Despite a great cast and director, novel-turned-film never fully comes together
The film version of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl runs nearly 2 1/2 hours, and it held my interest far beyond the point where the characters and plot ceased to matter much. The main issue, for me, became, “Can this mess of a movie pull itself together?” rather than, “How will it end?”
Director David Fincher seems an apt choice for this particular tale, but he and an impressive cast have little luck in giving any genuinely dramatic depth to Flynn’s narrative concoction (she is credited as sole author of the screenplay adaptation).
The central figures in the tale are a mildly klutzy hunk named Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and his perfectly groomed blonde wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike). The film begins with Nick puzzling over the mysteries of his wife’s character, then moves quickly into its pivotal plot strand—Amy’s sudden, mysterious, and increasingly alarming disappearance.
But Gone Girl is only partly a mystery story. Soon enough, it diversifies its dramatic potential via an assortment of secondary characters, each of whom has significant connections with one or both of the Dunnes. And in a way, it becomes more of a psychological horror story in its prolonged second half.
A wealthy bachelor named Desi (Neil Patrick Harris), an erstwhile suitor of Amy who still adores her, becomes a crucial figure in the later portions of the drama. And Nick’s twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon) proves a fierce and volatile ally for her brother.
A couple of cable TV scandal-mongers accentuate a semi-satirical theme of manufactured personalities, an issue that takes on anguishing importance in the film’s final stages. A swashbuckling defense attorney (Tyler Perry) and a no-nonsense police detective (Kim Dickens) bring welcome notes of sanity to the steadily escalating lunacy of the main story.
In a way, the film runs aground on its own key points. The characters’ susceptibility to illusion and delusion seems tailor-made for a Fincher movie, but Nick and Amy are obvious phonies right from the start, and the film never is able to make their story matter much.