While there are problematic gender concepts buried under its many assets, Gone Girl (2014) is by and large a successful, well-produced thriller with a fantastic cast and a compelling, twisty narrative. Adapted by Gillian Flynn from her best-selling novel, it chronicles the marriage of Nick and Amy Dunne (Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike), a seemingly perfect couple who meet cute in New York before resettling to Missouri when their fortunes are disrupted by family health issues and the 2008 recession. Initially, the film ricochets between flashback diary entries (from Amy’s point of view) detailing the origins and escalation of the supposedly perfect marriage, and a present track in which Nick copes with Amy’s mysterious disappearance. Initially, Nick’s confused concern ramps into something considerably more complicated, the dark secrets underlying the Dunnes’ marriage revealing rot beneath their storybook facade.
It’s difficult to talk about the troubling socio-politics of Gone Girl without spoiling the story; suffice it to say, the high-concept premise and famous twists of the plot sit atop an explosive post-#MeToo powder keg. But taken in microcosm, it’s a satisfying thriller with some thought-provoking undercurrents, its intricate machinations telling an engaging, if rather cynical, story about the compromises of marriage. It’s directed by David Fincher, who has an undeniable knack for tapping into the sleazy and squalid, and the cast is stellar. Affleck holds the stage well as an “average joe” protagonist, while Pike shines as his unpredictable companion. But the real fun is in the supporting cast, a first-rate roster which includes Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Lola Kirke, Neil Patrick Harris, Scoot McNairy, and Tyler Perry. If you can overlook the toxic subtext, there’s a bracing, nicely crafted surface story in this diverting mystery.