By Bob Garver
Oct. 13, 2014. “Gone Girl” is one of those movies that is so twisty that it’s hard to tell where the setup ends and the spoilers begin. It’s based on a bestselling novel, which means that some people are going to know going in exactly what to expect. I feel a little sorry for those people, though I suppose they’ve already had their turn to be deliciously surprised. The people I feel really sorry for are the people who read spoilers and only spoilers and know what to expect without letting the story take them on a wild ride in one form or another.
Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike star as an unhappy couple named Nick and Amy. They were once madly in love, but over the years he has fallen into boorishness and she has become emotionally drained (though there may have been little to drain in the first place). On the day of their fifth anniversary, Nick comes home to find the living room overturned and Amy missing. This leads to a criminal investigation, which leads to a media circus, which leads to secrets about Nick and Amy coming out one by one by one.
Is Amy still alive? Has she been abducted? If so, who abducted her? Has she been murdered? If she was murdered, was it by Nick? Will Nick take the blame for Amy’s murder regardless of the truth? These questions are answered surprisingly early and abruptly, though it doesn’t mark the end of the film’s suspense, it just takes it in a different direction.
Other players include Carrie Coon as Nick’s loyal twin sister who becomes increasingly frustrated with Nick’s secrecy, Kim Dickens an Patrick Fugit as detectives investigating the disappearance, Tyler Perry (sans drag) as a hotshot defense attorney and Neil Patrick Harris as a former boyfriend of Amy’s. Harris is best known for comedic and musical work and I wondered why he was cast in this thriller. Several cringe sessions later I see that he was an excellent choice for this role.
Speaking of excellent performances, the whole cast is top-notch. I didn’t know who Carrie Coon and Kim Dickens were before this movie, but I’m eager to see more of them. Tyler Perry proves that he can be effective when he’s not distracted by his directing duties. Affleck can now officially say that he’s just as respectable an actor as he is a director. But what people are going to remember most about this movie is Rosamund Pike. Even when she’s gone, she still has a twisted dominance over the story. With this performance, Pike jumps to the front of the Best Actress Oscar race, but at a price. Men are going to be scared of her for years to come.
There are a few things that prevent this film from getting to that next level where I’m only too eager to hand it the Best Picture Oscar. We’re supposed to suspect Nick of killing Amy, but the way he behaves when he’s alone prevents us from getting behind that possibility. More frustrating is the way the film’s ending drags. I kept thinking that the film had found a good stopping point, but it just kept going to gradually diminishing returns.
“Gone Girl” is one of the most suspenseful, exciting and shocking films I’ve seen in a long time. It has been #1 at the box office for two weekends now, which gives me faith in the movie-going public. Plus I’m thrilled to finally have an excuse to write a positive review. You should of course see this film, but if you see it with a significant other, be prepared for some awkwardness on the drive home.
Three Stars out of Five