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Review: ‘Gone Girl’ is a Curious Choice for David Fincher

Review: 'Gone Girl' is a Curious Choice for David Fincher

"Gone Girl" opens with Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) telling us that, when he considers his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike), he always thinks of her head — or, more specifically, of cracking it open to reveal all the private thoughts she never says aloud.

This mix of the violent and the ruminative is typical of director David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel, a missing-person thriller in which a given character’s status as victim or villain changes from one scene to the next. "What have we done to each other? What will we do?" Nick asks more than once about his significant other, who vanishes under curious circumstances on the day of their fifth wedding anniversary; that such questions manage to feel vaguely romantic in spite of their troubling subtext is a credit to Fincher, who’s made a habit (if not a career) of elevating questionable source material.

READ MORE: Trent Reznor Previews ‘Gone Girl’ Soundtrack On Nine Inch Nails Website

While not uncooperative in the wake of his wife’s sudden disappearance, Nick is aloof enough to arouse suspicion among those expecting more outward displays of emotion. He always seems to be holding something back, and Fincher’s clinical control doesn’t allow us to get any closer to the truth than Nick is willing to show, at least in the early goings. With no news of Amy’s whereabouts and no credible suspects, all eyes thus turn to him. "I’m so sick of being torn apart by women," he says in the midst of this ordeal; between his wife’s damning journal entries, the prying inquiries of her case’s lead detective (Kim Dickens), and the Nancy Grace-like television host convicting him in the court of public opinion every day, it’s an understandable sentiment. It’s also part of an unfortunate pattern in which Nick is gradually made to seem more trustworthy as the women around him become less so.

In its incremental reveal of key details and wrenching scenes of townsfolk fruitlessly combing the landscape for someone who isn’t there, "Gone Girl" is sporadically reminiscent of "Exotica" and even the original "Paradise Lost" documentary. At other times, it’ll have you wondering why Fincher went even further down the Barnes & Noble rabbit hole than he did in his 2011 adaptation of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." Few filmmakers take as meticulous a behind-the-camera approach to their work as he does, and the fact that he’s so enamored of pulpy bestsellers lately isn’t altogether surprising, given his impressive track record with similar material in the past.

Still, it’s hard to shake the notion that he could be doing something more rewarding than becoming the preeminent director of airport-novel adaptations, a trajectory that’s all the more disappointing after the trifecta of "Zodiac," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," and "The Social Network."

Fincher likely prides himself on turning coal into diamonds at this point, but Flynn’s script can feel so retrograde at times that one wonders whether it might have been better served by a De Palma, Bigelow, or even a Verhoeven — which is to say, a filmmaker less concerned with making the lascivious seem prestigious. (It’s doubtful anyone else could have filmed a certain blood-soaked scene with such unsettling verve, however.)

In addition to being a mystery with dubious gender politics, "Gone Girl" is also an examination of an irresponsible media and scandal-hungry public. The truth matters less than how it comes across on primetime, and the fact that Nick and Amy’s troubles stem from a depressed economy (both lost their jobs in New York, expediting their move to Missouri, where Nick’s mother was dying of cancer) never makes it to air. Neither of them is the person he or she hoped to be, and their disappointment in both themselves and their better half expresses itself in increasingly volatile ways. Their differing accounts of how this came to be are likely to balkanize viewers, leaving them at a loss as to whether husband, wife, or neither deserves our trust.

Few of our first impressions of the unhappy couple reflect the full view of things, which isn’t to say that they develop into especially dynamic characters. Pike is phenomenal as the enigmatic Amy, but she’s written in such a way that she somehow becomes less three-dimensional as the film goes on — she’s demonized rather than sympathized.

Nick maintains his innocence even while readily admitting that he’s been a lousy husband, and things between him and Amy may well have been over long before she went missing. Marriage is a primal battle of the sexes in "Gone Girl," one in which both sides play dirty and any victories are pyrrhic. Surviving isn’t the same as winning, and getting through this provocative, problematic thriller sometimes feels like a war unto itself.

Grade: C+

"Gone Girl" will have its world premiere as the opening night film at the New York Film Festival on Friday. It opens nationwide on October 3.

READ MORE: ‘Gone Girl,’ ‘Inherent Vice’ and More Teased in New York Film Festival Trailer

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Comments

Shashwati T

‘demonized rather than sympathized’ oh pish posh! Wish John Waters had directed this film.

Mathilde

The book was total crap, but written by an Entertainment Weekly writer – which means the crap part was understandable and so is the bias by all TW publications too. Logrolling in our time.

If all Fincher wants to do now is adapt crappy best-selling books like this one and remaking Girl with a Dragon Tattoo (which didn’t need remaking), he needs his own McConaissance.

Ben

Lets not forget that half of the fantastic game changing movies Ficher has released have been based of books. Fight club- book. Zodiac- book. Curious case- book. Social network- book etc.

Kerry

I agree that Fincher was an inappropriate choice for director. All he really brought to the film was his name. The film didn’t need carefully structured cleverness, it needed edginess.

