David Fincher’s Gone Girl is a thrilling piece that mirrors the twisted tales of marriage, crime and the heavy influence of media all deeply rooted in the dominant power of women in society and contemporary Hollywood.
An adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s 2014 novel of the same name—Gone Girl tells the story of the beautiful Amy Elliot Dunne, played by Rosamund Pike who appears to be missing on the day of her 5thwedding anniversary. Being popularly known as “Amazing Amy”, her disappearance causes a media frenzy and Nick, her husband portrayed by Ben Affleck is the prime suspect
The film jumps from two different time zones: one recounting the failures of their marriage in the past and the other, a current nationwide manhunt surrounded by false allegations and shocking hints.
They appear to be the perfect couple. Nick Dunne is an eligible bachelor from North Carthage, Missouri who teaches writing for a living and Amy Elliot, a native New Yorker, is also a writer and the lovey, soft-spoken woman everybody loves. They meet in a party where they both click and hit it off. After two years, the two get married and live in the suburban streets of Manhattan, New York. What more can anybody else ask for?
Things were going great until they both lose their jobs prompting them to move to Missouri in order to be closer to Nick’s sick mother. Here, Nick opens up a bar which becomes their source of income. However, Amy’s narration and diary prove that their marriage is on the rocks. The ideal couple image wipes out when Nick starts to become cold and cheats on her with his student. This provokes Amy to come up with a master plan.
Fast forward to present time of the film, Amy’s disappearance still leaves people clueless. Detective Rhonda Boney, portrayed by Kim Dickens is assigned to the case. Although all the violent flashbacks and signs are pointing to Nick, he couldn’t possibly be the person behind the disturbance even if he is the most hated man in America. Amidst the allegations, he hires Tanner Bolt played by Tyler Perry, a lawyer who specializes in murder and rape cases.
The film unveils that Amy herself is the reason for her missing case. She staged her murder, something that took her months to prepare and framed her husband for it. Flashbacks show how she went to extreme lengths in the process of creating the plan: Buying an old car for her escape, draining her own blood to use for evidence, intoxicating Nick to get him to sign some papers, writing a diary about her husband’s ordeals, using Nick’s credit cards for suspicion, and even makes friends with a pregnant neighbor to get her urine for a pregnancy test.
As events unfold, Amy leaves and removes any trace of evidence. She cuts and colors her hair and hides in a deserted campground but is robbed by her neighbors, leaving her without any money. She then seeks help from her obsessed ex-boyfriend Desi, played by Neil Patrick Harris who secretes her in his lake house. On the second night of her stay, she sees Nick on a talkshow on television pleading her to come home. Saddened, she changes her mind by killing Desi and runs away.
A bloodied Amy returns home, making it look like she was kidnapped the whole time. This removes any sense of suspicion towards Nick. Although Nick knows the true story behind her disappearance, Amy forces him to keep shut and act as if the marriage is going back on track. The film ends with the couple’s announcement of their pregnancy on live television and the screen fades to black.
Was the truth revealed? Or is Amy a psychopath? No one will ever know. But one thing’s for sure—Amy Elliot must have been confronted with something deep to come up with a brilliant and thorough plot.
The film focuses on three powerful actualities: Marriage, Media and Crime. All three revolved around and utilized by a vengeful character who would go the extra mile to make her intents believable. These three work together in representing the story’s take on realism— a keynote in the film.
In a world where outlets can instantly distribute news and circulate influential messages, it is no doubt that the media has the capability to manipulate (Holiday, 2012) and build a person’s image in ways they want the audience to perceive, whether good or bad. Making people trust and believe what they see (Tsfati & Cohen, 2012).
People of America are angry at Nick Dunne for being the suspect of his wife’s murder. At least that’s what the media shows him to be. The press is so interested in featuring a case of not just a missing person but the disappearance of someone who they happen to know as a happily married housewife.
The media was more than just an existence in the film, it was a character. Something that Gillian Flynn incorporated very well. It was something so perpetual that it moved the plot from the beginning down to the very last scene. The media served as a fuel for characters in the film to create their decisions in ways that would give them a good image in the press.
