Based on the Gillian Flynn novel of the same name, Gone Girl, is a dramatic mystery starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike.
Pike plays Amy Dunne, the missing wife of Nick Dunne. At the beginning of the movie, Nick comes home to find his house disturbed and his wife missing. He immediately calls the police and a search for Amy begins. Nick is assisted by his in-laws and Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens). Amy’s parents are famous authors who’ve written a book series titled “Amazing Amy”, which is loosely based off of their daughter. All of this leads to a media frenzy which Nick finds himself caught up in the thick of it. He takes refuge with his twin sister Margo “Go” (Carrie Coon) and tries to continue with the search despite the media scrutiny. As the clues begin to emerge, Nick finds himself as the primary suspect in his own wife’s abduction and presumed murder. The audience is taken along for the ride as fact, fiction and timelines are filtered to find the real story behind what happened to Amy.
It’s hard to talk about this movie without going into spoiler territory but I’ll give it a brief try before going in to full on spoilers. Even though Gone Girl is billed as a thriller/mystery/drama it’s feels like a movie that’s designed to be a fun ride. There are a lot of fun little one liners sprinkled throughout the entire movie as well as twists that feel like they’re sole purpose is to make the audience yell, “WHAT!?!?” at the screen. There are some holes in it that I was able to pick at once I left the theater (and a couple while I was there). However, if you just go along for the ride, it’s a lot of fun. Well, fun in a dark and somewhat disturbing way.
The movie doesn’t use a lot of gore (save one scene) or scare tactics but definitely does a lot to try to mess with your perceptions of the characters. This helps to develop the themes of public perception and relationships as the movie tries to re-adjust your perceptions of certain characters throughout. It’s not for those who are looking for something uplifting or hopeful, but if you like mysteries where everything doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending and things aren’t what they seem (or where you’re left wondering “what did I just watch”), this is right up your alley.
Warning, heavy spoilers ahead
This movie is all about roller coaster ride of transitioning from thinking that Nick is the villain to thinking that Amy is the villain to just not knowing quite what to think. From the beginning of the movie it’s pretty obvious that Amy wasn’t just randomly abducted. They do a pretty good job of painting Nick as the kind of character that could be unlikable. He’s nice border-lining on flirtatious despite the fact that his wife is missing. That and a little bit of convenient information are enough to make anybody think that he’s the one who disposed of his wife. Especially considering that you find out he was an adulterer who wanted to end his marriage.
Even the 2nd “twist” where we find out that Amy is still alive is somewhat predictable. By that point in the movie, you could sense that Amy had some hand in her own disappearance, whether it was faking it or committing suicide. What this 2nd twist does do is confuse the narrative. Up to that point, the audience had been using Amy’s narrative to follow the events leading up to the disappearance. Once it’s shown that she’s been lying, you have to scramble to try to figure out which parts of the narrative have been true. On top of that, you have to reevaluate your thoughts about Nick because he’s now become the victim in the situation. The whole thing is laid out a lot like a magic show. The grand illusion that the audience remembers is constructed under the guise of banter and smaller illusions. In the same way, the bigger message of this movie, which has to do with Amy and Nick’s relationship, unfolds behind these different plot twists.
At this point Nick has a larger cast of characters on his side. There’s the Detective who seems to be playing the role of the audience, analyzing the evidence and coming to the most common conclusions. Go is the sympathizer that wants to view Nick as the “good guy” but is continually let down. Officer Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) is Go’s counterpoint, he hates Nick from the start and finds a reason to condemn all his actions. Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) is introduced to the situation after the reveal of Amy’s plan and represents the viewpoint of the cynical pragmatist who’s just trying to work through the situation. Having all of these different lenses to view Nick and Amy through (as well as their own viewpoints) helps to inform your feelings about them but can also muddle them because it’s likely you won’t completely align your own views with any single character. I really liked this mechanism for dealing with the different possible reactions to the situation. The movie even does it on a micro level, by having some characters give immediate reactions to Nick when he’s speaking.
After everything is out in the open, the movie has to resolve the “battle” between Amy and Nick over whether or not Nick would be punished for her disappearance. This is where the movie became less predictable for me. Amy getting robbed of her stash wasn’t unreasonable but I didn’t expect her to call Desi (Neil Patrick Harris) to come to her rescue. To that point in the movie, he was mostly an old story that seemed like he was supposed to be a red herring in the original case. Once Amy began living in his lake house I couldn’t tell if he was actually keeping her hostage or if she was stringing him along again. Maybe the subtlety of two mentally deranged people interacting with each other was too hard for me to follow. Still, it’s all leading up to that one great and gory scene in the bedroom. When Amy seduces and kills Desi mid-intercourse I thought to myself, “that could very well end up being an iconic movie scene”. That scene and the fallout definitely put Amy into the upper echelon of on-screen crazy women that’s populated with names like Kathy Bates.
The only thing more unbelievable than the level of Amy’s manipulation is Nick’s complicity. Earlier in the movie when Nick speaks to Amy through the TV interview I thought that it might be possible that he was becoming more like her. Clearly, that’s what Amy thought. I get that she could see him as a worthy partner again after he stooped to her level. It’s just that the progression of her showing back up covered in blood to impregnating herself with his semen seemed so sudden and…well, crazy, that it threw me off. Still, I really enjoyed the ride of seeing this entire thing ensnare Nick. The movie ends with him still in a precarious position. Trapped with a woman who’s using his unborn child as a hostage and who’s already shown the propensity for violence. At the same time Nick has also become a more abusive and violent person. So…I guess that kid’s gonna have a real interesting childhood.
It’s hard for me to directly pick a favorite moment or character out of this movie. The entire thing just fits together so well that it’s hard to isolate a single feature. Still, I have to say that I really like Margo. I feel like she really set the tone for the humor in the movie when she found out about Nick’s affair. Obviously, Nick and Amy are great characters that run the gamut from sweet (literally) to murderous. Even though they’re completely dysfunctional they are one of the most interesting couples I’ve ever seen and are a great mirror for real-life couples to use to look at aspects of their own relationships.
I know that it sounds like I’m gushing about the movie and, I suppose, I am. I did mention before that the movie does have some issues that came to light when I stopped to think about the movie. Most of those things are plot related, like:
- Is there really nothing Boney could do about Amy after knowing what went down? I mean, you’re a police officer for cryin’ out loud.
- Was Desi actually crazy to begin with or did he just seem that way because of Amy?
- Why didn’t Nick want the detectives following the clues? It didn’t seem like he’d already figured out that they were incriminating him, so wouldn’t it help to have them following along?
- What was Amy’s original plan before she got robbed? Was she just going to completely give up her entire life and start over because of what Ben did.
- Did all of this really start just because she found out he was having an affair?
- What exactly is wrong with Amy? She clearly has a pattern of this kind of behavior. How is it that no one has ever noticed it and thought, “maybe she needs help”?
There’s a lot of these kinds of questions that come to mind when I think about the movie, but none of them take away from the experience I had in the theater. I don’t know if this is going to be a “classic” movie but it’s definitely entertaining and it feels like it’s the kind of story that can resonate with a large audience. Even if it is a little bit weird.
- A fun ride with layered mysteries
- An entertaining mystery that has a lot of different levels to it
- A memorable leading lady
- Some parts of the plot and characters are not well thought out or explained