Surrounded by the pulsing tones of tranquility and the quaint, quiet life of suburbia, director David Fincher’s latest, Gone Girl, turns from crime drama to psychological thriller thanks to career best performances by Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike and a tightly written script by the book’s author, Gillian Flynn.
Gone Girl follows the marriage of Nick and Amy Dunne (Affleck, Pike) and the day that would change their relationship forever. When Nick comes back home one day to find his wife missing and his house trashed, he becomes the center of a national investigation that garners unwanted spotlight and attention from media sources and local detectives.
Affleck, who has never been one that has garnered much praise for his acting, delivers some of his best work to date in a role that almost plays off his public persona. Fincher commented before that he cast Affleck in the role because of the actor’s past dealing with the life of constant media attention and Affleck’s work as Nick reflects that. He plays a soul who clearly is in over his head with the questions and inquiries being made against him along the way.
Pike, who after this must have Alfred Hitchcock rolling his grave, also gives a career-best turn as Amy, who plays the role much like some of the best performances in Hitchcock’s filmography. Amy is smart and driven, but prone to mistakes, and will go to great lengths to remedy them.
After re-visiting some of Fincher’s filmography, I found the tendency that the filmmaker likes to dive into characters that enter extenuating circumstances, leaving them to lose the life they once led and become drawn with a reality that they believe will make them happy. Nick does this by thinking of living without Amy as the best course of action he could take, and she does the same.
Instead, the whole landscape around them (town, country, people) enters a different reality as the media attention and personalities become these thwarted monsters alongside the monstrous main characters we are supposed to follow. Like a good Hitchcock movie, Fincher turns you over and over again and makes you rethink just which monster is worse until you can’t agree with either.
This is thanks in part to the latest score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross who don’t deliver their best detached score (The Social Network), but instead create one that would work well in the horror that is the story. Using tranquil tones that sound like something you would listen to at a spa or to calm your nerves, the beats create an unnerving pulse that makes everything going on around it chilling. Reznor and Ross add in the occasional guitar part to rev up the suspense, making the score both haunting and mystical.
The supporting cast, led by big names like Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry, round out the picture with roles that feed the monsters on both sides. Harris delivers a surprising turn as one of Amy’s former lovers while Perry shows up as Nick’s lawyer later on in the story. Both playing off their usual types, deliver great performances as they try and lead both Amy and Nick to the resolutions that they both believe are right for that person.
While not making the top of Fincher’s films, Gone Girl is a well-crafted thriller that takes elements of his previous works, with some Hitchcockian touches, and becomes a chilling and harrowing tale of marriage and the glory of living a life with someone else. The portrait that it paints up against the quaint suburbia is Fincher’s satire on the perverse lives these people have and the secrets that are hidden within the beautiful driveways and lavish homes.
In a setting that sits so close to home for many, Gone Girl feels like something familiar, yet utterly unbelievable. But thanks to the work by Affleck, and especially Pike, it is a scary ordeal that works so well within the setting that is laid out.