Sympathy For The Devil? Gone Girl

Gone girl 2

Spoilers abound

Gone Girl – not quite a mystery or thriller, not quite a straight satire on modern marriage either. It’s almost War Of The Roses without the slapstick; instead, a dash of De Palma, with Verhoeven’s va-va-voom, and a Hitchcock glacial blonde, pulling all the strings.

In its delirious, mid-point bait and switch, and its shocking dénouement, director David Fincher (and his Amazing adapter Gillian Flynn, from her own bestseller) also harks back to an earlier film, Fight Club. “Real” Amy (Rosamund Pike) breaks free from the shackles of convention; the million perceived sleights of husband Nick (Ben Affleck), failing to keep up his end of their narcissistic bargain, and the stifling straightjacket of her bestselling Children’s book alter ego, Amazing Amy, a formula for success held against her, she perceives, by her child psychologist author parents.

She is Jack’s smirking revenge, and boy, is it delicious to watch unspool. When they first meet, each is playing a role – Flynn describes it as “the weirdest, most diabolical meet-cute ever. I love the cognitive dissonance of that scene, this cute, flirty banter — but the way they play it is not bouncy. It’s not the way you’re used to seeing a romantic comedy. Something’s off.”

Unlike the book, there is only one narrator, Amy, both as “Diary Amy” and her true (or as true as she can be to herself) persona. That means the film is split into objective views of Nick’s predicament, aided by a beefed up role for Go / Margo, his twin sister, ably played by Carrie Coon, and the subjective viewpoint of Amy. Affleck has to suggest an awful lot by awkward body language, reigned in temper and ill-advised humour (“Anyone who took her will probably bring her back”).

“I’m not going to be ignored, Dan Nick”

Now the silent partner beside you on the sofa has become the crazed wacko. What appealed to Fincher about adapting the book was the misanthrope in him related to these two vain fuck-ups, each playing the role of both victim and aggressor in their closed-off consciousness. The impossible standard of modern masculinity satirised in Fight Club ( “You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis.” ) now overtaken by the gender war in the modern media.  Amy’s “Cool Girl” diatribe her version of Tyler Durden’s call to arms – “…what women do to be the cool girl, the things we put ourselves through. They feel freeing, but if you’re not doing it because you enjoy it, it’s really just as constricting as it would be to strap yourself into a girdle,” Flynn told Buzzfeed.

I was most interested in the idea of narcissism as a way to hold two people together,” Fincher  said in a recent Q & A in L.A. “And the notion that we project the best version of ourselves not only to seduce somebody that we imagine to be perfect for us but also perfect for our narcissistic rejection. Then three years down the line the other person in the contract says, ‘I can’t get it up for this anymore. I can’t be your soulmate. I was never that person and I am done.’ And I love the wrath that inspired.”

It’s that thing where you look over at your wife or girlfriend and you see them holding their tongue and then five years later they unleash all of their retribution. I thought that was funny – it’s funny because it’s horrifying.”

And not all meant to be taken so po-faced. Theirs is a hyperbolic farce, a love on the rocks road to ruin, and back again. Rosamund Pike says of Amy:

Amy is so self-aware that she’s constantly … she’s never really in an authentic place in the whole film. She’s not like Margo, who is just sort of relentlessly, authentically herself. You think, If only Amy could experience what it’s like to be a woman like that! There’s this sort of entitlement without any dues having been paid. And in a way, that’s Amy.”

Incidentally, Terrence Malick’s To The Wonder, also starring Ben Affleck, plays like a weird companion piece to Gone Girl. Idealised love in sophisticated environment sours on return to the mid-west, infidelity ensues, rapproachment is found. Listen to Javier Bardem’s priest explain to these dunces about real love:

 

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