Author: J.A. Hyde
October 2, 2014

SYNOPSIS: GONE GIRL - directed by David Fincher and based upon the global bestseller by Gillian Flynn - unearths the secrets at the heart of a modern marriage. On the occasion of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) reports that his beautiful wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), has gone missing. Under pressure from the police and a growing media frenzy, Nick's portrait of a blissful union begins to crumble. Soon his lies, deceits and strange behavior have everyone asking the same dark question: Did Nick Dunne kill his wife? (c) Fox

Director David Fincher has brought Gillian Flynn’s darker-than-dark novel GONE GIRL to the big screen with Flynn herself as the screenwriter. Since millions of people read the best-seller, she has given it a different ending to “keep it interesting.” Whether or not that works for you probably depends on how you felt about the original ending. I have read the novel, and I prefer the original ending, but I can see why, for the ease of translating it to film, Flynn changed it. So, how is the film version? I think that depends on whether you’ve read the novel and how you reacted to it. I saw it with my movie buddy who has not read it, and he was left feeling confused about certain characters and their motives. I’ll admit that it helped to know background that was left out, possibly because the film is already quite long at 149 minutes.

For the sake of this review, I’m going to assume that you haven’t read it, so I’m not going to reveal many specifics. The novel contains many plot twists and even more twisted characters, and so does the film. Excellent performances by the entire cast strengthen the story line, especially Rosamunde Pike’s portrayal of Amy Dunne, the missing wife. Ben Affleck also does a good job as Nick, her callow husband. They’re young and hip when they meet, court, and marry in Manhattan where they both work as writers for magazines. However, it’s the dawn of the Great Recession and also the beginning of the shift from print to digital publications. They both lose their jobs, first Nick and then Amy. Amy, though, is a trust fund baby with substantial wealth. She’s the only daughter of seemingly-devoted parents Rand (David Clennon) and Marybeth Elliot (Lisa Barnes). They’ve made a fortune on their series of children’s books featuring “Amazing Amy,” a character based on their daughter. The real Amy intimates that her “amazing” counterpart was always one step ahead of her, indicating that her relationship with her parents isn’t as rosy as it seems to be.

The catalyst for disaster happens when they move back to the small Missouri town where Nick grew up. His twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon) phones to say that their mother is suffering from stage 4 breast cancer. Nick and Amy’s once magical marriage suffers as they try to adjust. Amy is a fish out of water, and Nick’s lack of ambition – and backbone - surfaces as he half-heartedly runs a bar, financed by Amy, with Margo. He also teaches creative writing part-time at the local community college. What does Amy do? You really won’t know until she tells her part of the story. I will say that the literary device of two unreliable narrators worked better in the novel. Lies, twists, and secrets dominate both the novel and the film.

When Amy disappears, with clues indicating a violent struggle, suspicion falls on Nick. He has no alibi, can’t identify any of his wife’s friends, and doesn’t seem to know what she does all day. At first treated sympathetically, he loses credibility with the public and with the police. Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Pickens) and Officer Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) begin to have doubts almost immediately. More and more damning information surfaces, and the case goes national when a Nancy Grace-style television reporter, Ellen Abbot (Missi Pyle), latches on. Inevitably, the media turn against Nick although he continues to proclaim his innocence.

Nick comes to believe that he’s been framed, possibly by his missing wife, and sets out to prove his innocence. With no body and no witnesses, Detective Boney begins to build a strong circumstantial case. As things begin to worsen, Nick hires a famous defense attorney, Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry), who’s famous for getting guilty clients off. Even though Nick swears he’s innocent, the evidence continues to pile up, and he’s finally arrested. Before his arrest, he has visited two of Amy’s former boyfriends who ran into trouble after she broke up with them. These encounters both back up and dismiss Nick’s claim of innocence. On the other hand, they both exonerate and cast the light on Amy. The question is, who is telling the truth?

David Fincher presents the audience with a taut psychological thriller. He keeps you slightly off balance so that you’ll constantly be asking yourself what’s true and what’s not. GONE GIRS’s ending in the film ties things up better than the novel’s ending…or maybe it’s better to say in a different way.

In any case, the ending changes the tone of the story a bit. I preferred the novel’s ending, but that’s just me! - JoAnne Hyde


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