Renowned geopolitical expert Ben Affleck (“The Sum of All Fears,” “Real Time with Bill Maher”) is not the most sympathetic victim in the screen adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestseller, “Gone Girl.”
His wife of five years Amy (Oscar-bound Rosamund Pike) disappears on their anniversary in what looks like a violent abduction. Coincidentally, that very day Affleck’s Nick Dunne was going to end their disintegrating marriage in favor of a younger woman he has taken up with. His inability to muster grief (for example, his grim attempt at humor, “Anyone who took her will probably bring her back”) puts him on the wrong side of the media circus and the police.
Director David Fincher is a natural choice to helm this one. The veteran of films like “Seven,” “Fight Club” and “The Social Network” is adept at enveloping enigmatic characters in a shroud of mystery that all at once takes great care to develop their complex backstories yet leaves us wondering if, in fact, we really do know them.
“Gone Girl” unfolds in a series of flashbacks and entries from Amy’s diary documenting (or rather controlling the narrative of) their relationship that’s gone from a storybook first kiss in a mist of sugar to recent foreboding entries.
The girl is gone, by every sense of the word (whoops, pretend you didn’t read that) but as they say in legal circles, “no body, no crime.” So, much of the film concerns itself with detectives (and moviegoers) chasing the clues for Nick to decipher.
Affleck turns in a solid performance, as do Tyler Perry in a smaller role as his high-profile defense attorney and Carrie Coon as Nick’s twin. Neil Patrick Harris is miscast (though not so badly as to be a distraction) as one of Amy’s doting ex-boyfriends.
The real standouts here are Kim Dickens, the detective in charge, and of course Pike, who is either a brilliant manipulator or a demented femme fatale. That’s for us to decide.
There’s another dimension to this story, as well, that requires more than 350 words to tell, but here is the abridged version. Every relationship is built on a foundation of initial impressions that we spend the rest of our lives trying to live up to; or, in the case of co-dependence, we don’t.
Plenty of twists keep it intriguing and something I’ve rarely said of a film: There’s a lot to take in here.