If Gone Girl shows us anything,it's that Ben Affleck is up to the task of wearing a big rubber mask with bat ears on his head and growling on poorly lit sets. I mean, seriously, who are these people who think playing The Batman is such a challenge? And Hollywoodland was eight years ago, for crying out loud, and an excellent performance.
Anyway, I'm really glad David Fincher has gone back to directing thrillers. Se7en, The Game, Fight Club and Panic Room is just an amazing streak of top-notch thrillers. Panic Room gets no love, I think, because it's just a thriller, without the depth of Fight Club, which it had just followed.
But I say, if it's so freaking easy to make "just a thriller" why do we have so many boring movies? (And here, poetically if not ironically, we have an excellent thriller nearly torpedoed in its desire to be more.)
Since Panic Room, Fincher directed the broody, slow-paced mystery Zodiac, the broody, slow-paced fantasy Benjamin Button, and the broody slow-paced thriller The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Seriously, the guy has a hard time bringing a film in under 2:30 any more, and while I wasn't exactly bored in these films, none of them seemed to me have the energy of his '90s flicks.
Gone Girl, I'm happy to say, is a much better overall experience. The first act is a mystery, with a lot of suspense and twists-and-turns. The second act is more on the thriller side, resolving the mysteries of the first act in a kind of fun and wicked way.
The third act is a completely preposterous, misanthropic, malignant excuse to shoehorn in a larger, sillier message about marriage. I mean, really, it's goofier than any episode of "Columbo" or "Murder, She Wrote", but in the service of something really nasty, that you're meant to take earnestly.
We all liked it, but that third act broke our suspension of disbelief more than seeing Justin Long in a walrus suit. I can't tell you about it here without major spoilers, and the movie is still fun, both in getting to that third act and even the presentation of the preposterous circumstances of said act.
Although, the "message" means the movie doesn't really end, and if you can make it out of the theater lobby without realizing how the implications of the endings couldn't possibly work out, then you're better at shutting off your brain than I am. (It reminds me of Mystic River's ending in its awfulness, though Mystic River's end was just evil, not entirely implausible.)
Anyway, the acting in this is just great. Fincher's choice of Affleck is no less than perfect. There's a scene where Nick (Affleck) is being prepped to go on a cable news show by his lawyer Tanner Bolt (I'm so white, I didn't realize it was Tyler Perry) and when Bolt is questioning him, and he comes off as too glib, he throws a gummi bear at him.
Can it be that this has never happened to Affleck? It certainly should have, some time in the '90s.
Carrie Coon plays Nick's sister Margo, and for a woman with a relatively light CV, she's just amazing. Absolutely natural as a devoted, loving sister who would do just about anything for her brother. The always excellent Kim Dickens ("Deadwood", The Blind Side) does a great job as the dogged detective who's trying to get to the truth.
Rosamund Pike, who I've enjoyed since seeing her in 2005 play back-to-back in Pride and Prejudice and (shortly thereafter) Doom, plays Amy, the perfect girlfriend/less-than-perfect wife here. After relatively less interesting roles in Jack Reacher and The World's End, I bet she enjoyed this. It's a challenging role and she aces it.
I can't ever fault the acting Fincher gets out of his players, even in his least interesting (to me) films. What's more, he seems to be able to make a movie with celebrities without you sitting there the whole time thinking, "Hey, it's Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden!" The one possible exception in this film is NPH himself, Neal Patrick Harris.
Don't get me wrong: He's perfect for the role here as Amy's stalker-or-is-he? and he pulls off the role easily. But his initial appearance (in a photo) got a laugh from the crowd. He's just very recognizable, presumably after the whole "How I Met Your Mother" thing. Like I said, he plays the role very well, even with that hurdle to clear.
It's something likely to fade over time. Sort of how my kids ignore me when I laugh because somebody from some long ago TV show turns up in a film.
Anyway, a fine, fine film.
Except the third act. The third act is terrible. Not in execution, of course, but content. Hated it. Hated it enough to where, even a week later, it's kind of still pissing us off. (I actually haven't mentioned it, but The Boy brought it up two or three times.)
Fincher and author Gillian Flynn have some sort of HBO series going, so good for them. I have a feeling I'm not going to like it though.