By William Wolf


Choosing “Gone Girl,” based on the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn, for the opening night of the 52nd New York Film Festival (September 26, 2014), was a wise decision no matter what the critical reaction would be because of the keen interest in seeing the result when the novel became a film. As it has turned out, “Gone Girl,” adapted by the author herself, is a fascinating, engrossing journey into lives ripped apart when a marriage goes sour. Twists and turns grasp one’s attention and the excellent acting and mostly taut direction by David Fincher keep one’s interest percolating.

For those who haven’t read the book, too much exposition about the plot would be a spoiler, as the pleasure lies in being swept along amid the intrigue. The basic situation has Ben Affleck playing unemployed writer Nick Dunne, who is under suspicion for killing his wife and hated in the ensuing media frenzy after she disappears. He denies murdering her, but do we believe him?

The wife, artist Amy Dunn, is played by the fascinating British actress Rosamund Pike and she makes the most out of a pip of a role. Eventually we get the picture of what has been happening, with unexpected jolts along the way. Affleck is in top form, and the supporting cast is a fine one, especially Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, and Kim Dickens.

The method of screenplay and Fincher’s approach is the switch back and forth in time as the story, set in a small Missouri town, is unraveled for us. The film, in addition to some frightful insights into potentially explosive marital relationships, implicitly comments, satirically but also seriously, on the crassness of television shows that home in on sensational cases to make them even more sensational, and how such shows stir up the public. Excellent scenes make the points. It should also be noted that there is much humor in the film, even at its grim moments.

I have one quarrel-- the use of a score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ros. It isn’t that I dislike the music, but that in key moments, in the early part of the film and near the end, the score creates an unnecessary rumbling that, while apparently meant to stress an ominous atmosphere, drowns out the dialogue, upon which the emphasis should be. Such criticism does not apply to his film alone. Music is over-used in many films in which the dialogue is paramount and needs no underlining.

But this quarrel aside, “Gone Girl” has arrived with the force and wit to make it highly enjoyable, a further extension of Flynn’s work that she has so cleverly written for the screen and that has been handled so expertly by Flincher and his cast. The 52nd New York Film Festival, which runs to October 12, wisely chose it as the opener. A 20th Century Fox release. Reviewed September 27, 2014.


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