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« NYFF: J.K. Simmons Holds Court, Boosts Supporting Actor Bid | Main | NYFF: Maps to the Stars, Or: Julianne Moore is God, Again »
Friday
Sep262014

NYFF: Gone Girl's Gone Wild

Tonight marked the opening of the 2014 New York Film Festival with the world premiere of David Fincher's Gone Girl -- here's Jason's take on the film.

In the deeply darkly funny world of Gillian Flynn's bestselling murder mystery Gone Girl, Nick and Amy Dunne's wedding vows are like cliffhangers or dares - in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, I do... she does, he does... what exactly? All manner of unspeakables, it turns out. The book's at its sharpest as a ghoulish fun-house mirror reflection of deranged marital compromise - the hollowing out of our interior spaces for the exterior presentation of platonic ideals; a jack-o-lantern propped on the front porch with a pumpkin pie in the oven, all is pretty and home and sugar and spice on the windowsill... save that horror show, smashed glass coffee tables, mopped blood, behind closed doors. And what happens when the nightmare tumbles out into the street for all the world, and all the world's cameras, to see? Who pulls the mess back in once its spilled, and how...

David Fincher's Gone Girl is at its best when it has everybody grabbing their pails and their shovels and frantically trying to scoop up those spilled Humpty Dumpty pumpkin guts and make sense of it. For a two and a half hour movie it's shockingly spry on its feet, bouncing from Clue One to Clue Two in its own emotional kind of scavenger hunt, trying to piece together the What Went Wrong And How, and in its finest moments it vibes on a surprisingly loose Coen-esque sense of danger - as the sharp tools in the shed try to stay one step forward and find themselves in up to their necks, there's fun to be had in their catch-up, watching games change and rules rewritten mid-play.

[more...]

That looseness is a surprise since this is David "notorious task-master" Fincher at the helm, king of a thousand takes - Gone Girl as a story is a puzzle that extends towards infinity, piece after piece snapping together and outward for a lifetime, but Fincher still somehow manages to make it feel as if he's shaken the box up a bit. The mysteries scuttle sideways at times, out of the light, refusing his own inclination towards schematics even as the story strains for them. Maybe it has something to do with the foregrounded sense of humor (it's a parade of unexpected punchlines at times), or Ben Affleck's amiable, muffled presence (more on that in a second), but this is not a list of seven sins or two timelines meeting perfectly at the center - this movie has a middle-aged amusement by the unknowable rattling its seemingly cold bones.

Honestly I might have had some more of that younger, colder Fincher though - the sense of humor sometimes feels off-key; tonally sloppy. Third act developments (we are attempting to steer clear of spoiler-territory) leave some of the actors blowing in the breeze - not to hold the movie's feet to the book's fire but a lot of what makes Amy into "Amazing Amy," what makes her particularly spectacular on the page, is the deeply darkly funny specificity of her voice, unpeeling like an onion, and that falls away from the movie just when I needed it most. There's a passage toward the middle that highlights her, shall we say, observational humor - it's the best passage in the book too - but there needed to be more. Rosamund Pike is pretty darned wonderful in the role all the same but without that scathing torrent of Amy's words the character veers towards becoming something else, something that skews the viewpoint just off center enough to muddy the point-of-view - a crucial balancing act tipping off a bit.

Not helping with the muddying or the balance is Ben Affleck, who's never been much more than a one-note actor to me. He's used well for awhile, a confuse-faced prop over-matched by the seas raging around him, several steps behind - it works when that's what we need. But the story, double and triple-faced as it is, doesn't always need that one single face, and Affleck never gave me a foot-hold, a spot to turn and care just when caring is maybe what's needed. Things happen to Ben Affleck; Ben Affleck doesn't make things happen.

There sure is a terrific supporting cast around him though, dancing and doing their mighty damndest. Carrie Coon as Nick's twin sister, a consistently in-shock but nevertheless solid emotional bellwether from the storm, and Kim Dickens as the detective snapping together all the disparate parts, are stand-outs, but the casting magic trickles down into all the corners - Neil Patrick Harris reels in a character I was afraid he'd spin out, while Missi Pyle and Sela Ward as two waxen masks of media stewardship (comedy and tragedy) spike their little scenes like gangbusters. The movie manages to hang on, but just.

Gone Girl screened 8 times Friday night to open the festival. It opens in theaters nationwide on Friday October 3rd.

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Reader Comments (15)

Oscar chances.

September 27, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermark

I'm gonna leave Oscar chances up to Nathaniel, that's his expertise.

If the Oscars were "Statues that Jason would hand to somebody" (they never ever are) I probably wouldn't be giving anything to anybody for this movie though. I didn't even really like Reznor's score, at least not in context to what was happening on-screen. Maybe "Best Cameo" to Missi Pyle or Sela Ward, off the top of my head I'm not sure what Nat's rules are for those awards of his (Pyle might have too much screentime) but they were both pretty flawless.

