That subversive grin smeared across Ben Affleck’s face has been plastered all over television and social media for weeks now as “Gone Girl,” the David Fincher adaptation of the best-selling Gillian Flynn novel, hit theaters at the beginning of the month.
It’s a smart marketing ploy and an ingenious casting choice by Fincher to center his film around Affleck, whose natural charm mixed with the public’s general disdain for anything he’s been involved in before “Gone Baby Gone” make him the ideal guy you’re supposed to hate in a film where Affleck’s character is believed to be involved in the disappearance of his wife.
Fincher has often made smart casting choices that underlie the nature of the character by using public perception of the actor in his favor, most notably Justin Timberlake as Napster founder Sean Parker in “The Social Network.”
But it’s not Affleck’s terrific performance that stands out in “Gone Girl.” He is very good to be sure, but the shadowing presence of Rosamund Pike as his wife is transformative in a way that few actresses have been able to accomplish.
Seen through voiceovers and flashback sequences for much of the film, Pike gives weight to the titular ‘gone girl’ Amy in a way that draws the viewer in without becoming too overbearing. The performance, played on a razor’s edge, is a delicate balance between naivety and awareness as the tension mounts between two lovers falling out of love.
Typical of a David Fincher film, “Gone Girl” is eloquent in its cinematography from the opening sequence of Affleck getting the morning paper on his front lawn to all the psychological tension that evokes his classic “Se7en” and the recent hit “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.”
It’s unfortunate that quite possibly the best film to be released in 2014 will walk away with zero Academy Award wins and only a few nominations, but that’s certainly an easy assumption given voter history in recent years to avoid commercially-successful films.
Both leads — Pike, especially — are worthy of significant consideration and lead a talented supporting cast that includes brilliant performances by Neil Patrick Harris as an obsessed former lover and Tyler Perry as a pitch-perfect criminal defense attorney.
“Gone Girl” is the best film, bar none, to be released thus far in 2014 and there are few contenders that will be able the 149-minute thrill ride.