DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

GONE GIRL (director: David Fincher; screenwriter: Gillian Flynn/based on her novel; cinematographer: Jeff Cronenweth; editor: Kirk Baxter; music: Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross; cast: Ben Affleck (Nick Dunne), Rosamund Pike (Amy Dunne), Neil Patrick Harris (Desi), Tyler Perry (Tanner Bolt), Carrie Coon (Margo Dunne), Kim Dickens (Detective Rhonda Boney), Patrick Fugit (Detective Jim Gilpin), Emily Ratajkowski (Andie), Missi Pyle (Ellen Abbot), Casey Wilson (Noelle), David Clennon (Rand Elliot), Boyd Holbrook (Jeff), Lola Kirke (Greta), Lisa Banes (Marybeth Elliot), Sela Ward (Sharon Schieber), Leonard Kelly-Young (Mr. Dunne); Runtime: 145; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Arnon Milchan/Joshua Donen/Reese Witherspoon/Cean Chaffin; 20th Century Fox; 2014)

"Compelling but dark, discomforting and cynical modern-day thriller."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The talented David Fincher ("Panic Room"/"Zodiac"/"The Social Network") directs this compelling but dark, discomforting and cynical modern-day thriller based on Gillian Flynn's gaudy bestseller. It is faithfully adapted by Ms. Flymm for the screen. Ms. Flynn was formerly a television critic for Entertainment Weekly, until laid off. The trashy love story, a hard-hitting critique making obvious telling points on the failures of many modern marriages and the shallowness of TV shows and tabloid journalism, tells about a fantasy inspired romance that sours under the guise of reality. We get into the head of a not so likable, smug, jerky ordinary guy, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), a disappointing husband and a failed writer, having an affair with a teenage college student, Andie (Emily Ratajkowski). He's viewed as trying to be something he is not when he bagged the beautiful and bright desirable dream girl writer, and went into a funk when he realized afterwards that he was in a loveless marriage.

Nick's brilliant sociopath writer Harvard grad wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike) frames him and he becomes the prime suspect when on their fifth wedding anniversary his wife turns up missing from their fictional suburban North Carthage, Missouri, leased home and is presumed dead after the police find evidence of a home invasion and traces of his wife's blood in the kitchen. It results in a media feeding frenzy, as some popular TV news shows, such as the one by the grating sensationalist exploiter Ellen Abbot (Missi Pyle), presume hubby is guilty and rush to judgement to crucify him and urge the easily influenced simple-minded public to think of him as a monster.

The local lead homicide investigator, Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens), a divorced woman, refuses to arrest the only suspect until a body is found, as she contends that it's hard to get a murder conviction without a body. Meanwhile as a few days go by after Amy's disappearance the perplexed hubby is spotlighted for all his imperfections, as the outwardly perfect marriage between the beautiful people is acerbically dissected and shown to be a bad one. We are told that on the day of their anniversary, hubby was about to ask his wife for a divorce. We further learn that after hubby married, he failed as a NYC magazine writer. Amy is the inspiration behind her psychologist parents' (David Clennon & Lisa Banes) learning lesson cartoons on the Amazing Amy, the popular publications the child exploiting parents used to promote themselves.

Nick convinces Amy to move from the Big Apple to his dullish Ozark Mountain hometown so he can be near his beloved ailing cancer mom. But Nick's mom dies and his embittered father (Leonard Kelly-Young) resides in an old age home, thinking unkindly of his son. Through his wife's funds, Nick opens a bar in town with his straight-talking sister Margo (Carrie Coon). She's the only living person that Nick is close to. When the trail leads to Nick having a motive for killing his pregnant wife and that he used all her funds to accumulate a credit card debt and, as a last straw, Amy's partially burned diary is found telling of how she fears hubby, Nick hustles to NYC to hire the cunning big-time media darling lawyer, Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry).

The story then follows as told from the wife's POV and tells what the twisted Amy thought of her hubby and what she was up to since she decided to frame hubby and make it so he receives the death sentence for her presumed murder. We learn of her sicko plans, while she's on the road. But those plans run into unexpected problems due to the dangerous white trash couple (Lola Kirke and Scoot McNairy), who befriend her in the motel. That's followed by a troubling reunion with Amy's wealthy obsessive would-be-boyfriend from the past Desi Collings (Neil Patrick Harris). Amy thereby switches tactics and the narrative veers off in a different and unexpected direction.

Thought keenly made, perfectly cast (Affleck & Pike are just right for the parts) and psychologically absorbing as pulp melodrama, nevertheless Fincher's story not only leaves us what we don't especially want to hear but leaves the outcome up in the air. Furthermore what it tells us is not that significant. It's just the stuff we read about in the tabloids, and he adds nothing to the argument he brings up.

REVIEWED ON 10/7/2014       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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