A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gone Girl -- David Fincher's dark but engrossing psychological thriller based on Gillian Flynn's best-selling 2012 novel -- centers on flawed, disturbing characters (played by Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, among others). The subject matter is as grim as it gets -- abduction, infidelity, murder, betrayal -- making it iffy for all but the oldest teens and adults, who can better process the story's complicated and often violent twists and turns. Expect plenty of swearing ("f--k," "c--t," and more), fairly graphic sex scenes (including a female character's bare breasts and a couple naked together in the shower, with the man's genitals glimpsed), some drinking, and one particularly gory scene involving a box cutter.
What's the story?
On the day of his fifth wedding anniversary, bar owner Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) faces a new world order: His wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), has gone missing, their coffee table smashed to pieces. Cops descend upon the Dunnes' Missouri subdivision to help find her, but soon all eyes are trained on Nick, who hasn't exactly been a model husband. But Amy hasn't always been the perfect wife, either. Nick has his sister Margo (Carrie Coon) on his side and soon enlists a lawyer (Tyler Perry) famous for defending the indefensible. Everyone -- including Nick, who's desperate to clear his name -- wants to know: Where is Amy?
Is it any good?
Director David Fincher's steady hand effortlessly guides GONE GIRL's transition from noir-ish page-turner to psychological thriller. It's a creepy, unsettling ride, testing audiences' loyalties and freaking them out a little, too, as they teeter to and fro. The book makes better work of asking salient questions about the nature of relationships; the movie amps up the source material's more tabloid-y side. It's violent, yes, but judiciously so, except for one scene that pushes boundaries -- perhaps so viewers can feel the impact, in full gruesomeness, of what humans are capable of, even if they don't appear to be.
In any case, we're riveted -- and not just because the framing and pacing and pretty much everything else about the movie are top-notch (except for the last 10 minutes, which feel tacked on), but because the leads are so compelling. Critics have long grumbled about Affleck's impenetrability. No matter who he's playing, we don't quite fully know what he's all about. But here he's totally present, and we sense his panic and confusion, anger and derision. It's quite a cocktail. But really, this is Pike's movie; in less able hands, the role of Amy, not to mention the scenery, would have been chewed to bits. Pike is precise, engaging, and perplexing. Even if you've already read the book, the film still holds your gaze.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Gone Girl's violence. How does it compare to what you've seen in other thrillers and/or horror movies? Does the one particularly gory/bloody scene have more impact because it's different from the rest of the movie? Why or why not?
What role does sex play in the story? How is it entangled with violence? What message does that send?
Are any of the characters admirable? Are they intended to be? Who are we meant to root for/sympathize with?
If you've read Flynn's novel, what do you think of this as an adaptation? Is it faithful to the original story? If not, do the changes serve the film?
- In theaters: October 3, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: January 13, 2015
- Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris
- Director: David Fincher
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
- Genre: Thriller
- Topics: Book characters
- Run time: 145 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language
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