This past weekend, “Gone Girl” took the top spot at the box officea again, adding $27 million to its coffers bringing its two-week total up to $78 million. A lot factors can be attributed to this: stellar reviews, an all-star cast, its bestseller pedigree. But what gives it that extra cache amongst die-hard filmgoers is director David Fincher’s reputation as one of our greatest living directors. And after nearly 30 years of outstanding work, it might be time for the academy to finally reward the man.
I know what you’re thinking: no way is “Gone Girl” winning Best Picture and you may be right (our latest odds have it in seventh place overall). Then again, that’s the same song we all sang with “The Departed” (2006) and “No Country for Old Men” (2007). Both were too violent, too bleak, and oddly enough, too commercial, sentiments that are being echoed whenever you bring up “Gone Girl” and Oscars in the same breath. And in all fairness, the past few years have seen voters tastes going towards more traditional fare. It’s a safer bet to predict something like “The Imitation Game,” “Unbroken,” or “The Theory of Everything” to take the top prize given the recent slate of winners.
What “The Departed” and “No Country for Old Men” had in common, what links them with “Schindler’s List” (1993) and “Unforgiven” (1992), is an overdue director. Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, and the Coen brothers all had the right film at the right time. Scorsese had lost so many times it was almost a joke; Spielberg couldn’t get respect from his peers despite breaking box-office record after box-office record; the Coens had a taste of awards glory when “Fargo” (1996) won for Original Screenplay, but that was it; and “Unforgiven” was the first time Eastwood had even been nominated for an Oscar.
And now we have Fincher, who’s been holding an Oscar IOU since “The Social Network” (2010), which won more precursors than any other film that year yet lost out at the guilds and the Oscars to “The King’s Speech.” The very next year he received a Directors Guild nomination for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2011), perhaps a sign that voters wanted to make amends. Since then, he’s won an Emmy for directing the pilot episode of Netflix’s “House of Cards,” providing further proof that there are various voting bodies eager to hand him awards.
“Gone Girl” is a return to the genre that made the director famous: nail-biting, tightly wound suspense thrillers like “Seven” (1995), “The Game” (1997), and “Zodiac” (2007). Is it any wonder that Scorsese lost for Oscar-baity fair like “The Aviator” (2004) and “Gangs of New York” (2002) yet won for a gangster film like the ones he used to make? Or that Eastwood was recognized for directing a western?
The last decade has seen Fincher stretching himself, first with “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008), his most emotional film to date, and “The Social Network” (2010), where the most violent element was the dialogue. Fincher received Best Director nominations for both films, and lost. A victory for “Gone Girl” would be a career-achievement award for the man who’s done more to put his personal stamp on the mystery genre than any other filmmaker since Alfred Hitchcock.
Helping his chances — he currently sits in sixth place — will be the overall support for the film throughout the categories. Fincher’s films are known for their technical prowess, and “Gone Girl” finds him working again with cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth (a previous nominee for “The Social Network” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), production designer Donald Graham Burt (who won for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”), editor Kirk Baxter (winner for “The Social Network” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), sound designer Ren Klyce (nominee for “Fight Club” (1999), “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The Social Network,” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), and composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (winners for “The Social Network”). In short, his films do well in the tech categories, and this one should be no different.
But “Gone Girl” will also appeal to the above-the-line branches of the academy, namely the Actors branch. Rosamund Pike stands not only a good chance of being nominated for Best Actress, but also of winning. This is a star-making, breakout role for Pike, reminiscent of the one that brought Rooney Mara a nomination for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Ben Affleck is on a hot streak right now, and could find himself in the Best Actor race. And don’t count out either Neil Patrick Harris or Tyler Perry for Supporting Actor, as well as Carrie Coon or Kim Dickens for Supporting Actress. Even if Pike is the only one nominated, the number of worthy roles could make it a standout for the Academy’s largest voting body. A SAG Ensemble nomination isn’t out of the question. Lastly, Gillian Flynn should find some traction for adapting her own novel into a filmable screenplay, not an easy task considering the books labyrinthine structure.
I know that “Gone Girl” is a wildcard for Best Picture. After all, Hitchcock never won an Oscar, not even for his Best Picture champ “Rebecca” (1940). Fincher may very well join the Master of Suspense as being one of the greatest filmmakers of all time to never win. Then again, if the film stays atop the box office in the weeks and months to come, and if other, more awards-friendly titles fail to live up to expectations, maybe not.