The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Friday, October 31, 2014

Gone Girl

Read the book or watch the movie first? Book or movie, movie or book?!? My typical rule of thumb is try the book first and see if it pulls me in. So a couple months ago when I first saw the trailers for an upcoming movie, I sought out the book for Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. I found a rhythm pretty quick and enjoyed the book a lot. Does the movie live up to its book roots? Here's 2014's Gone Girl.

Living in a small Missouri town, the Dunnes, Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike), have fallen on some rough times. They both lost their jobs and had to move from New York City to Missouri to help care for Nick's dying mother. They're struggling along, Nick opening up a bar in hopes of bringing in some cash. One day at the bar, Nick gets a phone call from his neighbor who says the front door is wide open at his house. Nick returns home and finds evidence of a fight all over the house...and Amy is gone. What happened? Where did she go? Was it a kidnapping, or maybe worse? Nick calls the police who immediately go to work trying to find out what exactly happened in the house. Nick maintains his innocence as the investigation builds, stating he had nothing to do with his wife's disappearance. The evidence certainly seems to indicate otherwise. What did happen to Amy?

The trailer immediately caught my attention for this mystery when I stumbled across it in theaters. I remember Flynn's book climbing up the bestsellers list a few years back but had no dying need to read the book. I heard generally good reviews, but the trailer sold it. Here's a mini book review for those curious. Flynn's story is excellent. Once you pick up the style, it's a great read, flying by as the clues reveal themselves and the mystery builds as we figure out what's going on. If you're a fan of the book, you'll like the movie. If you haven't read the book, the movie does an admirable job bringing the story to life.

So the movie? Excellent, director David Fincher doing another gem, directing a daunting story considering its unique style. 'Girl' is 149 minutes long and covers a ton of ground, but it never feels long, slow or even remotely dull. The storytelling technique is interesting, adapting Flynn's technique well. We see the developing story from Nick's perspective while getting some seamlessly transitioned flashbacks as Amy writes in her diary of how she and Nick met and how their relationship developed from dating to their marriage. With Flynn doing the screen adaptation, the story is well-written, well-executed and keeps the mystery building. Is it worth it in the end? It's tough to say without giving too much away. There are several twists dotting the story, one excellent one and some moments meant to confuse and keep you guessing.

Talk about some good casting, but as I read the book, the only people I was aware of what characters they played where Affleck as Nick and Pike as Amy. Affleck is nicely cast as Nick, the smart, funny husband, and Pike is similarly excellent as Amy, basically the perfect wife. Their chemistry is pretty excellent, and the biggest reveals do just that, reveal some truths about their marriage. Also look for Carrie Coon as Go, Nick's twin sister, Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit as the police officers leading the disappearance investigation, David Clennon and Lisa Banes as Amy's parents, Neil Patrick Harris, Emily Ratajkowski and Scoot McNairy as three folks involved in the investigation. Go figure, but the best supporting part -- along with Coon and Dickens -- is Grandma Madea herself, Tyler Perry as Tanner Bolt, a high-profile lawyer brought in as the disappearance develops. Funny, smart, an excellent supporting part for Perry. 

If there's a weakness, it comes in the final act. Reading Flynn's book, I felt like she struggled to come up with a fitting finale. That concern carries over to the film, the story keeping the same conclusion. It isn't a tidy ending -- far from it -- in an open-ended, frustrating quasi-resolution. Still, getting there is highly enjoyable. The look of the movie is stylized but never too much, the cast is excellent across the boards, the tension and mystery works perfectly, and the score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is creepy, understated and ethereal in helping to build the tension. Sorry if this is a short(ish) review. I really don't want to give too much away but know that this is an excellent mystery. Well worth checking out. Sit back and appreciate it, however dark and uncomfortable it gets.

Gone Girl (2014): ***/****


  1. i also gave this three stars. i did think it was much more interesting upon second viewing. all the "stress" of trying to figure where it was going was... gone. i didn't read the book though.

  2. I enjoyed this flick a lot. Maybe not a great movie, but stylish, well-acted and gave me a lot to think about.

  3. Reading the book did take away some of the mystery (obviously). And Groggy, it made me think that marriage is scary!