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Article by Teddy Durgin

The twist is only the beginning in Gone Girl

Among my weaknesses as a film reviewer are movies that center around bad marriages. I just can't relate, folks. That's not me tooting my horn or playing up to the Mrs. because I know she reads my every word looking for any mention of herself. I just love my wife, I love being married and I don't want my life any other way. I think one of the reasons Bonnie and I work so well is that we didn't get married until we were in our 30s. So, we had lived a lot of life before then. I had many writing adventures. I spent four years covering movie press junkets in New York and Hollywood, I had worked red carpets, and so forth. As an actress, Bon did a couple of national stage tours. She had a recurring role on NBC's "Homicide: Life on the Street," appeared in a couple of movies and co-owned a small theater company in Manhattan. I didn't become Roger Ebert and she didn't become Renee Zellweger. But we aimed high, and we got a lot closer to our lofty goals than if we aimed low. Basically, we were ready to nest, ready to settle down, ready to move forward together. Not so with writers Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike), the two main characters in director David Fincher's terrific adaptation of "Gone Girl." Oh, in flashbacks, you see them gooey in love starting with their meet-cute at a Big Apple social event to their engagement at another Gotham soirée. She had her trust fund, he had his charm and stunning good looks. Together, they were like a daytime drama super couple. But drama eventually came to this pair. Nick never did establish himself as a writer. Amy never did move out of her famous mother's shadow. Nick's mom then took ill, he lost his writing gig at a men's magazine and the once-happy couple were forced to move back to Nick's small Missouri hometown. As the film opens, Nick comes home to find his living room ransacked and Amy missing. He calls the police, and Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and her partner immediately put him under suspicion. The case snowballs from there on Nick, as Amy's disappearance becomes a national scandal due to her mother being the author of a series of popular "Amazing Amy" children's books based on Amy. This is only the first part of the film. As readers of Gillian Flynn's best-selling novel can attest, there is a major twist that happens near the story's halfway mark that changes the dynamics of pretty much everything that came before and everything that comes after. I had remained spoiler free going into this. Did I guess the twist? Yes. Did it matter? No. Because this isn't a movie like Fincher's "Seven" where the whole flick is about setting up that final plot reveal. All of the really good stuff in this flick happens AFTER the major plot turn. Affleck has never been better in a movie before. I loved that he embraces how unlikable Nick is. The guy has charm. But it's that thin line between charm and smarm. It's clear he was a poor husband and an unaccomplished writer. We see him tell small lies with ease. There is even a flashback moment where he gets physical with Amy. But is he a killer? Pike, meanwhile, turns out to be an inspired choice as Amy, delivering a performance that is totally at the service of plot here, but shining, nonetheless. Fincher has become quite the maestro at delivering cold, calculating, absorbing films centered around people that are not entirely likable. Everything from "Seven" to "The Social Network" to "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" features characters that have turned almost grotesquely inward and are thrust into extraordinary circumstances where their oddities are brought to the surface, then magnified. His latest film works on almost every level (my only quibble is with the distracting casting of Neil Patrick Harris in a role that should have gone to more of a character actor), and is absolutely the first must-see of the fall. "Gone Girl" is rated R for a scene of bloody violence, strong sexuality and nudity, and language.


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