A review by Nalini Haynes
TRIGGER WARNINGS: Gone Girl features domestic violence and rape.
Gone Girl the short version:
Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) disappears under suspicious circumstances. The police (Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit) investigate. Amy’s husband Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) looks really guilty. Nick Dunne ‘knows’ he didn’t murder his wife so he starts his own investigation while playing to the American public as if it’s a reality TV show.
Up until the reveal and when Amy takes a hammer to her own face about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way through the movie, I’d give Gone Girl 4 out of 5 stars. From that point on, I give it 1 out of 5 stars. Not even Neil Patrick Harris can rescue this shambolic plot.
I have no idea why this movie is getting 8.6 on IMDB. Didn’t anyone pay attention?
The long and very spoilery version of my Gone Girl review:
Do. Not. Read. unless you’re prepared to encounter numerous serious and end-of-movie spoilers. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Amy disappeared on her 5th wedding anniversary. Cue back story: Nick pursues Amy. Amy shares her childhood stories about being “Amazing Amy”; at first I thought Amy was the author but no, the Amazing Amy books were written by her parents. Amy’s resentment towards her fictional counterpart bred bitterness expressed in tension during encounters with her cardboard-cutout parents. (Oh, sorry, were there actual actors there? Were they supposed to enrich the story in some way?)
Poor Amy, she’s had such a hard life. She quit cello just before Amazing Amy became a child prodigy. She wasn’t allowed to have a dog but her parents gave Amazing Amy a dog. Poor, deprived child with a $million trust fund and lifestyle to match.
Romance goes awry
The romance of a lifetime goes awry when the recession results in Amy and Nick both losing their jobs. Nick’s mother was dying of cancer so they move to Missouri to care for her, after Amy clears out her trust fund because her parents need the money. For an unemployed couple verging on bankruptcy they have a fabulous house, expensive cars and all the toys. None of which they sell to pay the bills.
Back to the present. Amy left clues leading Nick and police on a treasure hunt, which is apparently an anniversary tradition.
Deus ex machina
Nick is close to his twin sister, Margo (Carrie Coon); it’s through this relationship that a lot of Nick’s side of the story is explored. Nick has kept secrets from Margo for years, right back to the time of their parents’ divorce. This particular secret was so artificial it reeked of deus ex machina: it’s the Brown House because Dad pretended to be a spy called Brown. ‘You told Amy that and you never told me?!’ [eyeroll]
Cue silicon breasts in the persona of Andie (Emily Ratajkowski), a writing student who has a 15-month affair with Nick. And those breasts are SO IMPORTANT to the story that we have to see them close up not once but twice. First while Nick undresses her then lowers his head to her nipple, then as he dresses her. Clumsily. Flash. Flash.
How did Andie get past the paparazzi and stalkery public to reach the house unseen? Were they all asleep? When she leaves in dawn’s early light, was everyone still asleep or had they all taken a break for a coffee run?
The cardboard parents set up a call center, print flyers and so forth, to help find Amy. Desi Collings (Neil Patrick Harris) shows up. Nick follows Desi as he leaves, only to be sidetracked by a bimbo wanting a selfie with him. Later Nick forgets that he knew who Desi was in the call center and that he’s seen a photograph identifying Desi. Perplexing.
I will not rant about plot holes. I will not rant…
Gradually a story of Amy’s life in Missouri, a life kept secret from her husband, unfolds. As the police read Amy’s diary and speak to witnesses, it seems Nick is an abusive husband, terrifying his poor wife. Nick’s story doesn’t seem plausible and yet a former boyfriend of Amy’s tells a chilling tale of how Amy ruined his life when he ‘pulled back’ from their relationship.
Amy is alive. Golly gee what a surprise.
Amy cold-bloodedly set her husband up to take a murder rap, a plan that took months to execute. She cuts and dyes her hair, shedding all semblance of Amazing Amy to live anonymously. But not too anonymously: she doesn’t change her hair color MUCH and she takes a hammer to her face and legs. It’s possible the bruises were an alibi if she was caught but her behavior is conflicting: she seems to want to assume another identity.
Amy makes friends at a cheap motel. Amy’s new friends rob her of all her cash. I’m not sure how long a stack of $20s would last but surely not long enough to see her husband executed for murder before she returned to her old life. If that was her plan? I’m not sure.
