Too early for ratings…
Directed By – David Fincher
Starring – Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Carrie Coon, Tyler Perry, Patrick Fugit, Kim Dickens, and Scoot McNairy
With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent.
The film ended and the credits began to roll. I expected an applause but there was none. I expected hushed talking and the shuffling of feet as people started to make their way out of the theater. There was none. It was like everybody was afraid to move. Everybody, including myself, was sitting there waiting for more. That, or everybody was just too uncomfortable to be the first one to leave. There was some of that in my motivation to stay in my seat. I was also too embedded in the film to find the cognitive function to stand up and make my feet move. Gone Girl, which was the opening film of the New York Film Festival, had wowed me. I wasn’t fortunate enough to see the film with the stars. I was able to however get a ticket to see the film across the street where the people with the budget on their wallets were allowed to see the film. I actually kind of liked it this way. I was away from all the hoopla and was actually able to focus on what I came there for, to see a film. It was a pretty awesome experience.
I haven’t read the critically acclaimed novel by Gillian Flynn. My reading consists solely of Calvin and Hobbes collections and Anthony Bourdain. I am however very familiar with the man who made the film, David Fincher. I mentioned this in my NYFF preview, Fight Club kind of opened my eyes. Through seeing may other films I began to notice some flaws in the movie but the experience of watching Fight Club in high school and being absolutely stunned silent will live with me for a while. I would rent it, along with Se7en, from my local video store about once a month and show it to my friends. I had never seen anything so dark and dirty before but with just the right amount of light to give the scenes character. I saw Zodiac in the theater and fell asleep through half of it. I was so disappointed with how boring it was. I decided to give it a second chance at home and it’s now one of my favorite films of all time. Funny how that stuff works huh? Like many, I was disappointed with Benjamin Button and Dragon Tattoo but there was something different about his newest film. In a way I guess it just seemed more of a story that hit close to home. I had seen the Swedish Dragon Tattoo films and Benjamin Button seemed to fantastical for my taste. Gone Girl seemed like a story that could happen down the street from me and that just so happens to be the reason I love Zodiac so much. It just felt so real. I had to see it. I purchased my ticket and attended my first film festival.
This is certainly a story you want to go in knowing as little as possible. I mentioned that I didn’t read the book but what I failed to mention was that I really only viewed the trailer once and it was a distracted view. I stayed away from early reviews and TV promos and tried to know as little as possible of the plot. The IMDB description above is all you need. A mans wife disappears and he is left with the media and police who are trying to point fingers and figure out what happened. There really is no reason to read further. I’m obviously going to talk about the film more in depth and while I’m going to be as careful as possible not to reveal anything, you may want to just wait the week and see it for yourself. That’s your warning.
This film is totally about manipulation. The way two people manipulate each other in marriage, the way the media manipulates stories to get good ratings, and the way complete sociopaths manipulate their victims to get away with their crimes, all ever so present in this film. The media is most notably scrutinized by Fincher in a way that reminds me of the Amanda Knox circus that we all went through a couple years ago. The media will focus on what they perceive to be the criminal and they will stop at nothing until the reputation of that person is shattered. Since news is basically 24/7 now, you’re going to start to run out of things to talk about real fast, so you sort of coax more outrageous conversation and theory with your guests and all of a sudden your mole hill is the size of Mt. Kilimanjaro. It’s sad that instead of Edward R. Murrow reading the days events to us in an unbiased manner, we have Nancy Grace making Elizabeth Smart cry on television after she just returned from being kidnapped for half her life. The swarm of television crews, the swarm of people who are only reacting because of the media, all exist to further complicate and already complicated situation such as having your wife missing. It’s disgusting and the film did a great job highlighting it.
The film also delves into what makes up a marriage. How much are we willing to give up of ourselves to spend our lives with each other. Should we sign a prenuptial agreement? Does that throw trust out of the window from the beginning? Fincher does a great job balancing the past and present relationship between Nick (Affleck) and Amy (Pike). He tells the story from both sides up until the sides start to crumble and we’re left with the truth. Twists are featured but none seem unearned. I was fully engulfed in the story and didn’t think for a second that what I was seeing was poorly done or rushed. Their relationship just seemed so real to me. There are plenty of marriages that have perfect stories and happy endings. There are also marriages full of lies, resentment, and spiteful anger. Fincher gave us a film in which people play nice when other people are watching but deep down inside, they’re trying to destroy each other. It makes television almost seem like another planet. All of it fake.
The acting in the film was pretty concrete. Besides Pike, nobody gave otherworldly performances but rather performances that fit their character and purpose perfectly. I’ve always liked Ben Affleck. I thought he did an excellent job portraying a person who not only lost his wife, but also had no idea how to emotionally handle such a thing. There were times I felt for him and times I wanted to punch him in the face. Pike was the standout of the film. Getting into her performance too much will give away key plots points so lets just say that she goes through a full spectrum of emotions that she nails perfectly. There were a lot of subtle thing going on with both of these people due to the amount of media exposure the case ot and they handled it perfectly. The supporting cast was also great. Carrie Coon, who should be getting more work soon due to her phenomenal performance in “The Leftovers”, plays Nick’s twin sister Margot. She plays the only truly likable character in the film and also delivers the films funniest lines. Tyler Perry was not only not annoying but actually enjoyable as the superstar defense lawyer who is trying to save Nicks ass. Neil Patrick Harris is, well, you’ve never really seen him play somebody like this. Everybody did their job perfectly to form a truly believable and engaging cast.
Lastly, the film is a joy to the eyes and ears. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross team up together to deliver another knockout score to a Fincher film. There is a pivotal scene between Pike and NPH that is taken to a whole other world with the score. I was in shock by the end of the scene. That particular scene also showcased why I love Fincher so much. He leaks style into almost every shot and the beginning and ending fit perfectly into a nice round circle which reminded me a lot of Inside Llewyn Davis. The film had such a dark tone to go along with some black humor and to see mostly every scene shot with dark lighting was something I’ve missed since Zodiac. It helped create a sense of uncomfortability that couldn’t be shaken off even after I was walking out of the theater.
The film releases in a week and I’ll certainly be seeing it again. It’s one of the better mystery films of the last five years and a front runner for my film of the year. If you are a Fincher film in any way shape or form, this film is for you. Just don’t bring your wife or husband with you. You may see things a little differently by the end.