Who's Worth Your Trust In Fincher's Moody, Atmospheric 'Gone Girl'? NPR's Bob Mondello says David Fincher's screen adaptation of the marriage-in-trouble thriller Gone Girl offers all the twists and jolts of the original novel, but gets a little pulpy toward the end.
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Who's Worth Your Trust In Fincher's Moody, Atmospheric 'Gone Girl'?

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Who's Worth Your Trust In Fincher's Moody, Atmospheric 'Gone Girl'?

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Movie Reviews

Who's Worth Your Trust In Fincher's Moody, Atmospheric 'Gone Girl'?

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The new movie thriller "Gone Girl" is based on a two-year-old novel that sold more than 6 million copies before it even came out in paperback. So a lot of fans already know "Gone Girl's" twists and turns. But don't worry - no spoilers here. We've asked our film critic Bob Mondello to be especially circumspect in his review.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Even if you haven't read the book, you may have heard that "Gone Girl's" story of a wife who abruptly goes missing, has an unreliable narrator. But in a movie, who would that be exactly? Ben Affleck's Nick - a self-styled, corn-fed, salt-of-the-earth Missouri boy? Or Rosamund Pike's Amy, his classy East Coast wife, whose youth inspired a series of "Amazing Amy" children's books? One thing's for sure - when they meet cute at a New York party - a happy event as it's recounted in a flashback - they appear both well-matched and playful.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GONE GIRL")

BEN AFFLECK: (As Nick Dunne) Well, Amy, who are you?

ROSAMUND PIKE: (As Amy Elliot-Dunne) A - I'm an award-winning Scrimshawers. B - I'm a moderately influential warlord. C - I write personality quizzes for magazines.

AFFLECK: (As Nick Dunne) OK. Well, your hands are far too delicate for real Scrimshaw work, and I happen to be a charter subscriber to Medley Warlord Weekly, so I'd recognize you. I'm going to go with C.

PIKE: (As Amy Elliot-Dunne) And you - who are you?

AFFLECK: (As Nick Dunne) I'm the guy to save you from all this awesomeness.

MONDELLO: Who could resist, right? But those who are you questions will be ones that haunt the rest of the picture. This flashback is from the day of Nick and Amy's fifth wedding anniversary, a day on which we watch a clearly unhappy Nick return home from an early morning scotch at the pub he owns to find evidence of a struggle, broken glass and no sign of his wife. The police are stumped. And when Nick and his wife's parents appeal to the media to help find Amy, the story erupts into a tabloid sensation.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GONE GIRL")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #1: Where's your wife, Nick?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #2: The hallmark of a sociopath is a lack of empathy.

MONDELLO: And that, though we're still in the film's earliest stages, is all the plot I should divulge. Allow me, though, a quick note on structure. The film, like the novel - because both were written by Gillian Flynn - tells the story in alternating bursts of narrative. Nick's version of events surfaces as he deals with reporters and cops.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GONE GIRL")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #3: Does Amy got friends we can talk to?

AFFLECK: (As Nick Dunne) None, really.

MONDELLO: Amy's version is taken from entries in a diary that's discovered after she disappears.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GONE GIRL")

PIKE: (As Amy Elliot-Dunne) I will practice believing my husband loves me. But I could be wrong.

MONDELLO: Their stories are increasingly in conflict. And because Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike are unnervingly good at keeping you guessing about which of them you can trust, your allegiances will shift. The film will almost certainly raise hackles in some quarters over issues that track closely with recent headlines and that I can't even bring up without being accused of giving the game away.

But I can point you to a nifty discussion of those issues. NPR's pop-culture blogger, Linda Holmes, has written two entirely separate and separately clever pieces on NPR.org - one for folks who want to be surprised by the movie and one for folks who've read the book and want to dive in deeper.

I'm going to have to stay in the shallow end but I can say that David Fincher's direction delivers jolts that'll have audiences squealing but also lets you identify with characters one moment and wish you hadn't the next. His moody atmospheric work struck me as more intriguing early on when its showing how social forces can put pressure on a marriage than it did later when he gets deep in the weeds of Nick and Amy's marriage.

But that may just be because I like Fincher when he's pulling universals out of specifics, not the other way around. By the end of "Gone Girl," things have gotten so plot-driven and pulpy, there is nothing to challenge him or make him stretch very much. And he seems to be relying entirely on craft. But boy is it effective - craft. I'm Bob Mondello.

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