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 David Fincher's Gone Girl

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Donald McKinney
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PostSubject: David Fincher's Gone Girl   Wed Oct 29, 2014 1:30 am

Gone Girl was published in 2012 by former Entertainment Weekly writer Gillian Flynn, who had previously written two novels,†Sharp Objects and Dark Places, before Gone Girl. With Gone Girl, Flynn wanted to explore the long term effects that marriage can have on people. Show that how it can seem like a happy facade on top, underneath, it's not always a happy picture. What made the novel interesting was that it was literally a tale of two halves, both told by very unreliable narrators, the married couple at the centre of the story. As soon as it was published, it became an instant literary hit and it was only a matter of time before Hollywood came calling. It was optioned by Reese Witherspoon, who saw immediate potential in the non-linear structure of the book. Flynn immediately accepted, but insisted she write the film adaptation herself. Before long, the book landed on the desk of David Fincher, who had just found a new lease of fame with the U.S. TV adaptation of House of Cards, but cinema-wise, had hit a stumbling block. The two sequels to†The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) had stalled while Sony tried to make them cost effective. An adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea that Fincher was to direct for Walt Disney had also stalled because Disney balked at the potentially high budget, and the fact it was going to be A David Fincher Film, not a Disney film. Fincher saw immediate potential in Flynn's book, it had darkness, mystery, suspense and tortured characters, something he had dealt with a lot thoughout his career. As it stands, Gone Girl is a very faithful adaptation of a very good and very deceptive book, and it plays to Fincher's strength's and he gets the very best out of his cast.

Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and Amy Elliott (Rosamund Pike) first met in 2005, and they married 2 years later. They originally lived in New York City, but then the recession hit, and Nick and Amy have lost their jobs as a result. So they move out to Nick's hometown of North Carthage, Missouri, just so they can be close to Nick's dying mother Maureen (Cyd Strittmatter), and his father Bill (Leonard Kelly-Young) has become aggressively senile. They continue their marriage, although Amy struggles to settle to life in North Carthage. Then, on the day of their 5th Wedding Anniversary on July 5th 2012, Nick comes home to find Amy has vanished, with an overturned table as proof that something happened. Nick calls the police and†Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens)†and†Officer James Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) investigate what could have happened. They find specks of blood around the kitchen, and a clue in an envelope, which is something Amy does every anniversary as part of a treasure hunt for Nick. Before long, Amy's disappearance becomes a heavy news story, but Nick is struggling to keep calm under pressure, his behaviour is deemed as†sociopathic. It's not long before Nick becomes prime suspect, although they haven't found a body. Nick believes Amy has set him up, something his twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon) also believes, and he hires top defence lawyer Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) to fight his corner. But, Nick isn't a saint, he's had an affair with student†Andie Fitzgerald (Emily Ratajkowski), and Amy's former boyfriend Desi Collings (Neil Patrick Harris) turns up, and what has happened to Amy?

It's a very deceptive film, and impossible to describe as there's a minefield of spoilers abound. But it's a very well structured film, like the book. It starts in the middle, and it tells two stories, going concurrently. It's a look on what goes on behind the closed doors on a seemingly perfect marriage. When out in public, Nick and Amy are keeping up appearances and putting on brave faces, but it's a different story in private. Fincher tells a very twisty story, but it's very faithful to the book, and Fincher uses the film to have a go at the way the media manipulates a breaking news story, and make potentially heroes and villains when they have absolutely no idea of what's really going on, and how when everything chances, the news media can change their tune quickly and how they quickly change or take sides. Non more so than two TV hosts portrayed in the film.†Missi Pyle's Ellen Abbott seems to take sides quickly, maybe at the behest of her bosses, while†Sharon Schieber (Sela Ward) is more diplomatic and free-thinking. The film also touches on dishonesty in marriages, even between the man and wife, and how neither one can see what's going on in one another's minds, and what they're really thinking and planning. It's a film which requires full attention, and in some cases, maybe a second viewing.

As well as the tight and focused direction by Fincher and the clever script by Flynn. Fincher brings a lot of his usual team in to bring the book to life. Beginning with cinematographer†Jeff Cronenweth, (who worked with Fincher on Fight Club (1999), The Social Network (2010) and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)), it's filmed digitally, and despite the darkness and some shocking moments of violence on screen, actually has a warm yet sharp look on screen. The music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, their third collaboration with Fincher, carries on the dark tradition. There are moments hen the music is actually quite horrific, and it adds to the mood as well, but this is a soundtrack that has some memorable cues, especially during one moment of nasty violence. The film has some nicely precise production design by†Donald Graham Burt, who won an Oscar for designing Fincher's fable The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), the design of the house looks almost sterile and clinical, and that's the point. Nothing is what it seems, everything looks a bit too perfect, even an ultra-modern lakeside house in the last third of the film has an unsettling feel about it. There's something not right about the look of North Carthage, but that's the point of the film, to make us feel at unease.

Gone Girl is also blessed by having a brilliant case, and who would have guessed it, Fincher manages to get a career best performance from Ben Affleck. His Nick is a dark horse, always seeming like the perfect husband, but showing a dark side behind closed doors, then suddenly bemused and vunerable when his wife vanishes. Many people had written Affleck off as an actor a decade ago, but he's in the process of reinventing himself, being a lot more careful in selecting good roles, and having directed films like The Town (2010) and Argo (2012) has helped him mature too, it's safe to say Affleck is having a†McConaissance of his own. But the film belongs to Rosamund Pike as Amy, who is†a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. She seems to have a hidden agenda all of her own, but... oh, that would be telling! Pike's Amy might look like a sensitive, loving wife with a knack for puzzles on the outside, but there's something you don't know, and you'll have to see the film, but Pike relishes in the part, and she's clearly having the time of her life in this part. There's some good support throughout the film, Dickens and Fugit play the bewildered detectives well who initially suspect Nick, while†Neil Patrick Harris shows a very different side in this film, something a world away from what audiences will know him for in†How I Met Your Mother, but that would be telling. Tyler Perry, best known to American's for playing†Madea, adds a friendly yet intelligent quality as lawyer†Tanner Bolt, who is one of the few people who stand up for Nick, as does Nick's twin sister Margo, played with a simmering rage by†Carrie Coon, whose career will go far on the basis of her performance here.



It's always good to have a new film from Fincher, and Gone Girl, while not his best film, is a brilliant adaptation. Fincher and Flynn have obviously enjoyed working on this, as Fincher has hired Flynn to write his American adaptation of Channel 4's Utopia, which if it's anything as good as this, you know it will be something to get excited about. Fincher films his actors and the scenes to within an inch of their lives, sometimes going full Kubrick, and going for nearly 50 takes on certain shots. But, Fincher knows what he wants, this is a director who has never made a bad film, even his flawed and compromised debut with†Alien≥ (1992) has a lot to admire about it, and it set up his dark and gloomy style, some of which is used here, including one shocking scene of violence which is almost unwatchable yet operatic in it's execution, literally. But Gone Girl makes for a refreshingly tense and mysterious thriller which has a lot of twists along the way, and is well made. It's no surprise that it's become one of Fincher's biggest financial hits to date, as he adapted the book while it was still at the height of it's fame, and struck while the iron was hot, and it's perfect material for him. While it's almost epic running time might test the patience of some, it's always good to spend a couple of hours and a bit in the company of Fincher, and it's always good to see him tackling the dark side of human nature, like serial killers in Se7en (1995) and Zodiac (2007), tortured souls in Fight Club (1999) and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011) and self-centred people in The Game (1997) and The Social Network (2010). Here, he explores another dark human trait, marriage and the little secrets couples keep from one another.
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