Movie Review: 'Gone Girl' (2014)

What do you get when two unlikable characters are embroiled in a mystery? The answer is a story that boasts hardly any emotional stakes.  “Gone Girl” opens on the day that Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) disappears. Her bitter husband, Nick (Ben Affleck), goes to his bar to blow off steam with his sister.

It his and his wife’s fifth wedding anniversary. From the tone of the siblings' conversation it becomes rapidly clear that it is a disintegrating union, filled with resentments that’s generalization lies with the core accusation that Amy is simply a retched human being.

Throughout the first half, the film flashes through the highs and lows of their relationship as told by the entries of Amy’s diary. When the couple first meet they enjoy the haughty banter of two hollow individuals circling each other in a yuppie mating ritual that’s underpinnings are deeply rooted in the other “l” word; lust.

Amy struggles to overcome the perceived expectations of her parents and throughout the course of her and Nick’s relationship they weather their share of hardships, financial issues and personal accountability chief among them.

Is this account everything it seems to be though? A concerned call to the cops turns their house into a crime scene and the court of public opinion is soon weighing in. Where is Amy? Is Nick involved in her disappearance?

From the outset the answer seems obvious. The speculation as to Nick’s guilt is a minuscule aspect to the story and as viewers slog through his every misdeed the movie’s perspective never wavers from whose corner it is standing in.

Rooting for Nick is next to impossible and Amy is so emotionally distant that investing in her is equally difficult. The film’s tension does not exist because the tightrope has nothing to fasten to. The cinematography’s grainy golden tones offer a visually discombobulating whiff of something grave.

Similar to 2014’s “Enemy” the overuse of mood lighting and a yellow-tinged filter that harkens to the after effects of UV damage, add nothing to the film. It only serves as a nuisance. Thankfully David Fincher’s direction does give the film a stylistic movement that keeps the ongoing shenanigans engaging.

Faltering to find its levity sweet spot, the emotional equilibrium is continually thrown off with hipster zingers from Nick’s sassy sister Margo (Carrie Coon) and the buffoonish presentation of the public. The apparent satire jars the ambiance of a film that clearly takes itself very seriously. Gillian Flynn’s script has its even points as a crime thriller and it is easy to see why it reads well on paper; as a film it fails to translate.

In realizing the source material on-screen, “Gone Girl” is hampered by the performances of its leads. Ben Affleck infuses nothing pleasant into Nick, a smarmy social climber with zero charm and loads of self-pity. Affleck’s characterization lacks any visceral fear pertaining to his circumstances and as result, earns no empathy.

As Amy, Rosamund Pike’s steely demeanor shows little variance and there is not much more that can be said on that subject without spoiling it. Supporting players, Carrie Coon, Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris all turn in exceptionally respectable turns.

“Gone Girl” resonates as a film chock full of unrealized potential. In comparison to the racy erotic thrillers of the 80’s and 90’s, this is a cold imitation. Being asked to root for unlikable characters is not anything new.

These characters are just not interesting enough to warrant the passionate reaction the leads of those earlier films provoked. They are so tediously lacking in complexity that response to them readily settles into indifference.

In the end, the questions surrounding the mysteries of "Gone Girl" become a cyclical churning of “who cares?” rather than “who’s guilty?”.  Rating: 6.4/10

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