Movie review: Why "Gone Girl" is my pick for worst film of the year

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

For me to drop a one-star review on a movie, it has to be more than just bad. It has to be a massive disappointment. It has to be a huge waste of potential from talents who know better - which all but guarantees a minimum 1 1/2-star rating for Adam Sandler films. Welcome to my one-star review of David Fincher's "Gone Girl."

Based on a wildly popular novel and adapted by a director who seems perfectly suited for the material, I may be a lone voice in the wilderness crying foul on this movie. I'm OK with that.

As we are introduced to the central couple of the film, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) stares at his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) as he muses on the central questions of their five years of marriage. "What are you thinking? How are you feeling," he wonders. "What have we done to each other?"

That question resonates when Amy disappears from the couple's Missouri home. As details of their fading marriage rise to the surface, so does the possibility that Nick is responsible.

We see the earlier courtship of the two writers as a couple so cute, you want to punch them in the face. "We're so cute," Amy says, "I want to punch us in the face."

But, of course, this idyllic union is not what it seems. I mean, duh.

As much as I hated this movie, I am not a spoiler of plot, so I will just say that there are layers of twists and misdirections as one expects in such a mystery.

Author Gillian Flynn adapted her novel for the screen, which is the first red flag for me. Books don't always make great screenplays, and novelists don't always make great screenwriters, especially if they fall too much in love with how their prose look on a page.

That stirring "What have we done to each other?" speech and the creeping tones of another fantastic Fincher score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross set my expectations off on a high note, but the cloying dialogue quickly sent things into trashy beach read territory. And Fincher never rights that ship.

There's some dark humor. There's some commentary on the media feeding frenzy around high-profile domestic violence cases. But ultimately "Gone Girl" just plays like the biggest Lifetime Movie of the Week ever.

Even some of the most positive critical reviews theorize that Fincher isn't making a bad, trashy film; he satirizing them. Well, if you throw in a layer of satire that fails to be clear satire, that's just another layer of failure.

To answer the inevitable question, no, I have not read Flynn's novel. All of my problems with the film could very well be erased for those who already know everything they expect to see onscreen. If that's the case, I still say the film fails to do its job as a film.

Fincher has dealt with some big cinematic twists and reveals before ("Fight Club," "Seven," etc.). "Gone Girl" doesn't work with clever misdirection. It just lies to the audience, then treats unraveling those lies as a twist. I expect that from "CSI." I don't expect that from Oscar contenders. What I don't know is who deserves more blame for that: Fincher or Flynn.

I'm sure this will be a star-making performance by Pike, and I'm also sure I'll like her much better in whatever she does next. Affleck tends to deliver in one note or another, depending on which point in the narrative we are. The performance is more schizophrenic than Tyler Durden (and less believable).

Additional "stunt casting" deepens the mystery of whether or not Fincher thinks this is satire. The inclusion of Neil Patrick Harris (emoting like he's on a Broadway stage), Tyler Perry (a rare onscreen sight outside of his own films) and Emily Ratajkowski (best known as the topless star of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" video) seem like wild distractions in a story that seems to take itself painfully seriously.

I can't discuss what I perceived to be a deep thread of misogyny without giving away plot points I promised not to, but you should feel free to have that discussion after you see "Gone Girl." Because, who are we kidding, you're going to see "Gone Girl."

Still, I'll go on record saying this: Factoring in the high potential, "Gone Girl" is the worst film I've seen this year. It's the worst film of David Fincher's career. It may be the worst film of Ben Affleck's career. And, yes, I'm counting "Gigli."

"Gone Girl"

1 star out of 4