Amy Dunne has gone missing and her husband Nick, along with the rest of the gossip-hungry United States, is desperate to find her. But with little to no clue as to the whereabouts of Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike), fingers start to point to the case’s most likely suspect, Amy’s own husband, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck).
Based on the novel by Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl is a modern thriller with twists not much unlike a warped melodrama. Although the mystery of Amy’s disappearance stands as the film’s centerpiece, it’s the eroding marriage of Nick and Amy that lies in its core.
From the outside, Nick and Amy live a charmed life. Attractive, stable and generally well liked, it’s their seemingly indistinct relationship that allows them to blend among the rest of marital suburbia. But when Amy suddenly goes missing, what is eventually unearthed is more akin to a horror novel than a love story.
“Till death do us part,”goes the clichéd wedding vow. Unfortunately for Nick and Amy, that’s seemingly where their marriage is going.
Putting on appearances
Gone Girl is an extreme depiction of a crumbling marriage. While the motions of this dark thriller are undeniably exaggerated, and often difficult to accept with a level head, there’s a perverse truth to the decaying relationship between Nick and Amy.
Once the years have worn down the wedding bands, all that’s left are two people putting on appearances. It’s a cynical and awfully pessimistic view of marriage, and one that runs counterpoint to the usual “love conquers all” ethos of Hollywood.
The film shifts unsteadily between Nick’s present time point-of-view and Amy’s seemingly disembodied journal entries. But while the film’s structure can be jarring, it’s all part of an elaborate “he-said, she-said”account of a rotten relationship.
Ben Affleck’s naturally smug portrayal of the seemingly cold Nick Dunne works to add a layer off suspicion in the unraveling mystery. But it is Rosamund Pike’s uncanny ability to shift from fragile wife to cunning femme fatale that makes her character as difficult to read as her husband.
Warning: past this point, there are mild spoilers, particularly if you have not yet read the book. Click the button below if you would like to continue.
The film silently asks its audience to pick a side, but whomever you choose, we all bear witness to the warts and scars of Nick and Amy’s blemished marriage. Amy may be missing, but it becomes unmistakably obvious that she left Nick a long time ago.
“What have we done to each other?” Amy asks in her diary, a question posed to herself just as much as it’s posed to her anonymous audience. But Gone Girl never offers any real answers to Amy’s question. That’s because it doesn’t matter. And that’s because it’s too late.
A pessimistic indictment of marriage
Gone Girl carries the same DNA as Fincher’s underappreciated Zodiac and his disappointingly mediocre Girl With a Dragon Tattoo. But while the film is set in Fincher’s world of kidnappers, murderers and schemers, Gone Girl is a remarkably different beast.
It is lined with the familiar cold-hearted cynicism prevalent in Fincher’s work, and as expected, the personalities in Gone Girl are blanketed by a near numbing iciness.
Fincher has never been a director with a predilection for the romantic. And while you’d expect a film about marriage to have at least a tinge of heartfelt passion, whatever love is present between Amy and Nick is ultimately revealed to be an elaborate ruse.
We learn about the happier times between the Dunnes through the delicately scribbled entries in Amy’s diary. But while the film showers its audience with one sex-filled scene after the next, it’s hard to wrestle out an ounce of compassion for either Amy or Nick. And what starts out as a mishandled love story slowly evolves into a pessimistic indictment of marriage.
The ugly truth
The allure of David Fincher’s filmography isn’t that it tackles dark and twisted stories, but that it caters to a deep and hidden desire to connect with dark and twisted characters. But in Gone Girl, these characters aren’t serial killers or obnoxious billionaires; they are husband and wife.
In a conversation with his sister Margo (Carrie Coon), Nick admits that he’s happy Amy has gone missing. It’s a confession made in confidence, but even Margo, Nick’s own flesh and blood, can’t help but feel appalled by her brother’s damning admission.
When an entire country is caught in the whirlwind search for a missing woman, Nick’s confession reveals an ugly truth: there’s always a little bit of murder in every marriage.
Gone Girl is the cruel aftermath of happily ever after. But it is also an expertly crafted thriller that relies on very little spectacle to get its point across. It’s a cold and often callous depiction of marriage, but when love is gone, all that’s left is blood. – Rappler.com
Zig Marasigan is a freelance screenwriter and director who believes that cinema is the cure for cancer. Follow him on Twitter at @zigmarasigan.
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