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‘Gone’ grips tightly

  • 20TH CENTURY FOX
    The film, based on the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn, also stars Rosamund Pike left, as Amy Dunne. Pike also stars in “Hector and the Search for Happiness,” which opens Friday as well.
  • 20TH CENTURY FOX
    Ben Affleck is Nick Dunne, a man who becomes the center of a media frenzy when his wife disappears in “Gone Girl.”
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Twisty and twisted, "Gone Girl" is the anti-date movie. Couples attending it will likely spend the rest of their evening in uneasy consideration of each other, wondering what exactly each is like, and where the sharp edges are in their relationship.

Adapted by Gillian Flynn from her novel of the same name, and directed by David Fincher ("Seven," "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"), "Gone Girl" is set in motion when bar owner Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) discovers that his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) is missing under suspicious and seemingly violent circumstances. Blonde, pretty and white, Amy is just the kind of woman whose disappearance will prompt media enthusiasm. Even more enticing for the news­hounds, she is at once famous and iconic — the inspiration for a series of children’s books her parents wrote.

So the case is not only being investigated by a dogged detective (Kim Dickens), it is nightly fodder for a Nancy Grace-like TV host (Missi Pyle). And the longer the investigations go, and the deeper people dig, the more it seems that the Dunnes’ marriage was less than ideal — and that Nick may have had something to do with Amy’s absence.

That is about as far as I want to go in detailing the plot, which goes on to a couple of surprises (at least for people who have not read the book) and a blast of graphic violence. What you should know, though, is that Fincher and Flynn have created a tension-laden tale, made all the more intense because so many people have things to hide, and so many emotions are being kept in check.

‘GONE GIRL’
Rated: R
* * *
Opens Friday

Indeed, as much as "Gone Girl" is a thriller, it is also a dark comedy about marriage — about what people are willing to do to make their loved ones happy, about the failure to achieve that, and what happens when the failure becomes unbearable. Affleck is especially well cast because he brings the audience’s good will toward him into Nick — yet is also convincing as people begin to wonder if Nick really is what he appears to be.

Carrie Coon serves as an able stand-in for the audience while playing Nick’s sister Margo (nicknamed Go). Whether she is clinging to faith in her brother or struggling to deal with sudden revelations, Go gives the audience even more reason to worry about Nick and the Dunnes’ marriage.

In fact, this movie is well cast generally, whether with Affleck, Coon, Dickens — or Tyler Perry as a slick attorney and Neil Patrick Harris as a figure from Amy’s past.

But the movie really belongs to Pike. Often seen in flashbacks to scenes in her diary, she has to navigate some of the trickiest dramatic turns in the story, and is riveting when she does it. More than once, she makes moments work with slight shifts in expression, changing the light in her eyes to incredible dramatic effect.

All of this adds up to a generally suspenseful movie. It is a bit slow in the early going, but at 21⁄2 hours, still cannot jam in all the moments from the book; fans of the novel will note that some minor characters have been dropped, and events compressed.

But those readers should have the same uneasy feeling at the end that Flynn’s book gave, possibly even more of one. At times the book had to reveal things through narration and dialogue, which are conveyed in the film more crisply — sometimes in just a look.

Review by Rich Heldenfels, Akron Beacon Journal

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