Do us part

"Who's Bruce Wayne? Sounds like a cool guy!"

"Who's Bruce Wayne? Sounds like a cool guy!"

Rated 5.0

David Fincher set out to make the nastiest, most poisonous movie about marriages gone bad ever made with Gone Girl. I think he succeeded.

Fincher and Gillian Flynn, the author of the novel and screenplay, came up with a toxic cocktail, laced with dark humor, scabrous satire and blistering performances. Anybody who has suffered through a bad relationship, or doubts aspects of the one they’re in, will equate Gone Girl to a bound stack of tabloid magazines hitting you square on the chin.

On the day of his fifth anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) returns to his home after sulking at the bar he owns with his sister (a funny Carrie Coon) to discover his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), is missing. Nick calls the police and the in-laws, and quickly finds himself sucked up in a media circus that leaves him dazed and confused. His demeanor in public is a strange combination of a malaise and ill-timed smiles. Yeah … he’s a suspect.

Through a series of narrated flashbacks, we hear the story of the Flynne marriage from Amy’s perspective, chronicled in her diary. Everything started sweet enough, with the two of them being impossibly perfect for each other. Family deaths, money troubles and lapses in moral judgment leave them stricken with loathing and regret by the time the “wood” anniversary has arrived.

Nick is skewered on TV by a Nancy Grace-type journalist (a snooty Missi Pyle) and the detectives investigating his case (the deadpan Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit) have little faith in his innocence. The evidence against Nick is quite daunting, and it piles up. The whole thing plays a lot like the Scott Peterson case of 12 years ago involving a husband who killed his pregnant wife and dumped her body in San Francisco Bay.

Then, at about the halfway point, the movie goes completely, wonderfully insane. For those unaware of the plot twist, my best advice to you is that you should accept it—even though it’s totally bug nuts—sit back, and enjoy the rest of this messed-up ride.

Anybody who goes to this movie thinking they’re going to see something grounded in reality will be setting themselves up for disappointment. Gone Girl is nightmarish fantasy, a hyper-sensationalized “what-if” that thrives on its implausibility. Had this movie tried to stick closer to reality, it would’ve killed too much of the fun.

Pike, a British actress perhaps known best for Jack Reacher, gets the role of a lifetime with Amy, and she devours it. We see many faces of Amy, some of them a pure, divine delight and others as monstrous as Godzilla. What we see early in Amy’s story doesn’t prepare us for what comes later. Pike makes the earthquake-like shifts in Amy a wondrous cinematic feat.

Often the victim of unjust tabloid garbage and internet slagging, there’s nobody better cast than Affleck as Nick. When Nick is required to show media fatigue, Affleck need only pull from his personal Battfleck or Bennifer experiences to hit the right notes. He has an eerie resemblance to Scott Peterson, which helps. Most of all, he shows what’s been true all along in his career: He’s a fine actor capable of great nuance, a movie star of the highest order.

With this effort, Fincher erases the waste of time that was his adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and gets back to the business of being one of the world’s finest directors. As he did with his take on Fight Club, Fincher gets to the heart of the novel he’s working with, and does the book more than justice. He makes a helluva good-looking movie, and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross put together a score that amazes.

So, all of you married folks approaching the wood anniversary, beware what shows up in your gift box. If it’s Punch and Judy dolls, you need to head for the hills. Gone Girl will make many of us laugh (especially the single and divorced folks), a few of us cringe, and cause nightmares for those unsteady couples with rings on their fingers.