Fincher’s ‘Gone Girl’ is a subpar thriller

Finchers Gone Girl is a subpar thriller

by Mike Heral, Senior Staff Writer

Rating: 2 out of 4 stars

Director David Fincher’s tenth film, “Gone Girl,” tries so hard to be both a genre-spanning and genre send-up film that it reminds me of the saying “Jack of all trades, master of none.”

During its keister-numbing two-and-a-half-hour run time, this “is she dead and did the husband do it if she is?” mystery story drunkenly careens from rom-com to satire to psychological thriller. It would be better served picking one and sticking to it. But because Fincher roams, “Gone Girl” behaves like a car lurching down the highway on four wobbly tires.

Fincher’s directing isn’t memorable, but that’s actually not a bad thing. His style is almost not a style at all and the slickest thing he does here is to flash-and-fade the title almost before the eye can tell the mind that it was there. Even with that allowance, Finchner isn’t hyper-stylizing his scenes like John Woo or Quentin Tarantino would.

Writer Gillian Flynn, adapting her best-selling book, is guilty of indulging in writing’s two biggest sins. The first act of the film is over-written. The initial flirtation between Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) and Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) recalls the worst of the played-out rom-com genre. There’s neither a spark of interest nor a word of genuine dialogue to be found during the first act. Worse, Flynn eagerly clings to clichés. New writers take note: it’s never wise to have a character say the writer has crafted a “perfect crime story.” Because the obvious response is that what she’s really banged out is a story perfectly disabled by predictability.

As for the actors, both Pike and Affleck appear initially disinterested in inhabiting Amy and Nick. It isn’t until the second act that Pike comes alive. Affleck, however, waits to earn his paycheck until a denouement that’s painfully kept alive longer than “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”

In contrast, Neil Patrick Harris once again effortlessly hijacks the spotlight. His neurotic portrayal as Amy’s jilted lover Desi Collings yields the first character in the story worth caring about. Is he a love-starved murderer or just a harmless puppy? Had it started as Desi commands center stage, “Gone Girl” would’ve found its legs and stood worthy of its Academy Award-winning pedigree.

To show how rich “Gone Girl” could’ve been, Desi isn’t the only choice for the story’s narrator. The almost over-the-top skewering of CNN Headline News’ tacky true-crime format is the other. Missy Pyle’s impersonation of sour-faced troll Nancy Grace deserves a film of its own. Sadly, “Gone Girl” isn’t interested in exploiting this and Pyle is underused. Fincher weaves in the hilariously accurate satire only when Flynn writes herself into a corner.

Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor provides the score, his third with Fincher. He still prefers minimalism but fills out his synth-based sound with an ever-present feedback loop and wind instruments. Still, small doesn’t always fit here. The problem is that Reznor’s claustrophobic approach demands moodiness and “Gone Girl” rarely has mood on its mind.

But that’s what happens when the director doesn’t know which story he wants to tell. As a result, one can spend a better evening cozying up to a copy of “Body Heat” starring Kathleen Turner and William Hurt.

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