(spoilers ahead, obviously)
Is there anything I can still write about Gone Girl that hasn’t been analyzed, discussed, praised and trashed already? This is certainly one of the most talked about movies in a while and I’m not sure I can really add anything to the dissection of its alleged misogyny, Ben Affleck’s penis, its attitude about marriage, its product placement or what it has in common with Eyes Wide Shut. I think the movie deserves all the buzz as I really, really enjoyed every aspect of it. It cemented my love for David Fincher because it certainly is another astonishingly directed movie that always knows what it’s doing. It’s a great, thought-provoking, surprising movie and I’m not asking for more. Still, though, I want to tackle some of the issues featured in the movie, because one of the reasons it is so good, is that it forces you to think about them.
I’m not even trying to do the movie justice, so I just focus on one aspect, the claim of misogyny. It is simple really: in the big twist a third into the movie, we learn that Amy (Rosamund Pike) is not really dead but just faking her death because on an intricate plot to seek revenge against her husband Nick (Ben Affleck), for cheating on her. So she becomes supposedly the movie’s villain. Dan Kois on the Slate podcast repeatedly just calls her “crazy psycho bitch.” She kills at least one man (Neil Patrick Harris) in a horrible way (what a scene!) and never stops pretending and scheming against Nick, so there are reasons for this assumption. In a revealing monologue she justifies her actions by saying she played the “cool girl” by satisfying every one of her husband’s desires and expected him to be faithful for it. Now, there are several ways of seeing this. One would be to say, yes, she is the villain and therefore exemplifies women as evil, calculating monsters. Fair enough, but I think this assumes a too simplified worldview of Fincher and Gillian Flynn, the writer. And even if that’s true, Amy is much too nuanced to be a simple villain, there’s much more behind her, considering her upbringing.
Two, you could argue that the men aren’t depicted in a better way because Fincher wants to show us how scheming and detached we have become and that marriage is nothing more than a farce in which, to rephrase a quote from the movie, people just hurt each other. This argument could especially work because of the ending, in which Nick does not get back at her or escape or kill her for what she has done, but instead stays with her, showing that he actually likes this character because he is so similar. I’ve heard arguments that Affleck is miscast because he is too sympathetic to make us dislike his character, but I think that just adds to the appeal. We’re forgiving with him but he doesn’t really give us much of a reason for it. It’s not so much the cheating (which obviously has nothing to do with love but only with sex, which Fincher shows by using nudity for a purpose), but his general behavior, especially the last act of the movie. He doesn’t stay with Amy because he loves her or because he values their marriage. He stays with her because he is as fucked up as she is. Because it’s hard not to be in this society, a common theme in Fincher‘s movies.
Or, three, you could argue, that although Amy is crazy and villainous, the other women in the movie are portrayed with more nuances. Kim Dickens plays the main cop who is not simply a “tough woman,” but intelligent and only slightly world-weary. Carrie Coon plays Margo, Nick’s twin sister, who is very emotional but not in a stereotypical way. I think those two women easily help to give the movie a very balanced portrayal of women in general. On the men side we only have Desi (Harris), who is completely hopeless as a person and Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry), who is clever but very cynical. In a way, women fare much better, despite Amy’s “evilness.”
I’m biased, because I’m such a huge Fincher fan, but I think anyone who goes for easy accusations should give Fincher and Flynn more credit. This is a very smart movie that asks you to analyze it and does not provide with you with easy answers. Which is quite astonishing, especially considering the movie is also successful financially. Makes me very hopeful that thought-provoking can occasionally achieve success, even at the box office. I’d watch the movie again anytime to dig deeper into its themes and ideas.