film review: gone girl
WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS. Do not read any further unless you’ve read the book, seen the film, or are happy to be spoiled.
David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s 2012 bestselling crime novel Gone Girl has finally hit the screens, and to tell the honest truth, it’s amazing. Amy (Rosamund Pike) and Nick (Ben Affleck) live in seemingly domestic bliss in a small Minnesotan town. They have a big, beautiful house, a loyal ginger cat and seem to be getting their lives back on track after they both lost their jobs — that is until, on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick comes home to find the house in disarray and Amy missing.
With no sign of where Amy has gone, the police suspect foul play, and accompanied by a brutal 24-hour news cycle and Nick’s nonchalant attitude to his wife’s disappearance, it’s not long before all fingers start pointing at Nick. In flashbacks, narrated through Amy’s diary entries, we observe her and Nick’s relationship from the very start to its almost brutal dissolution. Their blissful days of being madly in love, Nick’s violent behaviour, and Amy’s struggles with becoming a housewife are all here to be examined and analysed, almost like a handbook on how not to do marriage.
Affleck uses the perfect combination of arrogance and indifference in his portrayal of the misogynistic Nick. His cheating, abusive, alcoholic ways make him a very unlikable character and you start to truly believe that he may be guilty of Amy’s death. However, after a shocking twist in the film’s middle, the tables are turned both on the audience and Nick himself, and we start to see Amy for who she truly is.
Pike is beyond extraordinary as Amy. She makes so many transitions within the course of the story that her performance becomes the film’s highlight. From rich New York ice queen, to humble Minnesotan housewife, to a dowdy woman on the run from the law, to a full-blown psychopath and back again, it’s an incredible sight to behold.
Then there are the other female characters in Gone Girl who, unlike Amy, are noble, likeable and sympathetic. Nick’s twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon) is her brother’s clear conscience and helps him through this troubled time whilst trying to not lose her own dignity in the process. Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) is the first to sense that there may be more to the crime than whether Nick is or isn’t guilty.
Director David Fincher loves to explore the limits of the human condition. From his breakthrough 1995 feature Se7en, one of the greatest serial killer films of all time, to his remake/adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, he’s not afraid to toy with the audience’s minds and play us for fools. Gone Girl is right up there with some of his finest works. His penchant for dull lighting and sterile spaces perfectly complement the tense and grim nature of the source material. Flynn’s screenplay, I am told, closely resembles her bestselling novel. The dialogue is harsh, quick, and brutal, and the visuals are suitably gruesome and confrontational.
By now, there seems to be hundreds of think pieces and analyses of the film. People seem to be torn on whether they should declare it feminist or misogynistic. From my standpoint, it is both and neither at the same time. It’s no good to merely dismiss the film as a piece of fiction; that would go against everything film criticism stands for. But then again, I don’t wish for people to look too deep into its meaning and reasoning. This film is a portrayal of two very unlikable people who entered naïvely into marriage and now hate each other because of it. Is there more to it?
A dramatic misinterpretation of the film may prove dangerous as it may become a prototype for people to argue how fucked up women can become when they hate men just as much as some men hate women. But just like Fincher’s most famous film, 1999’s Fight Club, Gone Girl is rife for misinterpretation. Fight Club quickly gained a cult status after it was released and was also dreadfully misinterpreted by young men who thought the film encouraged hyper-masculinity, violence and nihilism, despite the fact that it was actually a criticism of these things. Like Fight Club’s secret feminist icon Marla Singer, Amy Dunne is all together a very feminist character, but not in the way you suspect. Her infamous “cool girl” speech has circulated the internet, and it’s an enlightening, insightful examination of the way women feel pressured to change their personalities — their likes, dislikes, interests, life choices — for their men. But this speech isn’t the reason why I herald her a feminist figure.
Amy is a very unlikable character, and that’s the point. Instead of having a damsel in distress on the run from a male serial killer, the tables are turned and Nick becomes the damsel. It’s refreshing to see a woman in the role of a full blown, cold blooded psychopath. Yes, psychotic and maniacal traits are enthralling to watch, and Amy’s cool and cold demeanour make her an extraordinary villain. She’s a real psychopath, and her richly drawn backstory makes for fascinating viewing. Her parents control her life and place her on a pedestal; her unwanted attention from men makes her uneasy and vengeful; and her miserable marriage to Nick has tipped everything over the edge. She is both the villain and the victim in the story, and could easily give Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates a run for their money.
However, in saying all that, the biggest villain in Gone Girl isn’t Amy or Nick, but the concept of marriage itself. Ultimately I walked out of the theatre asking myself, “Who the hell would ever want to get married?”