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Affleck shines in hypnotic ‘Gone Girl’

What are you thinking?

It’s the age-old question we’ve been posing our entire lives, both to ourselves and to others.

Gone Girl
Rating: R
Running time: 149 min.
Stars: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike

And it’s same question coursing through the pulpy veins of David Fincher’s latest film, a galvanizing portrait of defective love that twists, turns, and unfurls until you don’t know what to think anymore.

Adapting from Gillian Flynn’s best-selling novel, Gone Girl begins with the disappearance of Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike), a children’s novelist, Ivy league graduate, and seemingly normal wife to her midwestern husband, Nick (Ben Affleck).

In the wake of Amy’s absence, the Missouri police launch a statewide search. Naturally, Nick is brought into questioning and inevitably tasked with assuring locals (and the rabid media that have spun this story) that he had absolutely zero involvement with her leave of presence.

But as Affleck is painfully aware of from his own personal life, telling someone that you’re innocent doesn’t make it so.

As a result, Nick must defend himself to the public. In most thrillers the looming opposition is the police, and the prospect of jail time. Not here.

Nick is up against the Nancy Drews of America, the sensationalized talk shows that play judge, jury, and executioner for their inexplicably loyal viewerships ready to pounce the moment they smell a wrongdoing.

Fincher’s pointed attack on the press is clever and damning, examining how quickly the narrative changes from day to day. One second Nick is the most “hated man in America,” the next he’s an empathetic widower who just wants his missing wife back.

Unfortunately, to proceed any further with plot description would be to ruin the unpredictability of the movie. Like a classic Hitchcock thriller, Fincher is a brilliant puppeteer, pulling at the various strings to perplex, intrigue, and entice his audience.

Moreover, the film consistently veers clear of obfuscation. Even some of the more lurid subplots of Gone Girl don’t feel as if they’re coming out of left field. They’re shocking and jarring, yes — but still organic to the story on screen, always leaving us wanting more.

Much of the credit has to be given to Affleck and Pike, both of whom seamlessly assume their characters no matter the place and time. The movie often jumps around in their relationship, exploring the past as it pertains to the present.

In turn, the performers are tasked with conveying a sundry of emotions at various times in their romance. For most, the non-linearity of this narrative, in addition to Fincher’s notoriously rigorous style of directing, may appears as a challenge.

If it was an arduous undertaking for Affleck and Pike, it certainly doesn’t show. Nick and Amy aptly represent the modern marriage, replete with dysfunction, uncertainty, and an insatiable longing for what was.

We’re shown the humble beginnings that joyously blossom into an exciting new love — passionate, intimate, vulnerable, exciting. Then we’re shown the aftermath.

Soon, the passion and appetite Nick and Amy once had a seemingly infinite supply of fades. It doesn’t always, but it often does.

It’s here that Gone Girl comes full circle, with its central question (What are you thinking?) bookending Fincher’s glum depiction of love. For 149 minutes, characters attempt to wrap their heads around what Nick and Amy are (and were) thinking.

But the film dives deeper than that — it’s not just about the alleged violence carried out in the heat of the moment, or the meticulous planning that accompanies a heinous crime. Instead, the movie expands its vexing inquiry to something more relatable than kidnapping or murder: What draws us together and what breaks us apart?

The two events occur so swiftly and frequently in our lives that you’d hope someone (or some piece of art) could offer up a reasonable explanation. But perhaps this is something that transcends logic or a reasonable explanation. The answer, I suspect, will forever elude us.

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  1. Hmm, if you mean by the old age question “What are you thinking?” is really “Will he or she sleep with me?” I may agree with you.

    Also, Amy Dunne wasn’t a children’s novelist, she was a magazine writer. Dunne’s parents were the children’s novelists.

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