One of the most vexingly aggravating movies of the 2000s was The Life of David Gale, a thriller starring Kate Winslet and Kevin Spacey. For the first 80 per cent of the movie, it was an impressively sleek mystery. In the denouement, however, a turn in the plot occurred that was so unsatisfying and insulting, it negated most of the rest of the movie’s quality. The same can be said about Gone Girl.
Those who read the book know the twists and turns and those who haven’t won’t find any major spoilers here. That said, the ending of Gillian Flynn’s 2010 bestseller has turned off many a reader, and this movie is sure to cause similar reactions to some audience members.
For those unfamiliar with the story at all, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) comes home on his fifth anniversary to discover his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) is missing. As the search for Nick’s wife becomes a national news story and a complex police investigation, Nick finds himself the main suspect to investigators and the presumed killer of his wife by public opinion.
Obviously, there is more to the story, but to go into details would be to ruin the ride. David Fincher, the master behind mysteries like Se7en, The Game, and the remake The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is in his element here. Everything from the camera angles to the lighting is perfectly set up, and Fincher knows how to capture what his mind’s eye sees exactly.
Affleck gives another fantastic performance, off the heels of his work in Argo and The Town. He simultaneously gives Nick a smugness and a charm that makes him seem like he’s always hiding something, but which you forget half the time. Pike is also excellent, in the best showcase for her acting she’s received in years. She covers every spectrum of the scale, showing in flashbacks how idyllic her marriage to Nick began and how slowly it poisoned itself.
While Affleck and Pike are perfectly cast, supporting roles are perplexingly played by various sitcom actors. How I Met Your Mother’s Neil Patrick Harris, Happy Endings’ Casey Wilson, and Madea herself, Tyler Perry, all show up in roles, to a quite distracting extent. To his credit, Perry completely holds his own, but Harris and Wilson can’t shake that mugging-for-the-camera tone, which especially proves problematic during an intense scene involving Harris.
Gillian Flynn adapted the screenplay herself, which proved to be both a good and bad thing. On the one hand, by knowing the characters inside out, Flynn is able to make them breathe onscreen in a way many couples do not. However, authors are always their worst editors, and Flynn misses an opportunity here to land her intense cat-and-mouse game with a perfect, satisfying finish.
By remains slavish to the ending of the book, the movie adaptation has the same tragic flaw: it’s a great story for 80 per cent, and then ends so poorly it leaves a stink in your mouth. See it for yourself, by all means, and decide on your own whether you accept the story’s ending. While doing so, though, just imagine how great a movie Gone Girl could have been if it had had the courage to follow through on its great beginning and middle with a better ending.