New film releases that receive huge hype and a landslide of enthusiastically favorable reviews sound an alarm for me. With the majority of films being mere blockbuster tent pole spectacles and sequels there of intended only to fulfill audience expectation for loud and tech-y distraction, there has been a habit among movie taste makers to over praise any film that strays from the formulaic norm and attempts adult subject matter instead. Too often I walk from the theater with a vaguely disappointment, thinking many greatly praised releases are over rated by cineastes eager to dust off their superlatives and create and create a cinematic event. It is a variation of the media cluster-bang ups where it seems as though there have only been two or three news items worth mentioning in the last month or so.
That said, I report happily that "Gone Girl", for all the intimidating hype, is a terrific piece of work, deftly, skillfully, subtly directed by the increasingly estimable David Fincher ("Fight Club", "Zodiac", "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"). Without going into plot detail and risk spoiling the film for others, lets say here that this is an intricate thriller, a murder mystery or sorts, a black comedy, a tale that evolves from a sort of "Peyton Place" situation of inane passion and betrayals but begins to morph into a taut, edgy thriller and into a dark, bleak comedy. As I said, this is a tale with lots of detail and surprises, but Fincher has a master's control of the material--use of flashbacks and shifting from points of view add texture and bring you in further into this seductive drama-comedy. We do not lose our place anywhere in the telling.
Fincher, like Alfred Hitchcock before him, has a sense of how to introduce complexity in a film at precisely the moment when you think you've accurately assessed where the plot is going. Especially pleasing is the lack of any rickety deus ex machina, the blatantly mechanical plot device in the form of a stock character or clichéd situation that appears only to initiate a generic and predictable twist in a genre thriller. "Gone Girl’s changes, cogently devised and deftly deployed, arise organically from the terrain of lying, cheating and infidelity that's already been laid out.
The casting , as well, highlights a superb ensemble of players. Ben Affleck fitting vindication for all the fan nastiness that's come his way over the last few years. He is an actor who has a director’s honest estimation of his own talent as an actor; although not the most charismatic or fluidly demonstrative leading man we have in our time, Affleck, as with Clint Eastwood, knows his expressive limits and performs marvelously when he stays within them. We also get a supremely nuanced performance from Rosamund Pike; she has the wherewithal to project the image of an icy prom queen/honors student and the have her character credible into an intellectually inclined problem child who's personality complications arise like boiling water once you get close and have an extended look under the veneer. A big plus here is the presence of Carrie Coon, from HBOs 'The Leftovers", who I think as a fantastic, brilliant actress who will be a talent we'll see much amazing work from. Playing Affleck's twin sister in this movie, she is wonderful with characterization of the odd mixture of sibling love and red hot aggravation. Coon does not go for big gestures but rather captures the right expression, raises or lowers her voice to the right dynamic level, reveals body language that is a marvel to watch for its nuance and sense of containment. Coon is essentially evocative in her movements, having, it seems, a cat like control over emotion and reflex; she can see the build of emotion , whether anxiety, lust or rage, and she has the instinct and skill to make the explosions of personality seem perfectly normal. Jarring, yes, but not arbitrary, not compulsive.