In Plain Sight



Gone Girl (2014) directed by David Fincher

By Conor Plosia

Gone Girl, the highly anticipated new David Fincher feature, premiered at the New York Film Festival to a packed audience.  The film is based on the highly acclaimed novel of the same name, so naturally there is some controversy surrounding this adaptation – its ending in particular.  But judging from the NYFF audience reaction, the ending sat well with all those in the crowd. 

The film follows Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Rosemund Pike), a discouraged married couple struggling to keep their relationship together.  Amy goes missing and the hunt for her (which acts as the primary plot) begins.  The film offers many twists and turns with its enigmatic cast and mind-bending story.

The majority of Fincher’s work has involved violence and crime.  Early films like Fight Club and Seven are gritty and intense; more recent works Zodiac and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are patient and thought-provoking, but there’s no doubt a loss of edge to these later works.  Gone Girl, unfortunately, offers a similarly lackluster energy – one that leaves something to be desired. 

Grotesque images, violence and sex aren’t the missing ingredients here.  Almost all Fincher efforts offer plenty of those.  The cinematography is always impeccable, the writing generally solid.  So what’s lacking?  In the case of Gone Girl, particularly, it’s suspense.  The feeling that something or someone could suddenly appear, leaving the characters (and audience members) in terror.  The reveal that the killer is not whom we suspected and he or she is heading our way.  Seven and Fight Cub are filled with the grotesque, but it’s their constant suspense that strings them along.  Although Zodiac is an excellent effort, it marks what may be the beginning of the end for Fincher.  His peak had come with youth, when 1999 became 2000; he was now amongst the elite directors of the new millennium.  No film is easy to make, but perhaps for Fincher the struggle in production faded with success, and with the loss of challenge went the impetus to create truly challenging work.

A majority of Fincher’s work is adapted from novels.  Previously, adaptation has provided the director the ability to change plot points and create his own tale.  He has succeeded in gaining the respect of writers and fans alike with bold visual interpretations.  Fox Studios optioned Gone Girl with the condition that the author of the book (Gillian Flynn) also penned the script for Fincher and Co.  This marks the director’s first voyage with an unestablished screenwriter.  In the past, he or the studio customarily hired a professional screenwriter, someone well-versed in the form.  Flynn’s script worked fine, but the tone and dramatic beats felt a bit off.  Comic relief is always a nice getaway in a chilling thriller, but too much can be confusing.  Should characters be cracking so many jokes with such a serious situation surrounding their lives?  Flynn trots the thin line confidently despite Gone Girl being her opus script – but not always successfully.

Without holding the thriller flick to mountain-high standards, the film succeeds in offering an entertaining ride.  It will keep you in your seat; whether or not you’re on the edge is up to you.  You can count on lead actors Affleck and Pike to hold it together well.  And I’ll hand it to Fincher for making some strong, risky casting choices that paid off –Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris especially.  It may not be the best film for a first date – with all the failed marriage and such – but if you’re looking for an exciting new movie with a thrilling plot, then Gone Girl is for you.

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