Throughout the film, there have been segments that show biased news personnel who bombard Nick with questions. To give an instance, one scene would show Ellen Abbott, a news anchor, asking Nick’s opinion over a series of insulting and one-sided claims. This could also be seen in the film when paparazzi swarm Nick and Amy’s house. A situation that’s very common for controversial public figures.
The intervention of news people only made the whole situation messy instead of actually informing the public about Nick and Amy. Even news reports and public perception got in the way of solving the case. To give an example would be the revelation of Nick’s affair that turned out to have absolutely nothing to do with Amy’s potential murder. Stories of Amy and Nick even before the commotion were too intensified, causing the public to make their bumpy relationship a big deal—as if it’s not normal for couples to experience disputes.
Marriage was a central theme in the film especially how it was negatively portrayed. The film looks at marriage as an execution. Gone Girl showed a different representation of Marriage—a relationship that is not solely based on commitment but rather on the fact that it is the main reason for one’s insanity. After all, it’s not every day that you see a wife plotting her own death just to put her husband in the center of attention.
“Everyone told us and told us and told us, marriage is hard work”
This is what Amy made clear in many parts of the film. She and Nick Dunne were everybody’s aspired couple. This is also something the media is responsible for. He was perceived as a very hardworking man while she was the ideal wife—a loving, gentle home maker. But behind the tabloids and walls of their home, they too were experiencing a rough time.
Nick, the man who swept Amy off her feet hits her and uses her for sex. Everything was dysfunctional, even their everyday interactions, which is one of the many problems couples face (Daniel, 2018). They are both faced with the reality that things are getting out of hand and instead of actually trying to make things work out, Amy is in denial, left hurting and mostly spends her time narrating the incidents on her diary. Often, she says that she will keep acting like everything is okay while not fully realizing that her emotions could trigger one of the most talked about subjects in the news.
“Nick loved a girlI was pretending to be. The Cool Girl. Men always use that as the defining compliment, right? She’s a cool girl.”Amy’s two-minute monologue exposes the mask she had to wear in the entirety of their relationship. Nick loved someone who didn’t exist. A façade she created in the hopes of having a great, meaningful relationship.
One of the many causes of crime is Anger (Burke, 2017) this could be a basis in understanding Amy’s ways. Sure, the film presented a great amount of illegalities— murder, theft, adultery and so much more, but digging deeper into the story, Flynn and Fincher skillfully collaborate in creating and visualizing the real crime of the film— vengeance— the root of it all.
In understanding the nature of Gone Girl, one must be familiar with its prime characters, their behaviors, their drive and their individual reasons in navigating the plot:
Nick Dunne is many things—an affectionate lover turned abusing husband, a son, a brother. Coming from a working-class family in Missouri, Nick Dunne is evidently one goal driven gentleman. At one point, he comes back to his hometown to care for his mother who is a stage four cancer patient. A probable cause for his behavior aside from the fact that he has serious issues with his father caused by misunderstandings and high expectations, something that has damaged him a lot. Nick’s character is shown as one who is flawed but also going through hot waters.
His love for Amy, on the other hand was one of his career highlights. He was shown as someone funny and clever that he forgot most of his problems whenever he was with her. But because of her personal reasons, he learned to hate her. This was very interesting to watch in the film since the audience got to see his added distaste towards her as the story unfold.
After losing his job as a writer in a magazine, he gets his life in order by opening up a local bar in Missouri with his sister Margo, something that has been both of their lifelong dream. However, this achievement did not fully suffice his emotions since he experiences a failing relationship with his wife. This causes him to have a hot affair with his student Andie Hardy, portrayed by Emily Ratajkowski and is later on discovered by Amy herself after spotting them in the streets. This and his disapproval of having a child was all part of Amy’s Agony.
Nick’s character appears to be very unreadable and very difficult to understand. Even with the obvious situations handed to him, one would have a hard time comprehending what he truly feels. In many scenes, he was showed to be emotionless and keeping it all in the inside. A reason why he was caught up in the news and claimed to be unbothered by his wife’s disappearance. One scene would even show him getting a public backlash after unintentionally smiling beside Amy’s missing person photo in a press conference.
