​Edelstein on "Gone Girl": Elegantly wicked

It's a new season at the movies, and critic David Edelstein has seen one of Fall's most anticipated films:

Fall movie season arrives with "Gone Girl," an elegantly wicked mystery, a triumph on its own sick terms -- but what can I tell you about those terms without "spoiling" it?

The problem is, to get at what it's about, you need to engage with it on a deeper level than, "It stars Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, a guy whose wife, Amy, played by Rosamund Pike, disappears in a way that suggests she was murdered -- maybe, the police think, by him . . . "

But that's just Mile One in the psycho marathon.

If you've read Gillian Flynn's bestseller, you know the blind alleys and hairpin turns, but I'm going to assume you haven't -- with a nudge-nudge to people who have.

Let's start with director David Fincher. His breakthrough film, "Seven," suggests he's not a man with a hopeful view of human nature. His frames are beautifully lighted and composed, but underneath is rot, moral or physical (or both).

The thing to hang onto in his films is, truth is rarely glimpsed. Surfaces lie.

So here are Affleck and Pike. "Gone Girl" weaves Nick's descent into public infamy with excerpts from a diary kept by Amy, shown in flashbacks.

Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in a flashback scene from "Gone Girl." 20th Century Fox

I've had problems with Affleck as an actor -- even when he tries to seem engaged, he has this handsome-lug lack of commitment. That's what Fincher homes in on -- his evasiveness, his difficulty looking like he cares about what he says.

Pike, meanwhile, is exquisite -- yet in those flashbacks she looks like an aristocratic doll. Is she for real, or does her glassy mask conceal a woman desperately grasping for a sense of control?

Both actors are terrific, and Fincher sets them down in a McMansion that's like purgatory in beige.

There are turns in "Gone Girl" that make me wonder if, though written by a woman, it isn't one of the most misogynous things I've ever seen. But that's for you to consider, after you've picked your jaw up off the floor.

It's a hell of a film.

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