David Fincher isn't a comedy director by trade, but his work has a wicked sense of humor. The violent psyches of “Fight Club,” the plentiful frustration in “Zodiac” and Jesse Eisenberg's love him/hate him work as Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network” were dramatic explorations tinged with comedy. Though the trailer for his latest, “Gone Girl,” sets up a haunting thriller crafted with Fincher's meticulous style, recent comments from the director warn audiences to brace themselves: This could be his “funniest” movie yet.
In an excerpt from an upcoming Film Comment interview, Fincher teases his approach to rejiggering author Gillian Flynn's non-linear bestseller into a thriller with satirical bite:
“You have to choose which aspect you want to make a movie from. Most interesting to me was the idea of our collective narcissism as it relates to coupling, or who we show to our would-be mates and who they show to us. It”s the most absurdly honest part of the book and the newest thing in terms of what it illuminates about marriage and what may or not be going on behind closed doors.”
For Fincher, Ben Affleck brought necessary baggage to his character, Nick Dunn, a husband swallowed up by media frenzy in the wake of murder accusations. This is the actor who survived the “Bennifer” years only to bounce back as a director with “Gone Baby Gone,” “The Town,” and Oscar-winner “Argo.” Affleck knew public scrutiny – and was happy to relive it as a Hitchcockian man-under-pressure lead. As Fincher puts it:
“When I first met with him, I said this is about a guy who gets his nuts in a vise in reel one and then the movie continues to tighten that vise for the next eight reels. […] Actors don”t like to be made the brunt of the joke. They go into acting to avoid that. Unlike comics, who are used to going face first into the ground. Nick is someone who has skated by on charm and has that as a deflection mechanism.”
It's when Fincher mentions “That”s Not Funny, That”s Sick,” National Lampoon's raucous, 1977 sketch comedy album, that the “Gone Girl” we see in marketing blurs into a twisted genre-bending exercise. Flynn, who also penned the screenplay for the adaptation, is on record dreaming that the movie will shake up couples and lead to inevitable break-ups. Fincher namedropping National Lampoon's weaponized humor promises the same kind of button pushing. “That”s kind of the tone of the movie,” he says in regard to the legendary album. “If we play it too earnest and sincere, then it”s tragedy, but if we go with the absurdity of it, I think it can walk a satirical line.”
“Gone Girl” hits theaters on Oct. 3.