Gone Girl is a slick potboiler about the failure of a marriage and the unraveling of an attempt to commit the perfect crime. It does a good job staying away from many of the cliches of the crime thriller. It could easily have become a straightforward police procedural, but nonetheless the movie still made me feel like I was watching a TV drama from time to time and not a film.
The movie opens on the morning of Nick and Amy Dunne’s (played by Ben Affleck and stunning Rosamund Pike) wedding anniversary. Has stopped in a watering hole called “The Bar” which he owns with his sister, Margo (Carrie Coon), mainly to complain about his wife and marriage. He receives a phone call from a neighbor that his door is open and he returns home to find broken furniture but no wife. For the remainder of the movie, the characters attempt to solve the crime while flashbacks provide the history of the marital conflict between the two leads.
The movie covers such themes as infidelity, loveless marriage, the press obsession with missing blond women, and the difficulties almost anyone would have keeping up the appearance of innocence if his or her life was placed under a microscope and dribbled out in bits and pieces as “breaking developments” in a sensational news story. It does not critique these things. I think it attempts to offer bleak messages about what marriage is and also about what women are. Since can’t explain those messages without completely spoiling the movie, I’ll hold my tongue.
Affleck is mostly effective as a man attempting to clear his name. His character at times lacks urgency for a man in his situation, but that may be because his character thinks he is smarter than most other people. Pike is much better as the missing wife. At first I thought her acting and narration were wooden, but then I realized that she was acting in a way that was very much appropriate for her character. I didn’t think the movie did a very good job fleshing out the lead characters, however. I am not certain why they fell out of love, and I am less certain why they would be compelled to commit the crimes they are accused of. I guess Nick has status anxiety because he’s from “flyover country” and lost his job. His wife may have a better motive for being upset with their marriage in this instance, but I am not certain what drives her either.
I enjoyed watching Tyler Perry play a larger-than-life criminal defense attorney. If I were offered a chance to rewrite and re-edit the movie, I’d introduce his character earlier and make certain he wasn’t off-scene so often. Kim Dickens is good as a very competent local detective, but since the story isn’t about how she solves the crime, there isn’t much for her to do except uncover clues and ask questions that trigger more flashbacks about the marriage. She hounds Nick Dunne, but her most important scene comes when she is upstaged by male FBI agents who take the case from her.
I wanted to like the movie a lot more. There aren’t a lot of thrillers in theaters at the moment. But I have to compare the film with its peers as well. There are many American films about “The Perfect Crime” within the context of a failed marriage. There’s Double Indemnity, Presumed Innocent, Fargo, and To Die For at the top of my list. Gone Girl does not stack up to those films. It plays more like an afternoon melodrama than those films and should probably be relegated to the second tier. See it if you have an itch to see a crime thriller, but you’ll probably forget it by next year.
*** of five.
IMDB Link: Gone Girl
ETA: After a refrigerator moment, I’ve decided to downgrade the rating to a notch to *1/2. I would explain why, but spoilers are for the comments section, not the review.