DANIEL HIDALGO – CO-FOUNDER
Gone Girl is… an experience. It’s morally reprehensible, but it’s an adulterous murder vortex that will captivate you for the entire 145 minutes. It makes Investigation Discovery look like One Tree Hill.
!! WARNING !!!! SPOILERS!!
The film is set in suburban Missouri. Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike) are going through a rough patch in their marriage. In the first scene, Affleck is downing bourbons at the family bar in the middle of the day – a sure sign that things are on the rocks (pun intended). One of his neighbors calls the bar to tell him that his cat has gotten out. When he gets home, he finds that his wife is missing.
This would probably trouble most spouses. But Affleck seems more relieved than worried. When the cops get there, he’s super chill, which immediately makes him the primary suspect.
Immediately I know that Affleck can’t be the murderer. It’s never that easy. Why have a murder mystery movie if it ends up being the guy all the trailers suggest it is?
The opening act of the movie jumps between the past and the present. Amy is a trust fund girl, Harvard educated, and subject of a tween book series called “Amazing Amy”. Nick is typically good guy Affleck. He’s cool, fun, and likes to drink beer. Amy’s diary entries act as the narrating voice for a lot of it. As the relationship progresses, things go from great to increasingly worse.
Here’s the gist:
Nick loses his writing job to the recession. Nick’s mom gets cancer and they’re forced to move back to his hometown in Missouri. Nick’s mom dies. Nick and Amy open up an immediately failing bar – they named it The Bar (very clever). Nick starts teaching writing at a community college. Nick starts “exploring the creative space” of a young student’s huge tits. Amy wants a baby. Nick doesn’t. Nick and Amy become everything they hate. Nick grows angry. Nick gets violent. Nick hits Amy. Amy disappears.
The acting in the opening act is very bland. Every one – especially Affleck – is exactly as they appear. The cinematography and direction, however, is superb. Scenes, even happy ones, are shot and lit in a manner that builds tension. Dimness and tight spaces are used to foreshadow. One scene in particular – the “sugar storm” – shows the moment of their first kiss. It’s incredibly romantic, but the scoring informs the audience that the kiss is a bitter sweet.
In this sense, the movie is incredibly well made. David Fincher effectively brings the neurotic high pace of The Social Network to a crime thriller. The story moves forward artfully and efficiently.
About halfway through, you find out that Amy is framing Nick. Her plan for months is to kill herself and leave Nick on the hook for her murder. Amy is a crazy bitch. Amy conned Nick into upping her life insurance right before she disappeared. She filled a shed full of “guy stuff” to make it look like Nick maxed out her credit cards. She faked a pregnancy and a diary that details abuse that never happened. She left clues that would lead the cops right to him.
This is where I start having moral problems with what I’m watching.
This kind of story gives credence to the notion that women often lie about abuse. That women are vindictive and treacherous. That someone like Affleck can’t possibly abuse his wife. I mean, he looks like such a good dude!
While the media circus feasts on poor Ben Affleck, Amy is undercover in some backwoods motel. Nick is getting ripped apart by a Nancy Grace-type troll who loves beating up on men. Again, this reinforces the idea of nagging women as the villain. By the end of the movie, you’re cheering for a borderline drunk who cheats on his wife. For god sakes, there’s a scene where Amy shoves a wine bottle up her #$%&@ in order to fake a rape. I understand that this is a movie made for our entertainment, and it is entertaining, but they are troubling messages. More than a few feminists would be disgusted.
Now I’m not going to recap the entire last act of the movie. By now I’m sure you’re tired of me spoon-feeding you the plot. I’ll just say that my biggest moral problem is with how the movie ends. Amy returns home. She gets pregnant and they stay together. What the fuck? No really. What the fuck?
Gone Girl is bookended by a quote that supposedly outlines the critical questions in marriage:
“What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do?”
The insinuation is that marriage is pain and it turns people into the worst possible stereotypes of themselves. Amy becomes the nagging obsessive wife. Nick is the beer-guzzling bro who just wants Amy off his back. They lie to each other about who they are and what they want. This notion is explained in pretty straightforward terms in the movie’s climactic scene.
Nick: “Why would you even want this? We resent each other, control each other, cause each other pain.”
Amy: “That’s marriage.”
I think we can all agree that this is an unrealistically negative perspective on how marriage works. Most rational people would dismiss this as total nonsense. The problem is that there’s always a subset of people that eat this kind of shit up. Movies, TV, music, books, etc. consciously or subconsciously influence perspective – even if that perspective is totally inane. Just look at the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon. Countless women read that horrible book and fantasized about finding their “Christian Grey”. Someone chaining you to a wall, whipping you, and holding you prisoner becomes not just acceptable, but desirable.
But again, it’s a movie. Not a stump speech.
All in all, the undesirable aspects of this movie are what sucked me in. You’re enthralled by the audacity of it all. You can’t help but talk back to the screen. The acting, especially by Pike (Amy) in the latter half of the movie, is commendable. If the intent is to make you despise her character, she knocks it out of the park. In its use of design and style, the artistic value of the work is to be lauded. It is successful in bringing out your emotions – even if those emotions are negative. It’s the “Fatal Attraction” of this generation.