JD

Wow TJ, could you sound any more pretentious? The book was great, and the term "airport-novel" is cringe inducing. Reviewer seems off base compared to the others.

Corey

I have not yet seen the film; however, this review does not appear to say much more than vague blanket statements. HOW is Flynn’s script "retrograde"? WHY are the gender politics "dubious"? A critic should be able to explain these things.

Paul

TJ Hill is a moron.. that’s all

Aaron

This movie is NOT getting rave reviews. Just thought that needed to be pointed out for some of the fangirls of the book and of Fincher.

Heidi Haaland

A David Fincher C+ = most anybody else’s A-. Fie, Indiewire!

Jared

Perhaps next time actually review the film instead of the pondering the filmmakers choices of what material they decide to direct? Getting movies made is a tough business, As we saw what with Fincher and 20,000 Leagues. Film critics are to review what did get made, not waste our time with what might have been.

Jimmy H

Gotta take issue with you bad-mouthing "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo". You’re probably trying to burnish your bona fides with some group or other by playing the contrarian in this review. However, TGWTDT was a fine book, made into a fine film by Mr. Fincher. Just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile. I suspect that "Gone Girl" is another fine film by Fincher. You may score some points with a particular segment of critics with this review. But, it’s worth remembering that it takes very little to criticize a creative work, while the work itself requires tremendous effort.

Guillo19

EW, Total Film and Empire Online are all praising the film, so I guess it is a matter of opinion. I feel it is dismissive to criticize the director for choosing popular novels to adapt into films. TGWTDT is a terrific film, even better than the Swedish one, so I guess Ill see for myself

lydia

since ALL the other reviews are RAVE reviews, after throwing out the highest and lowest scores, it still averages out a rave review. can’t wait to see it!

Marc Schenker

I’ll just go back to the top now where I can enjoy your cutofftypeinmovingboxes.

Marc Schenker

I forgot to mention the fact that the 15-year old who wrote this "review" is right in line with the rest of the kids who do it here. Indiewire, you are the most pretentious movie site on the internet. And that’s the good part. Where does it say Leonard Maltin hooks up with infants?

Marc Schenker

And I thought the whole point of the movie was to show everyone who abandoned the book that they were right: who gives a shit about two self-absorbed dilatants who have nothing to say of any interest written in a style reminiscent of my 12-year old’s book reports. I thought Fincher was giving the middle finger to just about everyone here. Good for him.

anonymous

"Articles like these just continue to suggest that Indiewire is far too political to be objective critics of art. All they care for these days seems to be gender politics and LGBT filmmaking."

If you talk about gender at all there is always someone who thinks that is too much.

John

Hey Bob you haven’t seen the movie but you agree with indiewire’s review.You’re a funny guy

Curtis OBryant

I respect your opinion but the movies is getting flat out rave reviews from other critics.

Vazir

Sounds like a lame story. Does Fincher just make these movies for the box office draw at this point?

VCQ

And, we should believe or give credence to this reviewer who gave "Riddick" a B+?!? I don’t think so!!!

sylvrock

"who’s made a habit (if not a career) of elevating questionable source material." That kind of comment makes me think that the author has no particular respect or attraction for Fincher’s filmographie, so I won’t take this review too seriously…

Oracle

Fincher excels at the basics: music videos, tv advertisements, best seller adaptations and remakes of international tv series. There is no question that he is meticulous and the finished version of whatever it is that he’s doing is polished. I still can’t get excited about his work. He’s like the best version of a B-list filmmaker. He needs to up the ante. No more remakes of adaptations. No more adaptations. Sit down and write something original, or film something original that someone else wrote. Take a risk, dude.

sean

The novel started out so promising and then limped along to a ridiculous and eyerolling ending. Many of Fincher’s films do the same so I think he’s actually a perfect choice.

Corvo

No Oscar material here. I was expecting that. Maybe Pike could sneak in but she can’t win over Moore, Jones and Adams. Fincher won’t get a nod.

David Fincher

All I make are book adaptations, or US remakes of British series.

LH

This book was not airport pulp fiction. It was a very we’ll-crafted novel that got a rave from the New York Times and a handful of literary awards.

lulu

very weak review of a hugely anticipated movie, lots of unsubstantiated judgement and little expansion that’s rooted in the actual movie. Even your heading is off, hasn’t Fincher been exploring media hysterias for the last few years? Sounds like the musings of a moviegoer who maybe missed the point.

Lori

I am still going to see this movie. If it paints the characters half as good as the book it’s worth seeing. I have been waiting for this one

Joe

Clearly y’all were hoping for another film that villainized the man and victimized the woman. How cliche. Articles like these just continue to suggest that Indiewire is far too political to be objective critics of art. All they care for these days seems to be gender politics and LGBT filmmaking.

TJ Hill

The material and the trailer seems boring. I too wish Fincher would a more interesting book to adapt than these privileged "airport novels".

Bob

Sounds not good to me..well i agree with Indiewire C+

William

F**k you Indiewire!

Vanessa W

Um…the whole point of the novel (and now the movie) was that no character is sympathetic. Are you daft?

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