'Gone Girl': The movie doesn't move beyond the formulaic

'Gone Girl' stars Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, who comes under suspicion for murder when his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) disappears.

Merrick Morton/20th Century Fox/AP
'Gone Girl' stars Ben Affleck (l.), Lisa Banes (center), and David Clennon (r.).

“Gone Girl,” directed by David Fincher and adapted rather faithfully by Gillian Flynn from her bestselling novel, is a murder mystery that may or may not actually contain a murder (or two).

I’m not a fan of larding reviews with spoiler alerts, so I’ll just say that, in essence, for those who haven’t already read the book, “Gone Girl” is about a wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), who goes missing, and the husband, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), who becomes a murder suspect. Amy and Nick, both struggling writers in New York, had relocated to small-town Missouri, where Nick’s mother is ailing. There they became bored out of their skulls. Their marriage, seemingly based on the fact that both parties are collectively better-looking than anybody else, disintegrates. 

The film alternates between Nick’s and Amy’s perspective, with Amy’s diary entries providing the necessary back story. The flashbacks to their swank New York lifestyle contrast harshly with the bland, grayed-out Missouri scenes. Fincher and Flynn betray a snooty bias here: Heartland equals boring. The only enlivening thing about this territory apparently is the violence that erupts from it. 

I’ve never been a huge fan of Fincher’s Prince of Darkness-like prowess. “Seven” and “The Fight Club” were a smart adolescent’s idea of the heart of darkness, and “The Social Network” was a glib, smart-alecky epic about a master race of supernerds. His best film, I think, was “Zodiac,” which was overlong but mountingly creepy.

In his new film, as in his last, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” his directorial finesse can’t disguise the potboiler source material. (Nor does he seem to care.) The film’s stabs at social commentary – the constant barrage of tabloid TV coverage – are crushingly obvious. Affleck is smoothly proficient but (this is probably Fincher’s failing) skimps the darker shades that might have flipped this film from melodrama to drama.  Pike is riveting without being altogether interesting. She holds the screen with her beautful blankness. A few of the supporting players, including Kim Dickens, as a suspicious local cop, and Carrie Coon, as Nick’s twin sister, move beyond the formulaic, which is more than can be said for the movie. Grade: C+ (Rated R for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language.)

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