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Monday, October 6, 2014

Review: Gone Girl

Did He Do It?

By Chris Sabga

Release Date: October 3, 2014 – U.S.
Rating: R
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Running Time: 149 minutes
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Gillian Flynn
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, 
Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, 
Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, 
David Clennon, Lisa Banes, Missi Pyle  

"Gone Girl" is a pulpy, twisty, b-movie thriller – and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. It's great fun. In the capable hands of director David Fincher, writer Gillian Flynn (who penned both the screenplay and the bestselling novel it's based on), and a world class cast, this is one hell of a wild ride with many sharp starts, stops, and sudden turns.

Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) comes home one day to find a glass table broken and his wife missing. Where did Amy (Rosamund Pike) go? Is she dead? Did her husband kill her?

The entire film raises one question after another. I spent all 149 minutes of it wondering what was going to happen next.

As the police (played by Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit) investigate, Nick turns to his twin sister, Margo (Carrie Coon), for support. A Nancy Grace-ish, tabloid-style TV reporter, Ellen Abbott (Missi Pyle), exploits every single detail of the case. The Dunnes are a ratings bonanza. A slick lawyer, Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry), gleefully offers his services to Nick on live television should the need ever arise – and of course it will. A suspicious ex-boyfriend, Desi Collings (Neil Patrick Harris), shows up for the search party. Did he have anything to do with Amy's disappearance?

And that covers only the barest threads of the plot. Trust me, there is more – much, much more!

Ben Affleck had his fair share of critics earlier in his career, and there is still skepticism about him taking over the role of Batman, but he is remarkable here. He says so much with his face alone. Rosamund Pike is also extraordinary as his missing wife. Flashbacks lead us up to the day she disappeared. Carrie Coon does a great job too as the sister of Affleck's character. She's reliable and relatable – exactly the type of person you'd want by your side in a major crisis. Neil Patrick Harris crackles with a caring creepiness. It's a side of him we've never seen before.

I could go on and on about the actors – they're all fantastic – but one of the biggest highlights is Tyler Perry. He impressed me in "Alex Cross," but he takes it to another level entirely in "Gone Girl." He owns his role as a lawyer who claims to win the "unwinnable cases." He delivers his lines – some of the best in the film – with a relaxed confidence and sly smirk that makes him easy to root for. In a way, he seems to represent the audience. More often than not, he says what we're all thinking.

Lawyers – especially those of the cinematic variety – aren't always the world's greatest people (except for the ones who read this site), but Perry's character entertained the hell out of me and did right by his client. You really can't ask for much more than that.

"Gone Girl" reminds me of "Fatal Attraction" and "Basic Instinct" in many ways. Their stories aren't necessarily similar, but they all share the same loony vibe of over-the-top outrageousness. Let's face it: This situation is ridiculous. There's nothing realistic about anything that happens. It's based on a beach read and plotted like a Lifetime TV Movie of the Week. Tyler Perry's character even admits it. The audience I was with couldn't stop laughing for the entire second half of the film – literally non-stop chuckling at the sheer absurdity of what was unfolding. But all of that is okay as long as it works – and it does!

The core of "Gone Girl" really (bunny) boils down to the dynamics of a marriage – wildly exaggerated for dramatic effect, of course – but anyone who has been through the ups and downs (and downs and downs) of a committed relationship can probably relate.

The ending, which I won't spoil, initially had me throwing my hands up in the air and possibly uttering out loud a few expletives that begin with the letter F. Without giving anything away, it's a bit sudden. But after a period of deep reflection, prayerful sessions with my priest, and a delicious bowl of bunny stew, I am now of the firm belief that it's a brilliant way to conclude to a mystery movie like this. Others will naturally disagree.

I have no idea if those final moments are faithful to Flynn's book or something Fincher incorporated to give the film more of an "arthouse" element. If it's the latter, he needn't have bothered, because nothing else about the story is exactly "highbrow" in any way. That doesn't really matter though, because the ending is still very effective.

"Gone Girl" is a b-movie that's elevated by an acclaimed director, a-list actors, and several Oscar-worthy performances. It won't make anyone smarter, but there's something immensely satisfying about losing your brain for a couple of hours and enjoying a good, clean, missing girl mystery. 

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