September 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJA

I'm weirdly torn on whether to see this or not because I hated the book with such contempt that months later it occasionally stops me in my tracks. Just not a fan.
But I love Rosamund Pike, and as problematic as the character is, it could be a pretty fabulous role. And I'm interested in the score, and wondering if the plot differences can solve any if my issues.
But it seems disingenuous to go to a movie just to say, "well, it wasn't as bad as the book."
So what's a boy to do?

September 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

I bet I'll like it more than you, I read the script and I knew most of Amy's brilliant ramblings - her thoughts on pregnant women for example are so inappropriate but so true - won't be in the movie. Glad to read you still liked Pike's work, I root for her to get all the love and all the attention. I love Amy so much.

September 27, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersati

Everything I've read about this film (before and after its premiere) makes me a) extremely intrigued, b) glad I haven't read the novel, and c) convinced I'm going to be sick of hearing about it (the novel) by March.

September 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I hate to be the guy that can't stop comparing a book and its adapted movie, I'm usually good about seeing a film as a separate entity with its own language, but the movie does feel, to me, as if it's trying to make the same points that he book does while maybe not entirely realizing that the loss of so much of Amy's voice changes the dynamic in ways that cause a disconnect between the two. Again I am attempting to walk on eggshells here and keep spoilers out of it, which I understand leaves what I'm getting at hopelessly vague but whatcha gonna do, I'm not gonna be the guy that ruins anybody's fun. It's well worth seeing for a bunch of reasons but it never entirely gelled for me

September 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJason

I heard an interview with Rosamund Pike on the BBC yesterday and my hopes for this film are very high. She enjoyed David Fincher's numerous takes, and felt that spending so much time in front of the camera was a benefit to the actors and the movie. ( I love Rosamund Pike and hope this provides a real breakthrough for her.)

I read the book and admit to being dubious about any changes but the cast is so stellar, I think they could make up for a lot. Ever since "Deadwood" I have been waiting for Kim Dickens to get a good role in a film, this looks to be it. I can't wait to see it.

September 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

I completely see your disappointment with Ben Affleck. I haven't seen the film yet, but I certainly raised an eyebrow seeing him cast as a Fincher lead...he even bored me in the trailer, which is why I wasn't intrigued with this film. BUT, everyone seems to be hyping this one; you even mentioned that it just holds on...so I'll perk up more.

September 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney

Just finished the book and I adored it. So glad I read it first. I would advise everyone to just go see it and honestly, stop reading about it until you've watched it. Excited to see what Affleck and Pike do with their characters, especially since word of mouth is that the movie is very faithful to the source material. Fincher wouldn't have been my thought at all for this film, so... we'll see. (I thought Affleck totally made sense when I was reading it - it'll be interesting to see what happens there.)

September 28, 2014 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

Rosamund Pike. Wow. She really brought it. Balancing a character that constantly shifts between reality/fantasy and acceptance/denial. While all that plays in her head, her presence alone is spellbinding!

I knew nothing about the story, so I was taken on a ride. Sure it has iffy moments, strangely affected by the music. Lots of flashbacks that are necessary, though nonetheless grating.

But overall: wow. It's a must watch. I sat in my seat in awe.

October 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Mai

Just saw it today and since I lefet the cinema I just can't stop recasting the lead on my head. Ben Affleck just does not do it for me in the role.

October 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterV

I want to see it again and think a bit about the films choice of tone. I read the book and think the movie is much more cynical. Probably for that reason alone I wound up liking the choice and the film very much. I like cynical films and this one stays there to the end. What comes across with the ending in the book as anti-climatic and in the film it's all nasty and leaves you with a disturbing smirk.

I have to admit I hated both leads in the first part but Pike definitely puts her fangs into the part. She reminded me of Theresa Russell in BLACK WIDOW. I thought the supporting cast was good and it was fun to see Patrick Fugit from ALMOST FAMOUS. I liked the casting in the film where I was skeptical when first announced. I liked the music but there were times where it just didn't fit. Maybe another scene but not the one it accompanied.

Fincher does a great job doing his best to elevate mediocre material and one wishes someone other than author had written the script. The "meet cute" scenes are terribly written.

Overall YES. I do want to see it again but I'm pretty much sold on any film this cynical.

October 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersissyinhwd

I enjoyed the movie while I was watching it- yes Afleck might be too movie star for what is suppose to be an average joe character- Jeremy Renner might have been a better choice- the problem I had with the story - SPOILER ALERT

When it turns into "Marnie" light once it's revealed what really happened to Amy- yes it's suppose to be a shock - but the twist is similar to "A Kiss Before Dying" I just did not believe it for one minute- the end is chillingly satisfying.

October 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

I thought Affleck was cast well but yeah, not the most dynamic actor. Patrick Wilson would make for a good, past-his-prime, former-Prom-King, befuddled but angry guy.

October 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

Saw the film last night and I liked it. Don't think "Best Picture" caliber though. Affleck was not well cast. Not as impressed with Pike as others seem to be. Best part of the movie was Pyle.

October 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEddie

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