Will It Make A Good Film (WIMAGF)?: Gone Girl
Expected Nationwide Release Date: October 3, 2014
Director: David Fincher
Based on: Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn (Crown Publishing Group)
SPOILER WARNING. There is no way to speculate about this adaptation without touching upon important plot details. So, to start: If you haven’t read the book, stop reading this article. And go read the book.
Overview: In the novel, Nick Dunne discovers his house ransacked and his wife Amy missing on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary. The subsequent investigation uncovers evidence that implicates Nick and it is revealed that the Dunne family’s marriage was less than perfect. As Nick works to clear his name of public suspicion, he begins to believe that Amy has kidnapped herself. Presumably, the movie will adhere to at least this much of the book’s plot. However, it’s been reported that Flynn, who adapted her novel into the film’s screenplay, has rewritten the ending so that the army of the book’s fans will still be surprised.
Working In Its Favor: Gone Girl’s greatest potential cinematic strength is its focal character. If this film is successful, it will be largely because Amy Dunne is already written to stand out as one of the all time most despicable, frightening, hated villains in movie history. I know very little of Rosamund Pike (I saw her in Jack Reacher, but I don’t think that’s a useful barometer) and I prefer it that way. I want the measure of Amy’s vindictive evil to be as unforeseeable as possible.
Working Against It: Two troublesome casting decisions for me. While many have applauded the casting of Neil Patrick Harris as Desi Collings (Amy’s ex lover who may or may not be a dangerous and obsessive stalker), I can’t help but be skeptical, given that Harris’ typical performance method is one of novelty, self-amused charm, and obstructive winks, the sort of thing that can really undercut the inherent creep factor of his character here. Secondly, call me a cynic, but it feels like the casting of Tyler Perry as attorney Tanner Bolt is nothing more than an insincere grab at the tidal wave of theater cash that seems to follow Perry’s shitty films.
Wild Card #1: Nick Dunne is going to be a tough character to hold in place. On his own, mildly sociopathic, unfaithful, and still sympathetic. That sort of balance might prove a tall order for an erratic Affleck, who I might have said was on a career streak before he abandoned the director’s chair of the forthcoming adaptation of Stephen King’s epic novel The Stand in order to join in on Zach Snyder’s continuing efforts to ruin the beautiful D.C. cathedral that Nolan built. Now, out of pure spite, I make sure I mention Jersey Girl, Daredevil, or Gigli any time Affleck comes up.
Wild Card #2: Flynn’s novel is, flatly stated, one of the scariest books I’ve ever read. I can think of no sharper domestic horror in the history of storytelling. It’s like an episode of Snapped meets Audition meets Silence of the Lambs. For me, the terror is so precise because it isn’t really about two sociopaths. It’s suggestively detailing the sick personality politics required of any long term relationship in modern times, the tired, rotten heart of marriage in a world where ego reigns. In the book, this underbelly is hidden by an explicit illustration of the American domestic/romantic dream. At least in the opening, Gone Girl draws a picture of the perfect romance, and the film adaptation has to be able to convincingly sell the same illusion. That means there has to be both light and a lightness. Not just a cartoonishly glossy veneer, but the actual image of happiness, and, dare I say, sunshine. There exists in his filmography zero evidence that Fincher can pull this type of image off. Sunshine doesn’t exist in Fincherland. That’s not always a knock against him as his knack for shadowy, saturated atmosphere elevated Zodiac and Seven into near-masterpiece territory. But his more recent films have almost felt like dark photocopies of his older style (Did you know that every major event in the development of Facebook happened at night time? It’s true according to The Social Network). There are only six types of weather in Fincher’s films: dreary, snowy, gray, overcast, rainy, night time. But he’s going to have to add a seventh, more vibrant and pleasant type of weather if he’s going to properly set up the exposition. If Gone Girl the movie doesn’t start in light and descend into darkness, a lot of what makes the novel great will be lost.
Verdict: Will it be a good film? Well, it’ll certainly be a David Fincher film, and because of that, I have my reservations.