“Marriage is the Jack Kevorkian of romance.”
-Rachel (Story of Us)
I’ve always admired David Fincher as a filmmaker. Se7en is one of my favorite films. A group of friends and I conned my mother into buying us tickets to see it when we were in middle school. This caused two of the guys’ parents to call the cops and show up at the theater looking for them. Looking back, it’s a hilarious and embarrassing memory. Maybe that’s why Se7en ranks so high in my cinephile ranking system, but I truly think it’s an amazing film. Fight Club and The Social Network have legendary status among twenty-somethings. Zodiac is hailed as a modern classic among critics, and was only overshadowed on its release because it came out the same year as No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood. With all this success and talent, why has Fincher gone to the airport bookstore for his last two films?
The simple answer is money, but after seeing Gone Girl I believe there is another answer. David Fincher needs a challenge. He is wholly a director, who has no major writing credits, and isn’t known for changing scripts. This is very uncommon in today’s Hollywood. All the big name directors write, or at the very least, adjust the scripts they are directing. Gone Girl is the epitome of a director elevating a script. From the opening shot to the climax, Fincher brings his unique eye for capturing the beauty of cinema to life. Fincher’s editing is also top-notch. The subtlety of his direction in this film keeps you guessing the entire time.
As I wrote in my post My Ten Most Anticipated Movies of the Rest of the Year, casting Ben Affleck (The Town) was a stroke of genius. All I could think every time I saw a trailer for Gone Girl was how much he reminded me of Scott Peterson. Carrie Coon (The Leftovers), Kim Dickens (The Blindside), Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), and, surprisingly, Tyler Perry (Madea) all do good jobs in supporting roles. Rosamund Pike (Pride and Prejudice), however, elevates this film to another level. She is in my top 5 of performances this year. Her character arc calls for a meta level of manipulation, and she pulls it off spectacularly. She is fantastic in every scene, and for this I hope she gets acknowledged by The Academy.
The only real problem with this film is the script. I think this has more to do with the source material than the actual writing of the script. I’m not sure what else Fincher could do to make this material rise any higher than he did, but then again he chose to make this film. Another filmmaker probably would have re-written the script, or maybe even changed the story so much that it wouldn’t have resembled the book. But as it stands, the story is very hard to convey without changing major plot points.
Overall, Gone Girl is a fine film. Fincher, Affleck, and Pike are at the top of their game. How it ranks among Fincher’s filmography is yet to be determined, but I imagine that it will fall somewhere between Panic Room and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Anyone who says Gone Girl is a Lifetime movie doesn’t understand filmmaking. It is a well-crafted, fun, and entertaining cinema experience.