Thursday 6 January 2022

IMDb Top 250 Catchup #1: Gone Girl (2014)

Director: David Fincher
Writer: Gillian Flynn, based on her novel
Stars: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike and Neil Patrick Harris

I've paid attention to the IMDb Top 250 Movies for a long time. In fact, at one point, I was reviewing my way through the entire list for a book, or a series of them, which never panned out. After all, it's a fluid target and it's becoming a little less valuable to me over time, as I'm discovering through my annual New Years Day tradition of grabbing a fresh copy of the list and giving it some basic analysis. Here's this year's list.

That said, if a film makes it into the IMDb Top 250, it ought to be damn good and that means that, as a film fan, I ought to pay attention. Whether there are better lists out there now doesn't matter. So, as I've only rated 172 of the 250 films in this list, I really should watch the rest. Now, I have seen a bunch of them before, but not since 2004 when I started documenting my ratings.

So, given that it's streaming on Netflix, here's a quick look at the first of my missing 78, which is Gone Girl (2014).

Its credentials are good. It's a David Fincher movie, for a start and I'm a huge fan of his film Se7en, which is much higher up the list, at #21 right now. I like Fight Club too, which is even higher, currently at #11, even if I have trouble with it for no better reason than Helena Bonham Carter's character in it being almost exactly the opposite of my dream girl in every way. Gone Girl also has a screenplay written by the author of the book it's based on, in this case Gillian Flynn, and while that isn't a common practice in Hollywood for good reasons, I tend to like the films that adopt it because they're always truest to their source material. I also noticed that the score was by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and his frequent soundtrack collaborator, Atticus Ross.

On the acting front, the cast is a surprising one that doesn't attract me as much. Ben Affleck has what appears to be the lead and, while he's clearly a capable actor, I've never been a huge fan. Rosamund Pike is the female lead and I haven't seen her in much, probably nothing since Doom, The Libertine and her big screen debut, Die Another Day. Backing them up is Neil Patrick Harris, known primarily nowadays for his comedy. What I found is that Harris is strong in his supporting slot, which is very much not comedic, and Affleck is decent too, albeit annoyingly lackadaisical for good reason, but Pike absolutely steals the show with her performance. She's the most award-worthy aspect to the film.

The latter two are Nick and Amy Dunne, who initially appear to be a blissfully happy couple but really aren't, with deep divisions that the film explores in ways beyond what you might expect. This definitely goes to places beyond what we might expect and that's what it does best. I can see how that could be interpreted negatively in this era because it perpetuates a stereotype that's unfair but it does so really, really well. Long story short, Amy goes missing and Nick becomes an increasingly strong suspect in her disappearance, as we gradually realise that there's a lot more going on than initially meets the eye.

I enjoyed how it all develops, but don't buy into it being a Top 250 movie, at least not yet. I think this is a movie that has to be seen blind without any spoilers, but then watched again a year or so later once you know exactly what's going to happen. Both the other Fincher films in the Top 250 would seem to rely on vicious twists but, perhaps unexpectedly, work just as well when we know what they are, almost better even because of the anticipation factor. Those films are so well structured that we focus more and more on details while letting the inevitable flow sweep over us. It's too soon for me to know if that applies to Gone Girl because I've only seen it once. Maybe I'll revisit its worthiness in this list once I've seen it again.

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