Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry
“What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What have we done to each other? What will we do?” (Nick, Gone Girl)
If man-crushes are indeed a real thing, then my man-crush is Ben Affleck.
I don’t give shit haters, bring it. Never mind the fact he was amazing in Argo and glorious in Good Will Hunting, those are a given.
He was also charming in Chasing Amy, delightful in Dogma and yes, despite what popular opinion (and Team America) would have you believe, peerless in Pearl Harbour.
Is he great in Gone Girl, then? You’d better believe it, friend. In fact, almost everyone is.
I have to be very careful when summing up the plot to this one without giving away a fairly major plot twist that happens about an hour in, so here goes.
Affleck plays Nick Dunne, a former magazine writer who lost his job while living in New York during the recession. After his mother falls ill he and his similarly newly unemployed wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) head back to his hometown in Missouri.
Over the years their marriage begins to strain as the once quirky intellectual couple falls into the stereotypical roles of ‘lazy workshy husband’ and ‘desperate housewife’. Safe to say all is not going well for the Dunnes.
On their fifth anniversary Nick returns home to find his wife missing and signs of a struggle. After calling the fuzz he’s informed that this is a missing persons case and so begins the hunt to find his wife and the second time Affleck’s found himself ‘chasing Amy’ in his career.
Nick didn’t kill Amy, that much is clear from the beginning (after all, the audience was with him at the start of the film and saw his abili). So the question is, did someone else kill her? If so, who? Is she even dead? And whether she is or not, where the hell is she?
Naturally, I’m saying nothing, but it goes without saying that this one has more twists than a Chubby Checker retrospective. That is, more than two.
To make matters worse, Amy is the inspiration for Amazing Amy, a series of children’s books her dad writes. So when news of her disappearance grows, Amy is considered the nation’s sweetheart and the ever-‘lovely’ presenters of US news programmes start making not-too-subtle suggestions that Nick may be a suspect.
Affleck is fantastic (though I would say that) as a man trying to struggle with the disappearance of his wife while also dealing with the growing public perception that he’s a potential murderer.
Even as the twists start appearing and things get a little odder his behaviour is completely believable, and even when it emerges that he may not be entirely as clean-cut or honest as is initially implied, you still find yourself siding with him.
He’s backed up by a similarly brilliant supporting cast. Carrie Coon is great as his sister Margo, who tries her best to support him even though she never liked Amy anyway (“whoever took her is bound to bring her back”).
Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit (i.e. the kid from Almost Famous) are also an interesting little match-up as Detective Boney and Officer Gilpin, a pair of cops investigating the case. Gilpin is convinced Nick killed his wife, whereas Boney has seen enough of these murder scenes to believe something fishy is going on.
Add to that Tyler Perry (whose stuff I usually dislike) who plays Nick’s high-profile lawyer and gets all the most memorable lines in the film, and Neil Patrick Harris as Amy’s bizarre ex-lover, and you’ve got a cast that in general has very few weak spots.
In fact, the only character that I didn’t click with was Amy herself, played by Rosamund Pike.
Initially seen in flashback sequences as we see her relationship with Nick begin and flourish, Pike’s deadpan delivery makes her come across (to me at least) as more of a Laura Linney tribute act than the serious Oscar contender some are claiming this role makes her.
As the film progresses (and again, I’m being very careful to avoid spoilers here) she does eventually grow into the role and her performance begins to better fit her character.
But by that point the damage has been done – we’ve already seen the flashback scenes that were supposed to show their blossoming romance and they left me feeling empty because I’ve seen more chemistry when cleaning a penny in a glass of Coke.
This fairly major niggle aside, Gone Girl is still a fantastic film that’s as much a social commentary on the media’s ability to incriminate someone before they’re given a fair trial as it is a simple ‘whodunnit’ (or indeed ‘didanyonedoit’).
And it looks lovely too. Everything David Fincher touches is incredible and though he dials back the elaborate camera trickery this time – this is more Social Network David Fincher, Trent Reznor soundtrack and all, than Fight Club David Fincher – it still looks tremendous.
It says a lot when a film that’s nearly two and a half hours long flies past, and this is very much the case here. Go see it.
(Incidentally, once you have, ask yourself the same question I did – again, keeping it vague to avoid spoilers – why would a hospital discharge someone and leave them still covered head-to-toe in blood?)
Gone Girl’s rating earns it a place in the hallowed That Was A Bit Mental Hall Of Fame. Click here to see which other films have made the grade.
HOW CAN I SEE IT?
Gone Girl is currently playing in cinemas. If you hate being in a room filled with people then you might want to read to novel it was based on instead. Here’s a link to the Kindle version, and here’s the paperback.
SHOW ME THE TRAILER: