Gone Girl

****1/2

Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

Gone Girl
"Rosamund Pike is a revelation as the woman who can be everything you want her to be - and, especially, what you definitely don't want her to be."

David Fincher's deliciously slippery and entertaining domestic crime thriller Gone Girl, based on the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the screenplay, is many things. First rule about Gone Girl? Do not spoil the fun of unspooling Gone Girl for future audiences. So, as Nick Cave announces in Wings Of Desire, "let me tell you about a girl." The girl is called Amy Dunne and this is her film, primarily because Rosamund Pike is a revelation as the woman who can be everything you want her to be - and, especially, what you definitely don't want her to be.

Gone Girl starts out as a missing person police investigation. Amy, who had moved from New York City to Missouri with her husband Nick (Ben Affleck) to be supportive to his dying mother, disappears the day before their fifth wedding anniversary. He is a suspect.

Affleck's face as Nick is illegible, a cryptogram of guilt and complacency, anger and ennui. His voiceover starts the story, soft in tone as it is violent in vocabulary. "When I think of my wife, I think of her lovely head." He continues by saying how he wants to crack open his wife's skull to understand what she really is thinking and feeling. He does not seem to know that she aspires to have her mind and actions resemble Swiss clockwork - maybe cuckoo clockwork. His desire of spousal understanding informs the twists and turns a long the riverrun of Gone Girl.

Early morning small-town America is waking up to what will be a fresh helping of some brand-new crime gossip to be consumed between breakfast and taking out the garbage.

The investigation into Amy's disappearance is headed by Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) who is rarely seen without a take-out coffee cup in hand. The Dunne house is stained by whatever it was that happened. Blood washed away on the kitchen floor and a broken glass table in the living-room are signs to be deciphered. "The cat's room is on the end," Nick tells her during their tour of the house. On the opening night of the New York Film Festival world premiere of Gone Girl, Affleck and Flynn told me some more about this cat, whose presence is a reminder that a silent witness can have a strong emotional impact on our perception of character.

The detective asks Nick some quick, tough questions about his missing wife to acquire a feel for the state of their marriage. Your wife is Amazing Amy? What does Amy do with all those degrees? What does she do all day at home? You say she has no friends in the whole town? Is she the stand-off-ish Ivy League type? You don't know your wife's blood type? You haven't called your wife's parents?

The backstory of how Amy and Nick met in New York City, where they were both writers, is revealed in flashbacks. Corresponding to Amy's diary entries, we see the adorable courtship, complete with cute couple gestures and her family history as the daughter of Marybeth and Rand Elliott (Lisa Banes and David Clennon) who created a lucrative comic book series called Amazing Amy, about a wildly successful alter ego for their daughter, telling her and the world that she can be anything she wants to be.

Pike plays this cracked concept to the fullest - more than a change in hair color makes her a cinematic cousin to Hitchcock's Marnie. Days of systematic, deliberate weight gain turn her temporarily into a Southern Belle Bridget Jones clone, alas one who acts as though she were waiting for a divorce in George Cukor's Reno in The Women (1939). Pike's body language hovers delicately between self-possessed winner and determined tempestuousness. She has never been better.

Desi Collings, Amy's boarding school suitor, presumably turned stalker with a restraining order, has plans for a lake house love story. Neil Patrick Harris plays him with a wink to James Stewart in Vertigo, and half as frog prince, whose riches aren't quite enough to make him human.

Tyler Perry as Nick's lawyer Tanner Bolt enjoys the games of fame and justice. Known as "the patron saint of wife killers," he practices his client's TV appearance in the dressing room by throwing gummy bears at him whenever he detects a note of weakness in words or demeanor. The staging of a media circus, in full swing with candlelight vigils and comments on the missing by the stupidest among the neighbors, obviously gave joy to Fincher.

The greatest difference in the characters' behavior might have little to do with gender. One goes for the grand transgression, a mapped out plot of revenge and disguise whereas another, with seemingly no thought at all, stumbles into the most basic and classless of teenage thrills. Seeing an absorbing psychopath work scary charms can actually be an effective deterrent from all too common ramshackle betrayal. The fluidity of guilt is Gone Girl's shimmering lifeline. It might even distract from the movie's moral heart. Decisiveness is key.

Reviewed on: 29 Sep 2014
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A man finds himself in the media spotlight after his wife disappears.
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