If you read Gillian Flynn’s deliciously ice-in-its-veins novel “Gone Girl” (and if you didn’t, what are you waiting for?), you have very specific expectations for David Fincher’s movie version. Does it meet them? Yes, absolutely. Can I describe them without ruining things for “Gone Girl” virgins? Well, I’ll try, but proceed with caution. Or just stop reading right now and go experience the real thing. It’s dark, it’s creepy and it’s very good — both on the page, and on the screen.
Here’s what I can say: “Gone Girl” is a thriller about two people trapped in a very bad marriage, and what happens when one of them vanishes. Things begin, as a screen title tells us, on “The Morning Of,” when Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), responding to a call from a neighbor, comes home early on his wedding anniversary to find an open door, disarray in the living room and no sign of his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike). The story then unfolds both forward and backward, as Nick finds himself suspected of having a hand in Amy’s disappearance — and struggles to manage his behavior as the harsh light of the media shines on him. Meanwhile, we learn through flashbacks, told in the voice of Amy’s discovered diaries, the history of their five-year marriage. (In short: not happy, at least not for very long.)
Shot in murky greens and browns, from a screenplay that meticulously follows the book (the adaptation’s by Flynn herself), Fincher’s version emerges as a mesmerizing study in performance: both those of the cast, which are uniformly excellent, and the idea of performance — the way we behave when others are looking at us. Affleck’s slick Nick, famously described by Flynn in the book as having “a face you want to punch,” doesn’t find the right pitch for his performance as a bereaved husband, and is pilloried for it; Pike’s Amy, whose face we see in the film’s opening moments, has a masklike perfection, speaking in a creamy Cool Girl voice yet conveying a spookiness in her eyes.
Almost nobody’s likable — or entirely truthful — in this venomous tale (except perhaps Nick’s beleaguered sister Go, played with sympathetic wryness by Carrie Coon), but all the details feel right: the once-charming, now-tired downtown street where Nick and Go own a bar; the anonymous, perfectly tasteful beige and white of the Dunne house, where no color or life seems to have intruded; the effortless breeze of hotshot lawyer Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry); the ever-so-gentle menace Neil Patrick Harris brings to the quiet, almost meek voice of Amy’s friend Desi. The movie sticks with you, as does the book — like a shiver that you can’t quite shake.
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Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org