aka “Should I Watch this before I read it part 2”
Goodness gracious Gone Girl got to me. And to answer that above question, do not seek out to read the novel before seeing the movie, the carefully crafted and ominous twisty tale is best served cold turkey (a fact that has been verified by GWW associates who had first read the book). Wonderfully acted (I am 100% on board the Batfleck train and Ms. Pike, ahem, kills it), obviously gorgeous (David Fincher strikes again) and complimented by another fuming, gnarly, building tremor of a soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (who should from now on work every Fincher film for eternity), Gone Girl latches onto you brain and stays there well after the abrupt credits roll. I shall do my best to tiptoe the spoiler minefield – this is a film worth experiencing.
Should I pay to see it?
Yes. Yes yes and yes. I actually saw the film several days ago and made myself wait to write anything because all I wanted to put down was a serious of F-bombs and exclamation points. The movie maintains the cinematic brilliance of Fincher’s works, with cutaway scenes, minor details and perspectives all contributing to the slow-boiling crescendo of the film’s final act, if not the final minutes. We should expect nothing else from David Fincher, one of my favorite directors of all time. Why, you ask? For a thorough examination, I will let the charming and clever Tony Zhou explain in his succinct video essay, “David Fincher – And the Other Way is Wrong.”
My summary? David Fincher wastes not. Every second of screentime, every inch of screen, every noise, angle and pause contributes to the building tension, the even-subconscious inkling in the back of your head the characters and you, the viewer, are sitting on a ride about to kick into gear and spin every which way. Reznor and Ross have cracked the code on subtly building dread/tension/drama. The soundtrack is both cinematic and quiet. I checked my watch about 25 minutes into the film (of a 2 hour 25 minute runtime) not because I was bored, but because I spent the entire movie trying to solve what was happening myself, waiting for a twist, a clue, a shock. This is meant as a compliment. Not only the story itself, but the sounds and cinematography contributed to my growing sense of dread. Was I wrong in my assumptions? Who was fooling who? I literally and figuratively spent the better part of the movie on the edge of my seat, as if being inches closer to the screen would give me a different perspective, a better look. The darkly lit shots in a quiet moment, the trembling, pulse-pounding quiet of the background. I’m shivering thinking about it. The movie looks amazing, sounds amazing and tweaks your expectations at EXACTLY the right moments.
Could I watch it with a date?
Sure! I did. Just wouldn’t bring a first date… might set an… awkward tone?
Not only was Gone Girl gripping and thrilling, but surprisingly funny. Mind you, this means some DARK humor in places, given the subject matter. The actors all have remarkable chemistry and interactions between Affleck and Carrie Coon, playing siblings, are especially fun. Furthermore, Fincher does some entertaining things with cuts and fades for effect. The motif of board games plays throughout the film and there is a simply, outrageously stupendous flashback shot of Pike’s Amy and Affleck’s Nick engaging in some… bonding… and as the scene and couple come near to a close, the film jump cuts to the present day Affleck and Coon spinning a wheel, playing the game of ‘LIFE.’ I was not alone in the theater in a hearty chuckle at the simple sight gag’s ingenuity.
The other part of what makes Gone Girl so captivating(for the record, I began typing ‘GG‘ but that sounded way, way WAY too close to ‘Gigli‘) , apart from the gorgeous cinematography and simmering soundtrack, lies in the outstanding, hyperbole-worthy cast and each of their performances. Yikes. Every individual came to play. Ben Affleck can act, people (more on him later). Rosamund Pike, beautiful and charming dials up the intensity and shakes you to the bone in the film – I only pause their to avoid spoilers, she is spectacular. The ‘rest’ of the cast, so to speak (those not the main couple), fills out the movie from corners I never saw coming. I thoroughly enjoyed Kim Dickens (of Lost & Treme notoriety to me) as the lead detective. Neil Patrick Harris plays a character like something out of a Barney Stinson nightmare, pulling you in with his tough-to-place ickiness. Somehow, against all and any of my expectations, Tyler Perry performs as a piece of inspired casting. Yes, I was tempted to make a Madea joke both in here and in the theater, however his supporting role proves he deserves serious acting roles (just not Alex Cross, please. Sigh.). Though I would have paid double for a scene of him in drag in this movie.
I want to take a separate moment to compliment a pivotal supporting character, Carrie Coon. As someone who allowed/enjoyed/mused on The Leftovers churning up my insides recently, I must say Carrie Coon will be storming screens in a big way in no time. She sparkles. While Pike will receive the heavier buzz (and deservedly so), Coon is a wonderful, wonderful actress. The Dunne sibling chemistry is a testament to both Affleck and Coon’s ability to morph into a role with a layered likability that feels instant and natural (Be quiet. No one say Daredevil. Or Gig- HUSH!). She plays a starkly different character than her role on Leftovers, but carries equal weight in both. Angry, funny, bitter, clever, sarcastic, kind and flabbergasted, Coon’s Margo Dunne was one of my favorite parts of an overall stellar film.
Affleck, Pike, Coon, the whole cast and Fincher’s stylings build the tension, slowly pulling the thread of crazy until it is almost unbearable – then the movie tips and the twist hits you. Things escalate and shift rapidly and I loved every second. No wonder the book was a page-turner.
Also: it would behoove you to be wary of any red flags from your date. Maybe don’t make any comments comparing your relationship to those onscreen? Check if he/she cackles at any inappropriate times or nods empathetically, or gives a verbal ‘I should…’ sort of thinking-out-loud.
Could I watch it with my mother?
Er… yes? Momma Gdubs read the book and I know many folks of all ages who read the thriller, so this might depend on your mother’s squeamishness seeing something onscreen. Don’t watch it with mom if she’s a sociopath? That may be a different discussion entirely.
Truthfully, the thought of sitting down watching this with a parent makes me uncomfortable for a variety of reasons I hope you see for yourselves (that is, you see the movie – not that you have a horrifically weird and/or embarrassing experience with your parental units). To avoid such squeamish spoilers, I will take this space to highlight one of my chief concerns going into the movie. Ben Affleck.
At this point, Ben Affleck Family Guy jokes, while funny, are clearly misguided. I no longer question the man as an actor (see GWW family favorite, The Town) and his direction has led to successful films both critically and financially (not to mention he did the near-impossible and made a mostly perfect version of Gone Baby Gone, one of my favorite books/book series of all time). No, I went in to the theater as a nervous Batfan, anxious to see Mr. Affleck in his first role since being cast as the Dark Knight. Silly? Sure. However any doubts I had about Batfleck have vanished. The man can carry a shot. He has a gravitas and stare that commands scenes, while subtly making you investigate his expressions and movements further. His performance is equalled by the stellar Pike, who lurks throughout the start of the film through flashbacks, only to storm into the second and third acts, a tour de force herself.
But she will not been donning a cape and cowl in the near future, so I was not too worried about her outstanding performance.
Gone Girl crackles. A cast that clicks on all cylinders, aided by a tremendous soundscape put forth by Reznor & Ross, in the hands of one of the finest filmmakers of my lifetime works in harmony to create one helluva film. Worth paying for in a theater for some chilling popcorn fun, worth buying when it comes out to compare with the equally-tense novel. What a great movie.