“Gone Girl” is David “Zodiac” Fincher’s seriously twisted, twisty-turny adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel about a husband accused of killing his wife, first by the outrage engine known as cable news, and then by the cops.
But that’s only ostensibly what it’s about. As Nick Dunn’s famous criminal attorney (Tyler Perry) counsels him, “This case is about what people think of you.” Casting Missi Pyle as a shrill, rush-to-judgment shrew in the Nancy Grace mold kind of underlines that Big Message.
But this absurdly long, occasionally miscast mystery thriller lacks much mystery. Its big reveal comes at the halfway mark. The further twists and competing narratives about what might have really happened unravel rather than unfold. And that Big Message masks something decidedly more cynical.
Entertaining enough. But one of Fincher’s finest? Not by a Missouri mile.
Ben Affleck plays Dunn, a guy who drops into his small town Missouri bar, has a flirty chat with the cute barmaid (Carrie Coon) and comes home to discover his rich, beautiful wife is missing. Nick is confused, concerned. Scared witless? Desperate? Not in the least. The rumpled detective on his case (Kim Dickens) picks up on this. So do we.
There are blood stains. There was an affair. As the missing wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike) narrates, theirs was a marriage in trouble. Amy, reading from her diary, says “I feel like I’m something to be jettisoned, if necessary.”
But all is not what it seems. Nick’s barmaid pal turns out to be his twin sister. He tries to act guileless, is slow to hire an attorney. The couple treated each anniversary as a puzzle, a treasure hunt with clues. Amy left those “Clue” couplets, in envelopes all around their world, and Nick is frantic to recover them before the cops do. Why?
His in-laws (Lisa Banes, David Clennon), quick to mobilize search parties and media coverage for the girl they named “Amazing Amy” in a series of kid-lit best sellers, wonder about his behavior. He’s just not distraught enough.
And in flashbacks, we see the flirtation that led to a relationship, the adorable date at the bakery taking its sugar delivery (clouds of sugary powder fill the night air around them), the male wish fulfillment fantasy sex they have in bookstores and the like. But hints of trouble are there, and those might explain Nick’s disconnect from the kidnapping.
Pike, unutterably gorgeous, is just brittle enough in the flashbacks to make us fuzzy on what may have led to whatever has befallen her. Affleck looks…guilty. Which is all that’s required.
Neil Patrick Harris is miscast as a cliched rich beau from long ago, Perry plays a version of a lawyer who might appear in one of his own films — a perfectly-coiffed, sing-my-own-praises showboat.
“Elvis is IN Missouri,” he announces, a celebrity lawyer taking a case that’s become a national sensation.
The actors don’t sell the rift that pulled at this couple, and in giving up his revelations so willingly, Fincher suggests he’s making a commentary on modern relationships and marriage. By the time he pulls out all the stops for the never-ending finale, he’s flirting with misogyny.
It’s good, but we’ve come to expect more from the guy who gave us “Fight Club” and “The Social Network.” This is more on a par with “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” The calculated shocks feel like a movie we’ve seen before, though at least in this case, that’s not true.
MPAA Rating: R for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry
Credits: Directed by David Fincher written by Gillian Flynn, based on her novel. A 20th Century Fox release.
Running time: 2:29