David Fincher’s shockingly good film version of Gone Girl is the date-night movie of the decade for couples who dream of destroying one another. Expect a stampede at the box office. Gone Girl is a movie of its cultural moment, an era when divorce won’t cut it if there are options for lethal revenge and aggravated assault. In the toxic marriage of Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and Amy Elliott (Rosamund Pike), both partners are equal-opportunity liars and cheats. Or almost equal. Arguments between the sexes are going to be heated.
In her 2012 bestseller, Gillian Flynn made wicked sport of marriage in the new millennium. Working from an incisively shaped script by Flynn herself, director Fincher (Fight Club, Seven, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) goes right for the jugular. No one does moral rot like Fincher. And with Affleck and Pike around to put a beautiful face on Mr. and Mrs. Wrong, the stage is set for diabolical fun that stings like a muthafucker.
Affleck’s Nick is a New York journalist jobbed out by the economy and forced to crawl home to Missouri, where he opens a bar with his twin sister, Margo (an indelibly vivid Carrie Coon), and goes to seed. Pike’s Amy, Nick’s socialite wife, is a trust-fund baby who’s also out of a writing career and way out of place in the Midwest.
Flynn, downsized from her trade as a writer and critic (a good one) for Entertainment Weekly, knows from the job-and-money squeeze. She structured her book as a he-said/she-said, starting on the day of the Dunnes’ fifth anniversary. It’s also the day Amy disappears amid signs of a bloody struggle at home, and Nick becomes a person of interest in the suspected murder of his missing, pregnant wife. Got it? Spoilers would kill the mystery, for those not among the more than 6 million who’ve read the book.
What you can know is that Gone Girl has the impact of a body-slam, hitting home in every scary, suspenseful, seductive particular. It’s a movie inferno with combustible performances. Affleck is terrific, undermining his good looks to suggest the soulless shallows that define Nick. For Pike, a Brit best known for supporting roles (Pride & Prejudice, An Education), this is a smashing, award-caliber breakthrough you’ll be talking about for years. Does she possess the role of Amy, or does the role possess her? Either way, she’s dazzling, depraved and dynamite.
All the actors have killer moments – Tyler Perry as Nick’s shark lawyer, Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit as the cops on the case, and a stellar Neil Patrick Harris, who miraculously finds the romantic soul in a stalker perv from Amy’s past. On the tech side, Fincher vets, including cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, editor Kirk Baxter and composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, artfully escalate the seething tension.
Like the book, the movie begins with a man wanting to crack open his wife’s skull to find out, among other things, “What have we done to each other? What will we do?”
Gone Girl gives us a portrait of two vipers spitting venom at each other across the landscape of a recession-busted, morally bankrupt America. Even with Fincher’s unflinching gaze and Flynn’s incinerating wit, shards of humanity remain. Shards in which we might even see ourselves. It’s not a pretty picture.