A result of his indecipherable image would be his inconsistency towards the investigators. Not that it was his intent to lie but because of all the false allegations and frustrating circumstance, he too was unsure of the events emerging around him. A reason why detectives conclude him as a suspect but believe him later on in the film.
Amy Elliot Dunne
Amy Elliot is a picture-perfect representation of the All-American babe. Amy is portrayed as someone very gentle, bright and elegant, all of the reasons why Nick is under her spell. A local from New York who was the inspiration for Amazing Amy— A book her parents wrote when she was much younger.
Being the only daughter of her elite parents, Amy was always pressured to be a perfectionist. This has caused her a great amount of weight in her shoulders since she grew up in a way that pleased her parents. Even being the woman that she is in the film, Amy seemed to never get rid of the good girl persona.
This is something that she has been putting up with in the entire length of her relationship with Nick. Not to mention the film’s amusing 6-minute monologue dedicated to Amy’s “Cool Girl” narrative.
She uses the “Cool Girl” image as a cover up in keeping her husband satisfied. Amy defines a cool girl as one who would concur to her partner’s choices and ride with his hobbies in life. She explains that cool girl should like what he likes— drink beer and watch sports. Cool girl never gets angry when faced with an argument. Little did she know that the whole Cool Girl thing would end up distorting her relationship with Nick. She was too tired of keeping up with the image, making Nick dry and uninterested. It’s really puzzling to understand if she’s really the person at fault for faking her identity. Is she’s the good guy or the bad guy?
Her perfectionist side was evidently seen when she plotted the whole disappearance which she took so long to plan. Every part was detailed perfectly in hopes of putting Nick behind bars. More than just a cool girl, Amy is a calculating genius.
It’s actually intriguing how Amy is determined to reach her desires even if that meant she had to cut her wrists, break furniture or actually kill people to make her claims genuine. She was seen as someone very tender and sophisticated that no one was quite sure as to whether she was the antagonist of the whole film or not. After all, she is shown as more than an abused spouse but also a very brilliant, manipulative modern-day villain who uses her avengement as her utmost strength.
Combining all the pieces of the parts together, Gone Girl isn’t just a thriller slash mystery themed narrative. It is more centered on understanding who Amy and Nick are as individuals, and as a couple faced with an exasperating reality. It mirrored the manifestation real life problems with gripping twists and turns
Gone Girl’s theme is blatantly dark and violent but is beautiful rather than unsettling. It makes use of all of its aspects into achieving a tempting mystery. The style of narration especially the revelation of each character’s destiny was managed well on Fincher’s hands while Flynn proved her excellent skills in a lyrical story-telling from the book to the big screen.
Above all, Gone Girl is Pike’s film. She executed what Amy really had to be—one of the most disturbing female antagonists. Amy’s monologue paired with Pike’s captivating voice over was a masterpiece.
The film made it hard for people to decide who’s story to believe in since one scene would show Amy’s narration and the other would show Nick’s but both are skillfully narrated that it wasn’t really a confusion to its viewers. Watching Gone Girl is like playing a mystery game— except that you can see the twist unveil before your eyes in a stunning dark visual where every scene digged deeper and deeper.
Burke, D. (2017, June 12). The four reasons people commit hate crimes. Retrieved January 16, 2019, from https://edition.cnn.com/2017/06/02/us/who-commits-hate-crimes/index.html
Daniel, S. (2018, June 17). Living in a Dysfunctional Marriage. Retrieved from https://www.professorshouse.com/living-in-a-dysfunctional-marriage/
Holiday, R. (2012, July 19). What is Media Manipulation?–A Definition and Explanation. Retrieved January 14, 2019, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/ryanholiday/2012/07/16/what-is-media-manipulation-a-definition-and-explanation/#7d6a0e493939
Tsfati, Yariv & Cohen, Jonathan. (2012). Perceptions of Media and Media Effects:. 10.1002/9781444361506.wbiems995.