Sunday, October 5, 2014

Fall Flicks: Gone Girl

Following his directorial debut Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo, early Fall Flicks seem to be Ben Affleck's new sweet spot with the massive opening of Gone Girl.  Taking in an estimated $38 million clams, the $60 million-ish crime thriller has been liked by critics more than the audiences who gave it a B Cinemascore.  The opening sets a record for director David Fincher whose credits include Alien 3, Seven, Fight Club, The Game, The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Based on a best selling novel by Gillian Flynn, Girl continues the redemption of the probably a cool guy in real life Affleck who struggled with professional and personal woes 10 years ago.  I personally enjoyed Daredevil, Paycheck and parts of Gigli but that whole J. Lo thing was kinda weird...  Gone Girl is the tale of Nick Dunne (Affleck) and his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike, The World's End, Jack Reacher).  On the day of their anniversary, Amy goes missing from their small town outside St. Louis, Missouri.  Nick quickly calls the cops but as revelations are brought to the table and the media begins to take sides, the seemingly innocent husband becomes the top suspect.  We see the beginnings of the relationship told through diary narrated flashbacks via Amy that become more and more dark in tone leading us to wonder if Nick actually had something to do with Amy's disappearance or maybe even killed her.

What follows is a well crafted, acted, funny and at times fucked up tale of what it means to be married in the modern age.  Affleck does an excellent job as the loafing schlub of a husband and as the increasingly irritated, maybe he did it, not so nice guy husband.  Pike's wide eyes and blank face are put to good use as the sweet yet commanding Amy whose marriage isn't what she expected or is willing to accept.  Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit are the local cops with one looking for the truth and the other believing Nick killed his wife.  Tyler Perry shows up as a high dollar lawyer and Neil Patrick Harris plays Amy's mysterious ex.  Both the writer/director and former television star do solid jobs.  Music video siren Emily Ratajkowski shows up in a small role and reminds us why she's famous in the first place.

Like all of Fincher's films, Gone Girl exists in it's own world.  It's not as dark or seedy as Seven, Fight Club or The Game and in fact, I think that's part of the reason I didn't all out enjoy the flick.  It's satisfying as a film but not very fulfilling as an experience?  It just seems like Fincher light.  The Social Network somehow made a movie about Facebook riveting and scenes of programming a website exciting.  Girl With the Dragon Tattoo had one of the best trailers of all time but delivered a pretty unmemorable flick that I haven't thought of since leaving the theater.  Gone Girl continues that slide as we're out in middle America suburbia with some very familiar beats (media skews info, Missourians are hicks, Nick isn't the guy we thought, etc).  Sure there's twists, turns, reveals, bloodshed and WTF moments but to me it just felt like a Lifetime movie of the week only executed really, really well.  Maybe that's how Flynn's novel plays out and Fincher purposely turns the early flashbacks of Nick and Amy's courtship into saccharine, perfect moments out of a middle school romance novel but the whole movie feels like some kind of big joke almost or an experiment of what happens when A-List talent tackles a movie of the week concept.

With Fincher's big budget adaptation of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea cannon balled due to budget concerns, here's hoping he goes back to something more interesting like Seven, Fight Club or The Game.  And Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms, yo!

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