I didn't have any intention of seeing Gone Girl. The hype, not being a huge fan of David Fincher and the Oscar-baiting were all a real turn off for me. Its opening weekend I had drinks with a former teacher of mine who I have great admiration for and she told me to see it. She didn't say much else. She just cryptically smiled at me and repeated that I should see it. The following weekend for me was what I refer to as a Horror Shut In, I had articles to finish and movies to research. As my brain was hitting critical mass trying write a decent plot synopsis of a film for a larger article, I stepped away from my computer and while I was waiting for water to boil for a fresh cup of tea I checked the movie listings in an abandoned newspaper on the kitchen table. If I left at that moment I could catch a screening of Gone Girl at the local cinema. I didn't have that cup of tea.
I was blown away by Gone Girl. Possibly more so than other films I've loved this year like The Only Lovers Left Alive and Under the Skin because I went in with low expectations. I thought I could kill a few hours in the evening, get a good night's sleep and tackle writing the following morning. I walked out of that movie theatre with my mind more switched on than it had been all day.
**Spoilery Spoils Below**
Gone Girl is the story of a marriage. I still don't know if the film is a thriller, a satire or a horror story but looking back, I think it's a little of all three. Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike) are married, unhappily. Amy goes missing, the police begin to circle Nick as their prime suspect. The narrative shifts to Amy's perspective and we learn that she has masterminded her disappearance, framing Nick in hopes of starting anew. After her plans go awry she falls back on Desi (Neil Patrick Harris), her high school boyfriend who still carries a torch for her. After the relationship with Desi becomes untenable Amy brutally (like New French Extremity brutally) kills him framing him for her disappearance and returns home to Nick who has learned what kind of monster she is.
Now let's talk about what kind of monster she is. She's a self-serving unrepentant monster, but that's because she put her faith in the system. From her family to Nick's wooing, she felt that she was promised something more. When the reality of the doldrums of her life set in she decided to burn it down and start again. When her husband cheated and took her for granted, she wanted not only revenge but to watch him squirm. Amy has had a backstage pass to Nick's nature (he's a lunkhead) and wanted the rest of the world to see what she saw. Nick's biggest ally, his sister Margo or Go (Carrie Coon) sees her brother's true nature throughout the search for Amy. While he's not a killer, he's not the stand up guy he purports to be. Amy thinks she's found the answers to her predicament Desi but soon realizes that she's more trapped than ever and builds her own narrative to free herself once again. When she returns home to Nick, they both know that lines have been drawn in the sand and for the sake of both their narratives they must stay together. They both think they can control each other to a certain extent. Nick is bound by fear and Amy, I believe, is bound by the patriarchal notion of the family. By painting a happy reconciliation, Amy is allowed to continue her reinvention. While the characters wind up in a similar situation as beginning their true natures are revealed.
The novel and the film are very similar. Fincher is a cold analytic director in my opinion and his style serves this story well. This is not a story about feelings, it's a story about actions. Amy is a female version of Tyler Durden. The reality of Gone Girl and Fight Club are about to implode and both Tyler and Amy are the ones to pull the trigger on the suffocating realities. While Fight Club looked at the larger world of contemporary city life, Gone Girl looks at the home front. This is battleground on the domesticity. The part of the world that women are expected to comply in the upkeep of. While the ending of Gone Girl is not as spectacular as Fight Club, it is more brutal because the war between Nick and Amy is not over, it's just beginning.
Gillian Flynn who wrote both the novel and screenplay of Gone Girl took a fair amount of flack for the character of Amy addressed the fears that her story was anti-feminist in an interview with the Guardian:
“...really only girl power, and you-go-girl, and empower yourself, and be
the best you can be? For me, it’s also the ability to have women who are
bad characters … the one thing that really frustrates me is this idea
that women are innately good, innately nurturing. In literature, they
can be dismissably bad – trampy, vampy, bitchy types – but there’s still
a big push back against the idea that women can be just pragmatically
evil, bad and selfish ... I don’t write psycho bitches. The psycho bitch
is just crazy – she has no motive, and so she’s a dismissible person
because of her psycho-bitchiness.” (Source)
Many felt that Gone Girl fostered the feminism gone wild attitude. They feared that it would bolster what the uninformed fear that feminism is about - man-hating and letting women take over. It's not. It's so not. And if you think it's that, do yourself a favor and be quiet. I believe what Flynn says. I loved seeing a woman who was motivated for herself. It doesn't mean she bad, it just means she's not good. It means that she's a character. Look at the majority of leading parts for women - they're good and strong. But they're rarely interesting. They suffer, they never cause suffering. Amy causes chaos wherever she goes and I think that's fucking amazing.