Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Gone Girl" Review - Fincher's Flawless Visual Style Is Matched By A Surprising Amount Of Substance & Intrigue

Director hasn't made a single film that hasn't received high praise (excluding Alien 3 which was out of his creative control). Even his less ambitious films like Panic Room and The Game hold a steady 70% on Rotten Tomatoes to this day, which are still considered to be some of the best examples of their respective genres. So at this point, it isn't that surprising that any film directed by Mr. Fincher comes as highly anticipated and critically acclaimed.

Gone Girl, the latest cinematic endeavor from Fincher, based on a Novel by author , isn't exactly new territory for the acclaimed filmmaker. It deals with familiar themes found in a number of his other features, emotionally disturbed people (Zodiac, Fight Club, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), a confounding mystery (The Game, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), an unorthodox romance (Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and a pervading dark sense of humor that gives the proceedings a bit of a satirical edge (just about all his films including as you may have guessed, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). Now with Gone Girl we can add biting social commentary to that long list of themes as well. Read the full review after the break.

Review Vital Stats: 
Projector Type: Digital 2D         
Film Rating: R
Film Runtime: 2 hr 25 min
Release Date: October 3, 2014
Studio: 20th Century Fox

Loves: Most of David Fincher's films
Likes: The entire cast, getting more than expected, being surprised
Neutral:  Open ended conclusions
Hates: Feeling cheated out of some payback
Unlikely: To garner Fincher his first director Oscar

Often times David Fincher's films are criticized for being too stylish where his filmmaking techniques and quest for perfection overtake the actual story at hand. While this is a blanket criticism that has plagued his mostly untarnished reputation as a filmmaker, we finally saw some much needed growth in the realm of character based drama with the release of The Social Network, a film that still carried all of his hallmarks (technically efficient and a seamless use of digital wizardry) but showed that he wasn't afraid to let his characters take center stage in front of all the excruciatingly calculated visual perfection.

That film was a sign that he was finally becoming aware that the substance of a film (its characters and story) were just as if not more important than any visual trickery he would perform. Its not that the characters in his previous films felt lacking, but more like they never felt as important as everything happening around them. Now with Gone Girl he is showing us that he not only understands this revelation, but has already mastered it. If you were blown away by the complexity of the characters and depth of story in The Social Network (Fincher's previous dramatic benchmark), then prepare to have your expectations exceeded once again.

The first and arguably most important area Fincher excels at is always the casting and Gone Girl is certainly no exception. Usually an eclectic mix of A-listers and veteran character actors, Fincher can never be accused of going cheap or lazy when it comes to casting his multi-dimensional characters. While the stable of fine actors he has assembled here such as , , , and (too name just a few) all bring a particular flair to the film by playing against type and expectations, it is his two headliners that bring the complex web of intrigue involving the married couple of Nick () and Amy () Dunne to cinematic life.

When casting for Nick Dunne, a character who is under constant scrutiny by family, friends and of course the media, Fincher remarked that he was looking for an actor who has themselves been put under the spotlight and had judgement laid against them. Casting Ben Affleck in the role was not only a masterstroke of genius (an actor who we ourselves have judged on how he lived his personal life but was also under attack by the media during the infamous Benifer era of his life), but is really the only choice he could have ever made. 

Nick Dunne isn't a saint, he is a man with many faults, some worn on his sleeve with others tucked deep in his pocket. He isn't particularly liked by his inlaws, has no real friends and doesn't even really know that much about his wife's personal life outside their marriage (something that the police finding extremely confounding coming from a man who says he loves his wife). The only person he has any sort of connection with is his sister Margo () and even then he can't confide in her his darkest secrets.

Affleck sinks himself into the role of Nick like he doesn't even need to read the script. As the mystery surrounding the disappearance of his wife Amy begins to turn inward and those who once supported him now begin to suspect him, Affleck shows a calmness that is eerily disarming as even we, who know most of his skeletons in the closet by this point, begin to question what if any part he had in Amy's supposed abduction. It isn't the writing or the scripting so much as it is seeing Affleck's continued odd behavior and blank expressions when asked about his wife's activities (of which he has no knowledge) that keeps us in check about our feelings towards him, even when many of the mysteries come to light.

On the opposite side of the pendulum we have the interesting casting of Rosamund Pike as his estranged wife Amy. Unlike Affleck, we have zero predisposed opinions about Pike as an actress which makes the character of Amy a complete and utter mystery besides the bits and pieces of the puzzle we get spoonfed through a series of flashbacks as Amy narrates significant moments in their lives. If Affleck's casting was an obvious ploy to make us doubt Nick, Pike's casting was an obvious way to reinforce our negative feelings towards Nick as we have no reason to disbelieve anything she tells us.

As far as Pike's performance goes, it is a little difficult to go into too much detail since there are a number of revelations about her character that pop up throughout the film that could threaten to reveal some of the more startling surprises. But let it be said that there is little doubt that Pike won't be recognized with an Oscar nomination as her performance is key to the entire film working as masterfully as it does and will likely garner her many more accolades down the road. She gives a powerhouse performance for a character who is beyond complex and may be just about one of the best female roles in years.

Gone Girl is a near perfect film from beginning to end. Fincher has complete control over us as we watch the many secrets of Nick and Amy's lives unravel over the course of the film. Not once was anything I expected to happen occur in quite the way I had thought. The twists and turns it takes during its extensive length will keep you constantly guessing what to believe and the masterful casting choices will make sure that you are always one step behind at all times. 

Just about the only area the film may divide viewers on is its purposefully vague ending. Many will be upset at the apparent lack of a true resolution, but I would like to believe that the final image and accompanying narration is telling us all we need to know about what lies ahead and that not all stories have as easy a conclusion as we would hope. Some will be upset at the outcome, some will accept it and others will ponder what it all means in the grand scheme of things. But most of all you will find yourself looking out the corner of your eye and wondering if you truly do know who it is your married to.


David Fincher has never been one to tell a cut and dry story. He always puts a few twists and turns in his films to keep us on our toes and while it would be criminal to inform you about what awaits you, what I can say is that Gone Girl is much more than just the story of a missing person. What the film has to say about love, marriage and what we do or don't do to make it work will give you and your spouse plenty to mull over as you ponder over what that final shot really means for our characters, but more importantly how it relates to our own lives. This is far from Fincher's best, but it is definitely in the upper echelon of the filmmaker's pedigree.

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