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NYFF 2014: ‘Gone Girl’ is a powerhouse thriller that loses steam by its end

gone girl

Gone Girl
Written by Gillian Flynn
Directed by David Fincher
USA, 2014

The following review reveals a major plot twist.

Gone Girl is a keen thriller, smartly suspenseful and strategically over the top, until the film gets closer to its ending. Until then it’s wildly ingenious, a strong accomplishment in both plot and design, and a film that keeps abreast of its audience, while staying a bit more disturbing, a bit more edgy, and directing its audience off its beaten path at any given moment.

Once the film approaches its end, the film derails by conforming to its path, becoming cartoony, predictable, and contradictory to its prior whodunit tone. For a film that initially prides itself on its murder mystery, its outcome is shambled by fake logic and untrue gumption. Thus, a likely contender for one of the year’s greatest gets reduced to a reputation of being solid yet a near miss.

gone girlBased on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name, Gone Girl’s literal translation and loyal adaptation acts as the film’s best friend and worst enemy. Some of the best parts of the novel work great on screen, while others are hard to portray. Since the majority of the audience is fully aware of what’s going on, widespread alterations are inevitably taken with caution, no matter how big or small. If too much of the storyline is given away too hastily, the appeal is lost before its midpoint. Unfortunately for director David Fincher, what’s left is a campy shell of a plot extracted from any remnants of wit and mystery.

On the day of his anniversary, Nick Dunne (Affleck) returns home to find that his wife Amy (Pike) is missing. Her disappearance creates frenzy in the media, implicating that he murdered his wife due to his awkward public behavior. When compared by the focus on the film’s main characters, Gone Girl is strongest during its first half, when it follows Nick and is centered on the investigation of Amy’s potential murder. Once Amy is back in the picture, and the investigation vanishes, so does the film’s interest. Although Pike does a fine job in playing a manic sociopath, it’s Affleck’s indecisive smugness that steals the show. His persona is not of assurance, but of doubt and internal brokenness. He is both likeable and detestable, and depending on the viewer’s take on his character, can be seen as relatable or dismissible. Affleck’s Nick can easily charm as fast as he can provoke someone’s disdain toward his character. It’s all based on preference, no matter what side of the spectrum, and Affleck banks on it with the right amount of finesse and bite.

gone girlAnd like Affleck’s performance, Fincher’s Gone Girl is also a fine balance of sorts. Perhaps one of the least “Fincher-ian” films of his career, Gone Girl is broad enough to capture the thriller framework, but precise enough to be considered smart and witty. It falls in that comfortable space of both popular and critical appeal, which is what we have come to expect for the heterodox director who’s gone mainstream.

– Christopher Clemente

Visit the official website of the New York Film Festival.


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