

Gone Girl explores what constitutes appropriate behaviour in the face of a family crisis subjected to continuous and incessant news coverage. The artless Nick is repeatedly caught on camera revealing expressions not consistent with what is expected from a suffering husband. His graceless overexposure becomes cause enough for suspicion and character assassination. Ben Affleck is perfectly cast, and delivers the gait and slightly stunned look of a man swept into the glare of unwanted events. Rosamund Pike is a revelation, coming into her own in the second half as Amy's story takes over the film. Pike demonstrates an impressive and persuasive range, from beaming newlywed sex-kitten wife to a troubled woman deep into the morass of a floundering marriage. Neil Patrick Harris provides support as Amy's ex-boyfriend who reappears at a critical point in her life.

Compelling as only a public familial crisis can be, Gone Girl starts with a drama that is all too common, and pushes it into multiple gasp-inducing, perversely absorbing twists.






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