*Major Spoilers Await*
A week has gone by along with a second viewing, and I honestly can’t stop thinking about Gone Girl. In actuality, despite the overwhelming praise for the film, I believe many people aren’t appreciating it enough. I’m slightly surprised (and frustrated) how shallow many opinions on Gone Girl are, seeing dozens of posts that unfairly criticize its ending (sorry folks, you should’ve realized a long time ago this film is clearly not a crowd-pleaser) and underestimate its thematic and satirical depth. In my review, I briefly mentioned that [Gone Girl](movie:833123) is ultimately a chilling representation of contemporary media culture, but I really want to dig deeper into the questions it asks about marriage. The film is a courageous reflection on the corruption of love in the modern world—a world that’s plagued by social media, 24/7 news coverage (a never-ending loop of a particular event), etc. Alongside the liberal sexuality of today’s society, a jovial and successful marriage is practically impossible to sustain.
In this case, it barely lasts five years until Nick’s lust starts running rampant as he starts sneaking off with queans; concerned Amy, meanwhile, sees her once-merry relationship tragically fading before her. Trust issues emerge, and the striving for that perfect marriage, often depicted, is failing in its tracks. The “Amazing Amy” character Amy’s parents self-indulgently, unwittingly created from the beginnings of her childhood transparently leaves a lasting detrimentally psychological impact on her. And when the viewers begin throwing black-and-white generalizations around like, “she’s pure evil,” or “she’s a cold-blooded psychopath,” I don’t imagine they take adequate time to analyze the ways life has scarred her and formed that frightening mentality in the mind.
I instead took a more open-minded look at this story and its characters from the abstract/symbolic rather than the literal--the extreme actions that happen before you. Gone Girl is a satire, and that gives it a right to go to more exaggerated lengths in illustrating its subjects. Amazing Amy was supposed to be this absolutely quintessential woman (symbolism pertaining to the reality of society’s unreasonable expectations for its members—the ideal weight, the flawless personality, the unbelievable beauty, always overcoming odds in any given situation, improving one’s character, and the like). Where Amy failed in her youth, her parents ensured that Amazing Amy succeeded in the “biography.”
All of a sudden, shame, guilt, and insecurity begins to consume the real Amy—the subtle signs for help detected in her suffering eyes as she attends artificial parties that her parents host, filled with obnoxiously judgmental, high-class individuals and invasive reporters. In the end, this expectation from the crowd—their overwhelming admiration for Amy, believing she exactly resembles this character her parents created, while the real Amy suffers with the fact that she’s really inferior to her fictional counterpart--changed her to the point of no return. After Amy’s previous disappointing relationships (her perspective of the world forever changed, after Amazing Amy’s incessant company, to a bar of high expectations) with Desi Collings (Neil Patrick Harris) and Tommy O’Hara (Scoot McNairy), her views of men have been eternally obstructed. A relationship that commenced promisingly with Nick but utterly destabilized only awakened an even deeper spite.
Then came even further criticisms from moviegoers: “Oh, look at how snobbish and self-centered she is.” She doesn’t want to be this person; her soul is suffering. “Why are you pushing me to be someone I don’t want to be?” Amy defensively asks her husband in another one of their heated arguments. This unremitting push to be wholly different people—the flirtatious, “cool” couple they were trying to imitate in their younger phase eventually transforms into this life of difficult maintenance as their dynamic matures. Perhaps, modern culture has indeed corrupted the sense of identity. She was strenuously trying to be the “Cool Girl” when they first met (as her contemplations in the diary note), meaning that this relationship was founded in superficiality. She put on that artifice to appease shallow men like Nick—the woman who’s just ready to be wowed at every notion and completely obedient to men’s desires.
That’s the thing: she was raised in a culture that taught her to change herself around different groups of people, and thus, she lost more and more of herself in the process—the frustration from being lost in identity gradually building. So, her vicious scheme is more cathartic than anything. These numerous experiences with men certainly didn’t disprove her beliefs. Nick takes a similar approach in that regard. Upon their first encounter, he’s almost too good to be true for her—witty, charming, handsome, and cool. At that moment, she found that “perfect image” and partner the insane childhood expectations groomed her for. But that isn’t the real Nick. Similar to Amy’s antics, he was trying to impress this blonde beauty and thus assumed a pretense as a way of attracting. The real Nick really wants to kill time on the couch and play video games as we later see down the line into their marriage. Amy doesn't allow for it; she can't accept the fact that marriage/relationships can just be lazy, unsophisticated, and repetitive.
When she began hiding out and living at Desi’s lake house—the more time passed by, the more it became evident that Desi was attempting to get closer and closer to her in his creepily calm, deceptively kind demeanor. He was clearly expecting some sort of “reward” for the hospitality (he slyly, yet menacingly, says “I’m not going to force myself onto you”), and again those emotionally cavernous eyes of hers begin to convey that of sheer fear as she forces herself, in disgust, to hug and kiss her former boyfriend in order to avoid upsetting and agitating him. The stakes are too high for mistakes at this point. There and then, she has once again found herself trapped by the entitlement of man…inside that house by his constant presence. How could she possibly escape from that predicament? Of course, she ends up a killer—I’m not trying to justify her ruthless actions—but again, let’s take a criminally psychological stab at this scenario instead, which I seriously find far more fascinating than “well, look how malicious and demonic she is!”
It’s difficult not to sympathize with her in one form or another, and I’m confident that Fincher and the author, Gillian Flynn, were reaching for that feeling. Otherwise, why else would the story spend so much time emphasizing her journey and her wildly-fluctuating emotions? My point is that Gone Girl offers more than just a frivolous perspective into the good and evil within the world—beneath all that surface value. Our primary male protagonist isn’t exactly morally exceptional either, of course flawed to a lesser extent, as he continually treats his wife like a by-gone product that is soon being flung to waste. Towards the last portion of their marriage, she starts to follow him with desperate suspicion, clearly annoying her husband, but her paranoia becomes completely blameless when we later witness her spouse’s pathetic infidelity.
There’s undoubtedly an abundance of enigmatic/subtle emotion and motivation that stems from the tale’s characters. Keep in mind that Amy never tried to physically harm Nick but was so emotionally deranged after the abuse her life and this marriage brought her that she found it fitting to exact her own revenge. The fact of the matter is that it’s very rare for males to identify and, in a way, understand the female side of a gender conflict within a narrative more than the male side, but Gone Girl accomplishes just that. You don’t exactly root for Amy, per se (she's incredibly unnerving by the end), but an open-minded viewer would unquestionably understand why she’s doing what she’s doing. The male-dominated and media-prying world has truly afflicted her (and women, in general).
The film concludes with a haunting realization that many marriages continue solely because circumstances require its partners to do so (children, financial situation, media attention, etc.). Nick frustratingly screams “why do you want this—all the pain and misery we’ll have!” which is followed by her haunting answer: “that’s marriage.” By the end, there aren’t any undertones of misogyny or phylogeny, like some observers rashly presume. Both genders in this case are at fault with their own societal flaws under scrutiny--two unreliable narrators. Men will walk out of the screening, afraid of being men, and women afraid of being women. Once everything has been said and done, Gone Girl is both a very smart film and a very entertaining film.
Note: I could've spent more time lambasting Amy's side (the female end of the spectrum), but I feel like there's already plenty of that on the Interweb.
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