Weird tone is the biggest mystery in ‘Gone Girl’

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Wednesday, October 1, 2014 3:37pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

You’ve got to admire the confidence of “Gone Girl”: this truly odd movie coughs up a bizarre story line mixed with comic social commentary, but it never loses its swagger. Being the eagerly awaited adaptation of a best-selling page-turner will encourage that kind of attitude, I guess.

Gillian Flynn’s 2012 novel has a few twists up its bloodied sleeve, but we’ll be discreet here. The story begins with the disappearance of Amy (Rosamund Pike) from her unloved Missouri home, and escalates into a media circus as suspicion is cast on her husband Nick (Ben Affleck).

Nick has the help of his sister (Carrie Coon) and a celebrity lawyer (Tyler Perry, excellent), but his status in the public eye is dismal. Meanwhile, we see excerpts from Amy’s diary, which fill in the picture of a marriage gone sour.

The TV-style cops on the case are quirkily played by Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit. In fact, part of the kick of “Gone Girl” is the unexpected cast. This includes “Madea” man Tyler Perry playing it straight, Neil Patrick Harris and Scoot McNairy as eccentric exes from Amy’s past, and model Emily Ratajkowski as a young woman of intrigue.

Affleck brings his doofus side out, looking beefy and just a bit slow on the uptake. Pike, who’s gone good duty in “Jack Reacher” and “The World’s End,” is ideal for the smart but super-controlling Amy.

This story might have been a clean, dark suspense tale. But Flynn (who adapted the screenplay herself) and “Zodiac” director David Fincher have gone in an unexpected direction — it’s the biggest twist of all. “Gone Girl” is not a thriller but a satire, one that reaches for things to say about modern society, and all that.

The peculiar tone takes some getting used to. Yes, there’s a woman missing and evidence of violence, but these cops sure are funny.

Fincher is a gifted filmmaker, although the role of social satirist (as in “Fight Club,” or “The Social Network”) is not his best mode. Most of the targets here, from media goons to suburban small-mindedness, are past their freshness date.

Some of this is redeemed by the film’s eerie momentum, even when the chronology flips back and forth. Scenes quickly fade to black and then just as quickly come up on some new revelation.

Weird film. “Gone Girl” is an outlandish subject with an A-list treatment, and its cynicism is striking. An interesting spectacle to watch, for sure, but for me the movie rings hollow at its core.

“Gone Girl” (2 1/2 stars)

A missing wife (Rosamund Pike) and a husband (Ben Affleck) under suspicion are the ingredients of this truly odd adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestseller. Director David Fincher goes for social satire — the movie isn’t really much of a thriller — which gives the whole thing a hollow ring. Great cast, including Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris.

Rating: R, for nudity, violence, language

Showing: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Meridian, Sundance Cinemas Seattle, Thornton Place Stadium 14, Woodinville, Cascade Mall.

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