Before we begin, MAJOR SPOILERS in this post. I didn’t want to talk about Gone Girl without discussing the ending, so don’t read if you want to be surprised.

Gone Girl 1

The Man… and the Women

David Fincher has a talent for filming bestsellers. (See my Director’s Chair overview.) His icy spin on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was bleak and fatalistic, not a safe mass-market adaptation. He’s a smart director for Gone Girl, a cynical look at a disintegrating marriage and the violence we enact on those we love most. (Or do we love them at all?) At its core, Gone Girl is a romantic tragedy, the lovers doomed to be together for eternity. It’s also a highly misanthropic look at modern celebrity and media sensationalism. So easy for Amy Dunne to manipulate everyone.

Rosamund Pike, this season’s breakout actress, is thoroughly convincing as Amy, who fakes her own abduction to extricate herself from her husband Nick (Ben Affleck). Once she’s on the run, Amy’s plan to frame her husband no longer seems viable. What she really wants (so we believe) is her own manufactured happy ending, the perfect wife to the perfect husband. Or does she simply want revenge for years of Nick’s emotional abuse and eventual indifference? Does she know? As Amy, Pike is minimally expressive, keeping every line and gesture precise, suggesting every move she makes is an act put on for the cameras. It’s tough to see where the insecurity ends and the puppetress begins.

Carrie Coon is also great as Nick’s level-headed sister Go, at times his only line of support as cable news anchors trumpet his guilt across the nation. She balances the enigmatic, dangerous Amy. Nice to see Coon, a stage actress, in her first movie role. I enjoyed Kim Dickens as the police detective investigating Amy’s disappearance, too. Unsurprising that the actresses are stand-outs.

Gone Girl 2

The End

Gillian Flynn adapts her own novel for the screenplay — a rare feat for novelists. She dangles many threads, but some become inconsequential by the end. I imagine Flynn envisioned the final image she wanted, of Nick trapped beside Amy, unsure when he might snap, and then coaxed the plot toward that. But I don’t buy it one-hundred percent.

I don’t understand the cops dropping their investigation the minute she returns. She’s covered in blood and appears battered, traumatized. Did they check blood samples? Did they look at NPH’s surveillance cams and decide that they roughly coincided with Amy’s story? I’m pretty sure the dates are off, though I’d have to rewatch to confirm. Amy’s change of plans must have left some clues hanging. It’s a writerly move, to shrug off a logical investigation in order to wrap up your story. Gone Girl feels like a mystery story without the last chapter.

There are other off notes during the movie. Flynn’s dialogue can be artificial, plenty of sitcom one-liners substituting for wit. Neil Patrick Harris, as Amy’s ex-boyfriend, doesn’t mesh, though it might just be the character. Then we have the complicated final plotpoint: Nick’s decision to stay. It’s a spineless character choice, but it fits the pathetic, demeaned Nick that the creators and Ben Affleck depict. The movie pushes hard for the uneasy idea Nick and Amy are “made for each other.” But Amy is a murderous sociopath. It’s not as easy as saying their sins are equal. Amy has the upper hand in life and in death.

For Your Consideration: Best Director (David Fincher); Rosamund Pike; Carrie Coon.

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