New Movie Review: “Gone Girl”

In one of those rare, symbiotic moments of book to film adaptation, “Gone Girl” manages to completely capture the essence of ç’s excellent novel while adding some criminally fun twists of its own. Creepy, unexpected, wicked, and fun, “Gone Girl” is not only the best thriller to hit theaters in a while; it’s by far one of the best films of the year.
The plot summary: on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne discovers that his wife Amy has gone missing. After portraying a seemingly picture-perfect union, Nick finds himself in the local national media spotlight as the prime suspect. I’ll say no more in regards to the plot, in deference to those who aren’t familiar with either the book or the screenplay. Though given the buzz surrounding this movie, that would be quite a feat.
One of the geniuses of the story of “Gone Girl” is that it gives us pinpoint satire of the media circus surrounding highly publicized crimes. Talking heads on TV, knowing no more about the facts of the case than the rest of us, color our idea of events, and convince us of guilt or innocence through skewed images, interviews, and video. Nick Dunne is supposed to be a likeable guy, but becomes increasingly less so as we learn more about his lies, deceits, and habits. Watching the character of Ellen Abbott persecute him on TV (even though she admits “I don’t know him personally”) makes you realize how much influence these onscreen personalities have on our perceptions of others, true media creationism in full effect.
The casting is flawless – Amy Dunne is a prime role, and Rosamund Pike’s chilly performance is the anchor of the film. Her narration in the beginning half perfectly sets up viewer expectations, just as her actions in the second half shatter them completely. Ben Affleck was the perfect choice for Nick Dunne, able to embody Nick’s supposed boyish charm and then undercutting it with a mixture of rage and confusion. Memories of Affleck’s cookie-cutter roles in the past will be forgotten, and he makes it obvious that he’s a force to be contended with as an actor again, not just as a director. Tyler Perry is a welcome sight as well, giving an easy, charismatic performance as Tanner Bolt, Nick’s lawyer.
The fictional town of North Carthage, Missouri has a big role in the film as well. Filmed partially in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, the real-life inspiration for the town, “Gone Girl” gives us semi-pastoral images of riverfronts, barges, vintage buildings – as well as an abandoned mall turned into a druggie wasteland, and friendly Midwesterners turned predatorily intense when the media descends into their town. The hum of the insects is a steady chant throughout the North Carthage scenes, providing yet another element of welcome realism. Lovely cinematography is consistent throughout the entire film, even when the subject matter is less than savory.
The one fault of the “Gone Girl” film may be in the most significant alteration from source material. The ending, so knife-sharp and wicked in the book, runs a little long in the film. While both endings work in a sense, the bitterness of the one in the book is hard to beat. Perhaps messy editing towards the end makes the film’s version not as effective.
Hard as it may be to see where a film will be twenty, forty, fifty years from now, the darkly beautiful suspense of “Gone Girl” achieves what it sets out to do and more – and through its analysis of human nature, lands it alongside Hitchcock classics like “Psycho.”

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