Gone Girl

I saw the adaptation of Gone Girl last night, and thought it captured the book well. Gillian Flynn and Fincher did an excellent job bringing it to the screen. I loved the book. I thought it was a fantastic, dark satire of our culture’s image of gender roles and especially how the media views marriage and relationships vs. how they actually are. I feel it has to be viewed through that lens, the same way Silence of the Lambs is grand guignol and not realism. If you have not read the book, it depends on twists, so you may want to stop reading now.

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Amy Dunne functions as a modern femme fatale, threatening men with something worse than death: a woman controlling their life.
She is a fascinating creation, an entitled psychopath. Part of me wants her to be as popular as Hannibal Lecter, so we can see prequels of just how messed up her childhood was, having her parents write books with the Improved Version of her! (The parents were perfect in the movie, those smiling shitbags.) It’s too bad Amy didn’t move on to another victim, like Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction, or Kathleen Turner in Body Heat, but she’s a different. She doesn’t inspire fear by punishing sexual desire with the death penalty, her weapon is worse: Life Without Parole. Or at least 18 years of it. The perfect night terror for cads.

That’s the great fear among Men’s Rights Advocates. That a woman, or “Crazy Bitch,” will poke holes in the condom and lock them down for paternity when all they wanted was a one-night stand. Their other bugaboo is the woman who cries rape during consensual sex. Amy does both of these: She fakes rape twice, and fakes pregnancy once (or twice, depending). This could be held against the story; are you saying women are like that? No, not any more than Thomas Harris was saying “men are cannibals, or want to wear your skin.” But it’s our nature to want a hero, and this story has none. Neither spouse was innocent; Nick is more sympathetic in the film than the book, though part of that is the nature of film and using a ubiquitous actor like Ben Affleck. And I am not a fan. He was well cast because it’s easy to see him as the puppy-faced douchebag that Nick most certainly is.

If the story is lacking, it is in identifying exactly what’s wrong with Nick, other than being a cheater. If I missed it, it’s my own myopia. He’s been raised to want to please women; he’s the typical Nice Guy who isn’t, and that may be all we need to know. He wants the Cool Girl (one of the best soliloquys of the novel and film) but she also wants the Good Guy. We never get a clear view of their marriage, though she does accuse him of putting a false version of himself forward, “the Best Nick,” the one he will now have to be for the rest of his life, or she’ll come up with an even more twisted punishment for him. I wish this was explored further, but it wouldn’t have been so taut a thriller if it had been. There are other books for that. I expected Nick to be more passive-aggressive. He has no friends except his sister; that is telling in itself, in the same way Amy’s lack of friends is a warning flag. (While it’s not always an issue, I’ve noticed that when someone only has friends of the opposite sex, there is often a good reason).

In the movie, Amy’s murder of Desi is much bloodier and I felt that was a bad choice. She’s dangerous enough without going Basic Instinct on us for shock. The ending was also drawn out a little too much for me, but other than that, the film hit every note the book did. The Nancy Grace-alike was incredible, and the story’s depiction of how the media plays on our perceptions, and expects a fantasy perfection of relationships and criminalizes the reality, was spot-on. Take for example when Mr. Affleck said that his relationship with Mrs. Garner was “work.” Relationships do take work, but we’re not allowed to say so. No no. We must only show effortless grace, like Amazing Amy.

 

7 thoughts on “Gone Girl

  1. It was a rough book for me because neither protagonist was someone I wanted to cheer on, and that’s a rough place for an author to leave a reader. Honestly, a pretty brave move for Flynn, going against that expectation. She opened my eyes to a different approach, that if handled well, still makes the book hard to put down. But I’ll probably wait to see the movie when it comes to cable.

  2. I saw the film a few days ago, I haven’t read the book. It reminded me, in a way, of “Sorry, Wrong Number” a 1948 film starring Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster. I’m not suggesting that they are the same story but there are some interesting similarities between the two.

    Both films have a very rich and privileged female character who seduces a less affluent male. We see Amy Dunne turn herself into exactly what she thinks Nick wants and, in Wrong Number, we see Leona set out to steal Henry Stevenson from her friend and then dangle opportunities of a better life in front him. Her father owns a pharmaceutical company, Henry works in a pharmacy. She is depicted as cold and uncaring, almost psychopathic when her friend confronts her saying she loves Henry; her response is basically: I don’t care. I want him and I fight for what I want. Be advised, I usually get want I want.

    Both Amy and Leona have strange or strained relationships with their fathers. Amy was manipulated and used to create the Amazing Amy series whereas Leona’s father wants her to live with him for ever. After getting married, Leona insists that she and her husband live with her father in his mansion.

    Amy fakes physical abuse to get what she wants. Leona fakes a heart condition. Whenever Henry wants them to find their own home, or wants to get his own job and not work as a glorified secretary for her father, Leona has a ‘heart attack’. Leona comes across as more sympathetic because her attacks are psychosomatic (she genuinely believes she has a heart condition).

    There is no infidelity in the older film, rather Henry starts stealing from the company in order to get the money he needs to be independent. Leona has told him that if he tries to get his own job she’ll cut him off and leave him penniless. Like Nick, you don’t get the feeling that Henry is a great guy or even that you like him every much but find yourself feeling sympathy with his situation.

    The gimmick in Gone Girl is the diary entries. In Wrong Number it is numerous telephone calls. In the former, the story deepens as we hear the entries in Amy’s diary, in the latter, every new call reveals more of what’s going on.

    I won’t give away the ending of Wrong Number for those who haven’t seen it. It’s not the same as Gone Girl, is all I’ll say.

    One final note: I agree 100% with the comment about the murder of Desi. The violence of the robbery in the motel, when Amy’s new ‘friends’ steal her money was done perfectly. It was realistic and had just the right menace. I liked the self-justifying comment from the women, to the effect, “others are worse than us.” Slashing Desi’s throat was, as you point out, way to “Basic Instinct” and didn’t fit with the rest of the film. It made Amy out to be more “serial killer mad” than emotionally disturbed mad. Oh, and the parent’s hijacking of the press conference – getting their websites mentioned and framing it all as an Amazing Amy story – was a brilliant touch.

    • That’s a film I haven’t seen before, and I’ll have to rectify that. How about Leave Her to Heaven? That one has similarities, of course the evil woman has to be brought to justice to satisfy the moral codes, but it’s pretty twisted for the time.

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