If you haven’t heard of Gone Girl, you’ve been living under a rock. I also intend on making this post about as full of spoilers as you can get, so bugger off if you’re still under the rock and are comfy there.
The book, as the cover states, is an “addictive no. 1 bestseller”, or what other people on the internet are describing alternatively as a masterpiece, ingenious, brilliant, shocking, etc. It’s all words that mean that people have been impressed by it.
The first time I’d heard of it was when I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy and saw an ad for Gone Girl, which I immediately decided I wanted to see. I’ve always liked Rosamund Pike and I’ll confess that whilst I didn’t really love Ben Affleck when he first became a thing around the time of Good Will Hunting, he won me over slowly through his appearances in Kevin Smith’s movies and then one day I realised I didn’t mind him at all (truth be told, I skipped Gigli and Daredevil so it was an easier task to get me on his side).
SPOILERS ON THE HORIZON, ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE!
The premise is that Nick wakes up on his 5th wedding anniversary to find his wife, Amy, missing and runs from there. I read the book first and as I was reading it, I was really genuinely concerned that they were going to have difficulty filming true to the book without screwing it up royally. The book is written from the perspective of Nick, beginning from the day Amy goes missing, and alternates chapters with Amy told through diary entries over the previous seven years. I am a huge fan of alternating perspective books. I feel like it allows you to connect on a deeper level with the characters and subsequently get more involved with the plot, particularly when you know multiple character’s story arcs are going to collide in a giant clusterfuck of holy shit, i.e. George RR Martin and Game of Thrones. At the mid-way point of the novel the two arcs converge and you find out exactly what happened to Amy, the whole premise of the mystery novel is turned upside down and it’s then a race to see who wins as it turns out Nick married a total psychopath, hellbent on destroying his life and the sheer extravagance and planning of Amy’s manipulations is revealed.
Multiple reviews have set Nick up to be the ultimate unreliable narrator and an unsympathetic character but I didn’t read his character that way. Sure, he didn’t behave exceptionally well what with the young mistress and all, but his general persona was explained quite well, although the constant references in the book to him being a beta male got a bit heavy handed. Nick is a character who is blessed with good looks, “the type of face you want to punch” as he describes it himself (which as I read that made me laugh because thats Ben Affleck to a T) and grew up with an abusive father and learned at a young age to try and please people rather than invite confrontation. He’s such a people pleaser he holds in his emotions and tries to be polite and have everyone like him, which of course makes him look totally guilty when his wife goes missing and he doesn’t have a break down and stupidly smiles for the camera because of his “nice boy” front. Dumbass. I could really see how kinda pathetic he really was in his chapters, so desperate to please, so desperate to be loved and thought worthy of that love, so desperate to live a life that wasn’t the lie his had become, that I really didn’t see him as an unsympathetic character. I could see how the pieces of his life fit together to make him exactly the awkward douchebag he’d become. As he unravels the mystery of the missing Amy and realises that she’s not missing but rather setting him up for killing her, Nick starts to play her game to prove his innocence.
Amy on the other hand, was a nutbag from the beginning. That was clear in the book right from the get-go. Her diary chapters were splendiferously schizophrenic to the point where it seemed like the person writing them was either mentally ill or multiple people. And the treasure hunt she left for Nick was the biggest clue as to that. In her diary entries she’s writing she’s fearful of him, that he hit her and she’s afraid she’ll be killed by him but the clues she’s leaving him are so sweet and sentimental it’s a wonder he could pick them up for all the sugared honey coated slop. Turns out of course, that she is mental and she wrote seven years worth of diary entries woven with enough truths to be deemed authentic and enough lies to hammer the nail into Nick’s coffin! She even mentions that she’s been fighting with the ghosts of her seven dead sisters that preceded her, they who were perfect while she had to work at it (to be jealous of dead siblings, WTF?) and disinterested parents who recreated her life the way they wanted it to be in a children’s book series called Amazing Amy, and says of how she gets through life,
“I was pretending, the way I often did, pretending to have a personality. I can’t help it, it’s what I’ve always done: The way some women change fashion regularly, I change personalities. What persona feels good, what’s covetedm what’s au courant? I think most people do this, they just don’t admit it, or else they settle on one persona because they’re too lazy or stupid to pull off a switch.