Amy and Desi
I’m expecting a murderous revenge campaign against the thieves but Amy falls apart and sleeps in her car before throwing herself on Desi’s mercy. Desi puts her up in his lake house. Because, of course, he’s stinking rich and carries a torch for the psychopath who broke up with him 20 years ago. Amy told her parents and husband that Desi stalked her after their breakup, forcing her to resort to a restraining order, and yet she stayed in touch with him all these years. As soon as Amy is within Desi’s grasp, he gets creepy: controlling and possessive.
Will Amy’s relationship with Desi prove to be the trauma that sent Amy off the rails? If so, where is the trail of exes between Desi and the guy Amy accused of rape 8 years ago?
Nick goes on national television intending to win Amy back, thus proving himself innocent of murder.
Entranced by Nick’s performance, Amy loses interest in Desi. She sets Desi up for accusations of rape, even mutilating herself.
Amy fucks Desi then stabs him with a boxcutter. She flees, covered in blood, leaving Desi dead on the bed. Amy returns home in front of the media, seen by all — even the police menz but not the smart-cookie woman — as an innocent victim IN SPITE OF HER STORY NOT ADDING UP.
She framed her husband for murder and disappeared. Even if she WAS kidnapped, surely it’s a bit suspicious that her kidnapper is dead? She said she was tied up ALL THE TIME and yet she created video footage of herself ‘post-rape’ when she wasn’t tied up; she would have been able to escape at that time. How did a woman who was ‘tied up all the time’ find a boxcutter? IN THE BEDROOM? DURING A RAPE?
Believe it or not, the story gets worse from here.
Having been framed for murder and knowing Amy just murdered someone else in cold blood, Nick stays in the marital home BECAUSE REALITY TV IS WATCHING.
Before Amy left weeks earlier, Nick’s sperm sample was returned by the fertility clinic. He gave the sample to Amy who threw the letter in the bin. Nick retrieved the letter but didn’t notice the sample was missing. Amy then uses this old sample that hasn’t been kept fresh and viable in a medical facility to impregnate herself. Probably using a turkey baster. One has to assume there’d only be a few ‘doses’ at best. Even if Amy prevented conception when they were going through the fertility clinic, the likelihood of a viable pregnancy must be very low to impossible under these circumstances.
So now Amy is pregnant, she blackmails Nick to stay with her. Cue crying jag from twin sister. Nick decides to stay with Amy because he wanted a baby and he wants to protect it.
Gone Girl misogyny
This is the most misogynistic movie I’ve seen in, like, forever. I don’t care if it’s a female author. I don’t care if she’s ‘only subverted the tropes’. Using tropes of domestic violence and rape to blame the victim WHEN THAT’S WHAT SOCIETY ALREADY DOES is not subversion. One woman is murdered by a partner or ex EVERY WEEK. IN AUSTRALIA ALONE. How many more women won’t get help, won’t receive support or will be counted guilty because of this movie?
Gone Girl is an unremittingly bleak view of relationships and marriage with enough holes to strain spaghetti. Early on I was tense, expecting something to happen but the movie had not earned that tension in any way other than the sound track cueing the audience with a bell tolling followed by sinister music. The Amazing Amy books and Amy’s relationship with her parents felt like Chekov’s Gun: perhaps they’d colluded to create buzz around the brand to sell more books because they needed the money? No. The books were plot remnants left hanging like thread in an unfinished tapestry. The only bearing the parents had on the plot was, perhaps, Amy’s cynical view of marriage BUT WE DON’T SEE JUSTIFICATION.
The minion prefers Howard the Duck… then makes me watch it.
(Spoiler: I fell asleep during Howard the Duck so I enjoyed it much more than Gone Girl.)
The minion says Gone Girl was actually two movies: when Amy takes a hammer to her face, she enters a parallel world where everything is somewhat different. What follows is not related to what has gone before. He also says he’d rather watch Howard the Duck because at least the character work was consistent in that movie.
I say that Gone Girl is the Emperor’s New Clothes. The book may be Literary fiction: an unremittingly bleak existential exploration of relationships with an unsatisfying ending. It may be more cohesive than the movie if it effectively uses two unreliable narrators. However, I’m not inspired to read it. Ever. I choose to be like the kid, pointing at the naked emperor, declaiming his nudity.
Gone Girl movie details
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Gillian Flynn (screenplay and novel)
Stars: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris
Special appearance: Neil Patrick Harris’s chest, abs and cheeks