David Fincher’s filming of Gillian Flynn’s novel, drawn from a script by Flynn herself, is one of the best, most disturbingly satisfying psychodramas in years.
David Fincher’s filming of Gillian Flynn’s novel, drawn from a script by Flynn herself, is one of the best, most disturbingly satisfying psychodramas in years. Yet it proves almost impossible to discuss, as any potential spoiler might annoy fans of Flynn’s book, fans of Fincher, fans of star Ben Affleck – or those just hoping to have their heads messed with. Missourian Nick Dunne (Affleck) returns home one afternoon to his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) expecting sex and celebrations for their fifth wedding anniversary, and instead finds her missing and signs of a violent struggle. Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and Officer Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) are soon investigating, and suspicion immediately starts to fall upon Nick: the crime scene seems wrong, he doesn’t appear distraught enough (that famous Affleck smile is a mistake here) and other incriminating clues keep turning up. Thus begins his trial by media, and Fincher deftly handles his quest for answers about Amy’s disappearance while we’re continually persuaded to doubt his innocence. We also shift to not only flashbacks about how Nick and Amy met, fell in love (and lust), married and fell apart, but to passages from Amy’s diary, which suggest that Nick was bitterly, and maybe dangerously, resentful of her. But nothing is ever quite that easy, especially in a Fincher film (see Se7en, Fight Club, Panic Room et al) – or is it? Featuring another unsettling musical score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Rose, a terrifically dark sense of humour and an awfully dim view of marriage (and relationships generally), this also offers strong performances by a small army of players: Dickens and Fugit are fine, while Carrie Coon (as Nick’s twin sister Margot), Tyler Perry (as hotshot lawyer Tanner Bolt) and surprisingly, Neil Patrick Harris (as Amy’s old pal Desi Collings) prove even better. But really this is all about Pike and Affleck, who delayed directing a film of his own for the chance to work with Fincher, and allows his oily, movie star charms to be used against him mercilessly. They’re the ones who truly ensure that this is the worst possible ‘Date Movie’ of 2014.