David Fincher's bitter, would-be decadent mystery Gone Girl is taken from a too-schematic script by author Gillian Flynn. It contains a bounty of gnarly warring between the sexes—Fincher makes sex a cold, mean thing people do to each other. But it's more interesting when it touches on something more sensitive than sex: money. Set in the Midwest, the film peers over the cliff-steep divide between indebted haves and the wraith-like homeless have-nots. The poor folk are photographed as if they were zombs. Gone Girl's sourest turn may be the way a formerly trust-funded wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) collides with a working class lady hanging out at an Ozarks cabin resort.
Amy, a super-achiever from New York, has been reduced to backwater idleness in a Missouri mini-mansion. She's supposed to be a genius, but mostly what she does is write verses for little birthday scavenger hunts. She vanishes, and her husband Nick—the ever-bored Ben Affleck—may have killed her. Police detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens, the movie's highlight) thinks so. So does the deceased's wealthy, creepy ex-boyfriend (Neil Patrick Harris, who detects the odor of cheese in this script and goes full-on ratty). So, also, do a pack of vengeful afternoon TV hosts: Missi Pyle is amusing as the loudest of them all, a countrified Valkyrie.
As they say of a football player after a losing game, Pike gave 100 percent, in bloodbath and cold-blooded social scenes alike. There are moments where the horror goes appropriately outsized, as when Amy is stuck, penniless, at a truck stop. The diesel behemoths seem to be roaring back-up vocals to Trent Reznor's buzz, howl, ticky and scratchy soundtrack. But as the least Missouri-like Missourian ever, Affleck's deadfaced cool is pure concrete. His limits have never been more obvious. Fincher can't find a way to wield this A-list, movie-star shaped object.
'Gone Girl' is playing in wide release.