I really love a well made “who done it” movie, but rare does a movie comes along that tells you not only who done it, but why, and then keeps one-upping itself all the way to the conclusion of the film. You don’t find scripts like this everyday people; trust me, I know.
Based on Gillian Flynn’s best selling novel of the same name (she also adapted the screenplay) and smartly directed by David Fincher, this dynamic and terrifying tale of a husband whose wife goes missing, the media fallout, and the lies and secrets that unravel afterwards, is jaw-dropping and leaves you with a gut-punch at the end.
Told in the present day with flashbacks to the past, we see Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), a successful NYC writer for a men’s magazine who marries a hot young girl named Amy (Rosamund Pike), another successful writer and author of the wildly popular “Amazing Amy” children’s book series. After a few idyllic years, things go financially bad for them both, and they move to a quaint Missouri town so Nick can care for his dying mother, who later succumbs to cancer.
Life spirals down as Nick, now the half-owner of a bar (called “The Bar”) with his twin sister, Margo (Carrie Coon). He has a secret affair with a young girl, his marriage to Amy is coming to blows over money and possible baby issues, but that isn’t the worst. The unthinkable happens one morning when Nick finds Amy has vanished under foul circumstances! Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) is on the case and turns up clues left and right. Circumstantial clues, true, but all the evidence piling up points directly to Nick who, even though he maintains his innocence, is arrested for murdering his wife. Naturally, the media circus descends like locusts and he’s crucified on TV, especially by vicious cable host, Ellen Abbott (think a Nancy Grace clone and played perfectly by Missy Pyle). But, did he do it?
Act two opens with Amy on the road, very much alive, and divulging the meticulous and devious ways to the audience exactly how she framed Nick for “murdering” her. This is one vindictive woman! Holed up in a cheap motel, her plans of dying her hair, gaining weight, and disappearing forever with a bunch of cash seems to be working, until she’s robbed. Uh-oh! Thinking swiftly, she calls upon an ex-stalker of hers, Desi Collins (Neil Patrick Harris) to come rescue her, which he does, but it turns out he’s more of a psychopath than she is! Oops! Not a good thing! After seeing Nick at night on TV and his impassioned confession of infidelity and being a jerk to Amy, she wants to leave, but Desi thinks otherwise.
Meanwhile, Nick hires a snarky super-lawyer named Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) to defend him. Things look bleak when Amy’s journal, with the words, “Nick is going to kill me”, is brought forth. Then, in a twisty third act that ups the ante, Amy returns home, drenched in blood, and spouting a incredible tale of kidnapping, escape, and rape! What happens after that just keeps getting better and better (depending on your point of view), and the finale leaves you with a sickening feeling in your stomach. The audience I was with actually gasped at the end!
Honestly, I didn’t see this one coming, in a movie that comes right out and shows you everything, unlike a Mamet or Hitchcockian puzzler. You KNOW who done it and why; it’s why they did it and how they carried it out, that’s the kicker. David Fincher (Seven, The Social Network) knows his stuff here with his effortless direction, but it’s Affleck and Pike that really sell this movie. Pike is beautiful, creepy, lovely, and frightening while Affleck is at his best here as a man so beset by angst he can hardly breathe.
And then there’s Tyler Perry who gives the film its comic relief. Thank you, Tyler!
How To Murder Your Wife (1965)
Okay, this is a comedy. . . fooled ya! The great Jack Lemmon stars in this wild farce about a successful syndicated comic strip writer who, while drunk at a friends bachelor party, accidentally gets married to a beautiful striptease girl. Who’s also Italian. And speaks no English.
But Ford is miserable. Yes, his wife’s learning English, and drop-dead beautiful, and can cook like a master chef, and is sexually incredible, but he’s not happy. So, he decides to kill her! Well, not really HIM, Bash will kill her. . . in the comic strip! In an elaborate plot (with his old valet), they concoct the perfect murder of Bash’s wife in the strip that parallel’s Ford’s wife in real life. Sure, it’s all a ruse, but Mrs. Ford reads the strip, gets the message, and leaves Stanley for good.
But now with Stanley’s wife missing and the comic strip as circumstantial evidence, he’s arrested for murder! The trial is a riot as Ford, as well as all of manhood, is put on trial with Stanley giving an hysterical and outrageously impassioned plea for all men to BE men, even if they’re married!
The finale, although forced and tacked on, doesn’t quite match the overall lunacy as the rest of the movie, but just ignore that and enjoy the other 98% of this terrific film. P.S. The comic strip Bash Brannigan in the movie was drawn by Mel Keefer, who drew the old Perry Mason comic strip.