Gone Girl ****

Is it worth $10? Yes

It’s always nice when high-profile releases live up to the hype. 

“Gone Girl,” the highly touted 2012 Gillian Flynn novel, is now a movie under the careful and uncompromising eye of David Fincher, a man who’s no stranger to crime (“Seven”), drama (“The Social Network”), or crime dramas (“Zodiac”). With Flynn writing the script and Fincher as good as he’s ever been, “Gone Girl” is a substantial success, easily one of the best films of 2014.

It is not without surprises. Ben Affleck is perfect for the role of Nick Dunne, a failed writer and smooth talker who sweeps Harvard-educated Amy (Rosamund Pike) off her feet. They marry. Soon, though, hardships cause strain and the marriage disintegrates. On the morning of their fifth anniversary, Nick goes to a bar he owns with his sister Margo (Carrie Coon). Amy disappears.

A manhunt ensues, with everyone from their neighbor (Casey Wilson) to local detectives (Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit) to Amy’s parents (Lisa Banes and David Clennon) and even Amy’s exes (Scoot McNairy and Neil Patrick Harris) getting involved in the search. Meanwhile, Nick fails to endear himself to the media, and his mistress (Emily Ratajkowski) doesn’t help. Eventually Nick has to hire defense attorney Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry), aka the “patron saint of wife killers.” 

Aside from the main plot, various themes emerge. One is a play on how people present facades early in relationships, then as time passes the deception fades and reality sets in. Nick and Amy carry this stage into marriage, and the consequences are dire. Another theme is the role the media plays in crafting controversy. The gap between reality and TV news is shockingly omnipresent, showing the media in a dominant but unflattering light. As such, it’s always clear that the media wants the best story, not the truth, and the sizable gap between the two makes you shudder as you think about watching coverage of the war on terror, Israel, etc.  

I haven’t read Flynn’s novel, but have been told by those who have that the film stays pretty loyal to its source material. Affleck has never been better on screen as the put upon louse Nick, but it’s Pike (“Die Another Day”) who steals the show in an A-list star making turn as Amy. The character is alluring, intelligent and cunning, and Pike is so good at each stage of Amy’s journey that she deserves an Oscar nomination. 

How do you know “Gone Girl” is great? Not a single thing doesn’t work. The 149 minutes are jammed with details that matter, the performances are stellar, the musical score by Oscar winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (“The Social Network”) is appropriately ominous, and the story keeps you intrigued to the very end. This is a big-time adult drama told with precision and refined skill. See it so you can join in making a fuss about how great it is. 

Did you know?

In an August 2014 interview with New York Magazine, Tyler Perry admitted he didn’t know who David Fincher was when he signed on to the film. If he had known, Perry says, he wouldn’t have taken the role. The full article is here.

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