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 is 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 wretched human being.

Throughout the first half, “Gone Girl” flashes through the highs and lows of their relationship as told by the entries of Amy’s diary. When the couple first meets, they enjoy the haughty banter of two hollow individuals circling each other. It translates as 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. Throughout Amy and Nick’s relationship, they also weather their share of hardships. Financial issues and the matter of personal accountability are among the problems plaguing the marriage.

Is this account everything it seems to be, though? “Gone Girl” is about to explain all of that a lot better. 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. Speculation as to Nick’s guilt is a minuscule aspect of the story, and as “Gone Girl” viewers slog through his every misdeed, the movie’s perspective never wavers from whose corner it is standing in -- thous name art, Nick.

Rooting for Nick is next to impossible, and Amy is so emotionally distant that investing in her is equally difficult. Nevertheless, it is so omnipresent that the tension “Gone Girl” should have does not exist because the tightrope has nothing to fasten to. Meanwhile, 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 adds nothing to the film. It only serves as a nuisance. Thankfully David Fincher’s direction gives “Gone Girl” a stylistic movement that keeps the ongoing shenanigans engaging.

Faltering to find a spot for any levity, 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. However, as a full-blown movie, 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 a result, Nick earns zero empathy.

As Amy, Rosamund Pike’s steely demeanor shows little variance, and not much more can be said on that subject without spoiling it. On the other side, 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 ’80s and ’90s, this is a cold imitation. Being asked to root for unlikeable characters is not anything new.

The characters of  “Gone Girl” are just not interesting enough to warrant the passionate reaction the leads of those earlier films provoked. They so tediously lack 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