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Gone Girl—Movie Review

It’s been a while since a movie based on a best-selling novel that isn’t aimed at young adults caused such a stir. Gone Girl is a rarity: a mainstream, studio-backed feature aimed at grownups that doesn’t dilute its harsh source material in any way. In fact, Gone Girl was adapted by its author, Gillian Flynn, who found a perfect collaborator in director David Fincher and an equally perfect cast to bring it to life onscreen.

Not having read the book, I had no idea of what was coming at any point in this riveting thriller (unlike my wife, who remembered all the story twists but still enjoyed the film). For the sake of others like me, I won’t divulge any spoilers. Suffice it to say that Ben Affleck plays a callow guy named Nick who should be celebrating his fifth wedding anniversary with his beautiful wife Amy (Rosamund Pike), but discovers instead that she has disappeared, under mysterious circumstances. What’s more, all indications point to him as the leading suspect in the case.

As the mystery unfolds, Flynn reveals layers and nuances in the backstory of the seemingly perfect couple. They meet in New York City and wind up in his hometown in Missouri, caring for his dying mother. She’s a fish out of water there, but he takes comfort in the company of his twin sister (Carrie Coon), who operates a local bar.

Fincher and Flynn cast a keen eye on the hypocrisies of modern society: the rush to judgment by tabloid media, the way a community (and even local police) can be manipulated, in a series of falling dominoes that have become all too familiar, and how a man who is far from innocent—yet not guilty of murder or abduction—fights to save his reputation, his sanity, and his freedom.

Photo by Merrick Morton  - Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox and Regency Enterprises

Photo by Merrick Morton – Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox and Regency Enterprises

Fincher has cast his movie with great skill, using little-known actors as well as recognizable faces in supporting roles. Perhaps his greatest coup was choosing Tyler Perry to play a high-profile, take-no-prisoners lawyer who agrees to defend Affleck. It’s hard to imagine anyone doing a better job in this juicy role.

That can also be said of the two leads. Affleck is in his element here, playing an “ordinary guy” who gets in over his head. Pike is being celebrated as the year’s major discovery, but she’s been doing fine work in films over the past decade, from Pride and Prejudice to the little-seen Barney’s Version and last month’s Hector and the Search for Happiness. Because of her beauty she’s endured her share of superficial roles, but Gone Girl shows her considerable range.

Gone Girl is an unrelentingly tough movie, from the first moment to the last. The score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (who did Fincher’s last two films as well) is appropriately dissonant and tremendously effective. This isn’t a fun night at the movies, but it’s superior storytelling from a highly talented filmmaker.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight.

He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies.

His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia.

He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation.

He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?)

He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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