The movie had a long running time, 149 minutes all up, but still didn’t go into as much detail as the book for certain areas. I think where it really fell down was in establishing that Amy has been batshit crazy her entire life. The movie only mentions Tommy, the man she accused of raping her when he tried to break up with her after realising she was mental. Of particular note was Hilary’s story of being screwed over by Amy at 15. Amy groomed Hilary, literally at one point, coercing her to change her fashion style and cutting her hair and when Hilary began to get attention instead of simply being Amy’s lackey, Amy throws herself down the stairs (breaking her own ribs I might add) and concocts a web of semi-factual lies that paint Hilary as a psychotic obsessed Amazing Amy fan who tried to kill her to become the real Amazing Amy in her place. At FIFTEEN! Her manipulations DO NOT extend solely to enacting retribution on men she sees have wronged her, and this is a very important point. Amy is not some misguided avenging angel, she’s the epitome of narcissism – a self obsessed psychopath with incredible patience and she will destroy you gladly without a trace of guilt.
The movie also gets Desi all wrong. He was played brilliantly by Neil Patrick Harris, who I never thought I could be creeped out by, but you know, Desi was a creep. But movie Desi came across as some rich dude that Amy used to date. He almost came across as sympathetic because he saved her, he took her to his lake house, bought her food and clothes and only ever loved her! BAH! Crock of shit. Book Desi was a creep of the highest magnitude who was also the recipient of an Amy retribution episode, but being that he’s a messed up mummy’s boy with a mum who looks like Amy, he remains obsessively in love with her forever. The lake house was painted in colours that Amy likes, there was a greenhouse filled with Amy’s favourite flowers, everything in it was designed to please Amy. Amy of course despises the lot because her tastes have changed as she’s matured (although one might argue she’s never really changed, just shed her skin like a venemous reptile) but plays the vapidly grateful damsel in distress so as not to ruin her plan of fucking over Nick. Desi is of course obsessed, and what do obsessed people do when they possess the object of their desire? They keep it under lock and key. Book Amy is trapped by Desi in a house in the wilderness with no access to a car.
At the point where Amy is shacked up at Desi’s, Nick has been doing the television rounds and playing to an audience of one – Amy. He uses words, phrases, jokes and props that will appeal to her sense of vanity and are designed to make her feel like he realises that who she really is, is who he’s been wanting all along, that he needs her because he’s at his best with her. Movie Nick does it once, but the effect is the same. The sick part is that Nick really is at his best when he’s playing her game – he’s focused, he’s confident and he’s strong, as opposed to being the mopey, whining, people pleasing bore he has been the whole time. This is the impetus for Amy wanting to escape from Desi, that and she feels like she’s made a huge mistake and ironically now feels scared for her life as Desi is so unpredictable.
And then the ending. The book ending sucked. The movie ending seemed to have left a few people confused. Book Nick and Book Amy take up this weird adverserial relationship where they’re both fully cognizant of the fact that should one misstep, mutual destruction is assured. Nick decides to leave and that’s when Amy drops her little pregnancy bombshell on him. Nick stays to make sure his child isn’t a monster, and actually is excited to have a child, but then concludes with the most awful and chilling acceptance of fate paragraph I’ve ever read
Yes, I am finally a match for Amy… I’m rising to my wife’s level of madness. Because I can feel her changing me again: I was a callow boy, and then a man, good and bad. Now at last I’m the hero. I am the one to root for in the never-ending war of our marriage. It’s a story I can live with. Hell, at this point, I can’t imagine my story without Amy. She is my forever antagonist.
Fuck that shit.
So, now that the story bit is out of the way, I want to talk a little about feminism. Some have said that this book/movie is misogynist. I call bollocks on this. The gender roles in this are a clear subversion of current gender stereotyping which is the only reason that this story even works. People wouldn’t be raving about what an amazing book/movie this was if they didn’t have the expectation that it would play by the “rules” of gender. Feminism is not about empowering women to the point of making men submissive or to raise them to be some paragon of virtuosity. Feminism is about gender equality, about taking preconceived notions and turning them on their head to say women and men are all people and people are complex and sometimes we don’t fit the box you want to stuff us into. Women ARE psychotic. Women DO evil things. Is it anti-feminist to produce a female character that is as gross as Amy? No. Is Amy likeable? Fuck no. Does she have to be likable? Even more no. The reason Amy’s manipulations and craziness come as such a surprise to people is that very few examples of such truly abhorrent evil women are ever discussed in literature or the media. The reason people don’t feel sorry for Nick is because he’s supposed to be the alpha male. The tragic irony of Nick’s situation is that he finally sheds that submissive second-tier personality to become a strong man with convictions and a plan, only to remain in thrall to Amy’s manipulations to the point where he becomes like her.
TL:DR: Good movie, better book. Amy’s a psychotic bitch.