Sunday, October 5, 2014

Story twists keep “Gone Girl” fascinating

Review by James Colt Harrison

Director David Fincher’s film version of the Gillian Flynn best-selling novel is a spine-tingling, twisted thriller that never loses its grasp on the audience. The screenplay has been written by Flynn, so any deviations from the book can be laid at her doorstep. However, there are no complaints. The film stands on its own, and the casting of the main characters is impeccable.

Those of you who have not read the novel will not be told about the fascinating turns within the story. And those of you who have read the book faithfully already know what happens. But it serves no purpose to give away the secrets to those not baptized with the sprinkles of truth, horror, astonishment, and nastiness Flynn has conjured up in her screenplay. She has a corrosive look at the institution of marriage, that is for sure. Whether that comes from personal experience or just an imaginative mind is not certain. But Flynn certainly has a razor sharp pen when setting down exchanges between Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne and Rosmaund Pike as his wife Amy.

Right from the beginning scenes of the film we know Nick’s wife has disappeared under suspicious circumstances. All fingers point at Nick. But he is affable enough to convince the town he is bereft at finding his wife missing and needs their support to find her. At first the townspeople get behind him, but slowly their attitude changes as the crowd turns a bit nasty. His biggest supporter is his twin sister Margo, played gallantly by actress Carrie Coon. Margo is standing up for her brother, but she definitely wants to hear the truth from him on whether he had anything to do with Amy’s disappearance. Coons is strong in her actions and is believable as a sister who wants to know if her brother is innocent---or not.

Fincher has cast his characters with finesse and has chosen the spot-on Kim Dickens as police detective Rhonda Boney. She lends just the right amount of fascination for Nick and yet retains a police officer’s skepticism about the circumstances surrounding Amy’s disappearance and the part Nick may have played in it. Assisted by her side-kick Jim Gilpin ( a quiet but sharp-tongued Patrick Fugit), Rhonda wants to get to the core of what exactly happened.

Just when you think you have things figured out, Flynn’s clever script throws another curve ball at you and you are left befuddled. Things are not what they seem, and there-in lies the key to this jaw-dropping  film. Not having read the book, we did not know what was lurking around the corner. Good thing, too, as the film would not have been as enjoyable and stimulating if all its secrets were known.

Ben Affleck has his best part in years. He’s handsome and somewhat goofy and completely likeable. But he also has a dark side that pops up when you least expect it. But here there is a reason for the black clouds. Just what is it that triggers the storm in his eyes? Affleck continues to prove he has become one of Hollywood’s top players, both as a direct and as an actor. He will probably be one of the men considered as Best Actor this year.

Rosamund Pike is the find of the year. Although she has made appearances in such films as Pride and Prejudice and Jack Reacher, she is not a well-known commodity in the United States. She seems like a newly-minted, fresh face with talent to spare. She reminds one of Australia’s Cate Blanchett, herself not a piece of chopped liver. Pike is beautiful and scary at the same time. She plays sweet and evil in the blink of an eye. She commands a scene without chewing the sets. She dispatches lover boy Neil Patrick Harris in a flash you don’t see coming. It’s a stunning scene that definitely jolts you out of your seat. Is she simply paying a role, is she misunderstood, or is she just plain bitchy? Pike envelops herself in her character, becomes the woman, and makes us cringe in the process. Ms. Pike should definitely be nominated as Best Actress this year.

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