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House of Cards

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Merrick Morton/20th Century Fox

MOVIE REVIEW
Gone Girl (2014)

After failing to inspire warm fuzzies or much Oscar gold with “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “The Social Network,” David Fincher seems to have resigned himself to familiar territory. But his ambition for recognition doesn’t seem to have subsided, as he has attached himself to genre material with a literary pedigree like “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and now “Gone Girl.”

Unlike Mr. Fincher’s other thrillers, “Gone Girl” possesses a naturalistic and placid façade complete with a warm color palette recalling “Benjamin Button.” That means it’s more stylistically subdued than even the more restrained entries from his oeuvre, like “Zodiac.” Those who enjoy his flashlight-laden music-video bravura might be in for a disappointment, but it’s certainly one instance where one can’t accuse him of style over substance.

Since Gillian Flynn here has adapted her own best seller, one can be sure of her faithfulness. Machinations in her plot are a given. But for once, Mr. Fincher actually allows us something to ponder: the elements of perception and performance, both on screen and in our daily lives.

The conventional “happy ending” is the most dreaded and worst possible outcome in Ms. Flynn’s novel — that one shares the “happily ever after” with a sociopath for the sake of keeping up appearances. There must be more to the casting of Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike than meets the eye, but Neil Patrick Harris as a heterosexual obsessive stalker and Tyler Perry as a celebrity defense lawyer truly hammer home that message about performance. Mr. Fincher has elevated Ms. Flynn’s pulp fiction to unexpected profundity, with a “Night of the Living Dead”-like moral about the deadliness of conformity.

GONE GIRL

Opens on Oct. 3.

Directed by David Fincher; written by Gillian Flynn, based on her novel; director of photography, Jeff Cronenweth; edited by Kirk Baxter; music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross; production design by Donald Graham Burt; costumes by Trish Summerville; produced by Arnon Milchan, Joshua Donen, Reese Witherspoon and Cean Chaffin; released by 20th Century Fox. Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes. This film is rated R by M.P.A.A. and 18 by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Ben Affleck (Nick Dunne), Rosamund Pike (Amy Dunne), Neil Patrick Harris (Desi), Tyler Perry (Tanner Bolt), Carrie Coon (Margo Dunne), Kim Dickens (Detective Boney), Patrick Fugit (Detective Jim Gilpin), Emily Ratajkowski (Andie), Missi Pyle (Ellen Abbot), Casey Wilson (Noelle), David Clennon (Rand Elliot), Boyd Holbrook (Jeff), Lola Kirke (Greta) and Lisa Banes (Marybeth Elliot).

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