By Gary Murray
Starring Ben Affleck, Roseamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry
Written by Gillian Flynn
Directed by David Flincher
Running time 2 hr 30 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating Matinee
Gone Girl was a giant literary achievement in 2012. The thrilling tale of a man accused of killing his wife caught the imagination of readers worldwide. Success in reading circles usually turns into Hollywood interest. David Flincher, the director behind Zodiac and The Social Network, takes on the adaptation.
The story starts with Nick (Ben Affleck). He is a bar owner and part-time teacher at the local community college. At one time he was a successful magazine writer.
As the film opens, he drives to the bar to talk to his sister. She knows something is wrong but he will not open up to her. When he gets home, his wife Amy (Roseamund Pike) is missing. She is a trust fund baby, having the royalties of a series of books written about her called Amazing Amy. Her parents are very opinionated literary types.
Nick calls the police and the lead investigator is Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens). As she begins the investigation, the more Nick looks like a suspect. The further she probes, the more Nick pulls away from her. It seems to her that Nick has a secret.
Very soon Nick becomes a reluctant media star. The national anchor from a cable news network begins to turn on Nick, making him the bad guy and Amy the victim of a horrible crime. According to the reporter, everyone knows that the usual suspect is always the husband. Using her media soapbox, the reporter begins to lambaste Nick.
The detective finds Amy’s diary and it tells a different tale. At one time, Nick was a loving husband. Eventually the marriage falls apart and Nick beats Amy. In the last journal entry, she says she fears for her life and thinks that Nick will kill her.
The first half of the film is told from Nick’s point of view. The question is what happened to Amy and is she dead or just a missing person. Tyler Perry plays Nick’s lawyer who seems amazed by everyone he meets.
The second half of the film shows what happened from Amy point of view. We find out about her past and her manipulations. The two stories blend together with the accusation of former lover Desi (Neil Patrick Harris). He is a very rich man who has an obsession with Amy.
The film builds to what everyone expects but doesn’t get–a giant confrontation. The biggest problem with Gone Girl is the ending. Without giving anything away, let’s just say that is a very unsatisfying experience that does not give the audience that cathartic release. It is an exercise in frustration that will displease almost everyone who sees the film.
Of the four leading performances, easily the most interesting one is by Neil Patrick Harris. He plays the obsessed former boyfriend to a creepy degree. This is a departure for the actor most known for comedy. This is the kind of role that could garner a Best Supporting Actor nod.
Tyler Perry is wasted in a role that could have been handled by just about any actor in Hollywood. One almost gets the feeling that he was cast to draw in his enormous fan base. It is a padding to make extra box office.
Ben Affleck is probably the most maligned actor in Hollywood. Even when he delivers a grand performance, critics seem dismissive of his work. This is one the strongest roles of his acting career. He is a man overwhelmed, trying to hide a secret while being glad his wife is gone. Nick has to investigate what happened to his wife while the world prosecutes his guilt in the court of public opinion.
Roseamund Pike is turning out to be one of the most winning former Bond girls. She delivers and Oscar worthy performance here and a giant departure from her recent role in Hector and the Search for Happiness. Between these two roles, she shows an impressive and amazing range. And this role should put her in a very different light in Hollywood.
The entire production of Gone Girl is cold and sleek, much more along the lines of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or Prisoners. It is very much a film of style over substance in a land of shadows and gray. The film is an indictment of the 24 hour media and knee-jerk reactions by those who have a cable TV pulpits rather than a thriller cinematic joy ride. It is not the film that many will expect.
Gone Girl is the lesser of its parts, a film with some great images and taunt character developments but it is not the film of the year. It is an example of how not to execute a thriller, especially in the third act.