It’s been a few weeks, so hopefully you’ve had the chance to get yourself acquainted with Gone Girl by now — be it by reading Gillian Flynn’s 2012 mind-bending novel, or by seeing the author-written screenplay film adaptation that came out last month. If not, be warned: Spoilers lie here. (Lots of them!)
Meryl: I read Gone Girl for my book club two years ago. I balked when I saw it was over 400 pages long, because I’d left starting the club’s selection to the last minute as usual. It didn’t matter — I finished it three days later because I couldn’t put it down. I saw the movie a week or so after it came out. Travis, what is your level of familiarity with GG?
Travis: Zip. Nada. Zilch. Absolutely nothing. I went in knowing that Gillian Flynn had written the screenplay, and that the ending was slightly different. Because of how big a talking point this movie became, I wanted to come in with a fresh, open mind so as to see how that affected my viewing. Spoiler alert: a lot.
Meryl: So you came in with a pretty clean slate. When the creepily-lit, unsettling film began to unwind, what did you think happened to Amy — and did you think Nick did it to her?
Travis: I, at first, thought it was Neil Patrick Harris who did it, but right around the appearance of the random ass pair of panties in conjunction with the anniversary scavenger hunt (oh, yeah, Spoiler Alert, y’all), I knew that Amy was setting everything up for one reason or another. At no point did I think that Nick was capable of pulling off the crime of the century, as bumbling, aloof, and clueless as he was. Dude has a disposable phone to carry on an affair with a college-age drama chick. But, affair aside, why do you think Amy launched off the deep end, faked her own murder, and left her husband of many years to the wolves?
Meryl: Hoo boy. I think the affair was kind of the last straw in a giant pile of awfulness: They both lost their jobs; he decided to move them from NYC to Missouri without really asking her if she wanted to; he used the last of her savings to buy a bar; and then, then he banged the college-age drama chick. But what it really comes down to is the famous Cool Girl speech, and the people Nick and Amy pretended to be when they first got together. The difference is, Nick liked who Amy made him act like — he tried harder, he was better, he was smarter. Once they started to settle into their marriage, he stopped trying. That’s when she realized he’d been pretending, too.
That said, faking your own death, framing your husband, and keeping your fingers crossed he gets the death penalty when they find your body after you commit suicide… seems like an overreaction. In the book, you’re more in Nick’s head as his internal monologue narrates the first half. You get the sense that he’s at least a little crazy too, and that in a way, he and Amy kind of deserve each other. Poor Ben Affleck in the movie just seems like the doofus you described, Travis. What did you think of the casting in the film?
Travis: I think I need to read the book. I liked Ben Affleck as the perpetual doofus, and yet, that’s all he was to me. The movie didn’t play enough between the two characters as to who was good and bad – Nick is clearly the protagonist. It chose a side, which forces the viewer to choose a side, and that makes Amy the crazed antagonist. I don’t think that’s a fault of Affleck – it’s Fincher and Flynn – but his ability to play nuance isn’t very pronounced. I wanted more of a grey area for Nick, like we got from Amy. And I loved Rosamund Pike as Amy. There’s a whole lot going on with her, and while the structure makes her into the villain, you can tell there’s a bunch going on with her. I’m trying to think of who I would compare her character to in terms of cinematic history, and it’s hard. There’s a bit of Daniel Plainview in her – her obsessive drive to meet her goals at any cost. There’s also a bit of Hannibal Lecter – not in the sense of a serial killer so much as meticulous plotting to achieve her goals. Pike can bounce between innocent victim and coiled serpent ready to strike with remarkable ease. When she’s sitting watching him on tv, the simple bits of expression on her face – masterful.
I also liked Neil Patrick Harris’s work. There’s an element of danger to him, and boy howdy is he creepy, yet in the end, he’s also the ultimate victim, murdered simply so Amy can get what she wants. It was almost enough to make me feel sorry for him. Almost. How did you feel? And while we’re talking about the script, let’s talk about Fincher. He’s obviously mastered his own mise-en-scene (or cinematic style), and it’s a dark bit of filmmaking. When you learn that Fincher is directing something, you know what to expect – desaturated atmospheres, long shots of postmodern interiors, and jarring jump cuts during action scenes. He and Trent Reznor were born to work together. And yet, after this and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it’s getting a little old for me – less artistic statement, and more gimmicky. What did you think of the style? How does Fincher strike you?
Meryl: You are better versed in your David Fincher than I am — so to me, the style of Gone Girl doesn’t come off as gimmicky. I can see how that could happen though, for those who know his tricks. I thought the style was very much in line with the unnerving feel of the book and the score definitely helped. You’re right that Fincher + Reznor = OF COURSE. I felt so on edge during the movie’s climax.
As for Neil Patrick Harris — he nailed the part of Desi, the creepy ex. I’ve never found Harris more menacing than the moment he grabbed that ice cream (frozen yogurt?) bowl at of Amy’s hands. Since you asked, I did not feel sorry for him, because he tried to manipulate, control, and trap what he believed to be a desperate woman with nowhere else to turn. But he was no match for Amy, and too arrogant to realize he was the one being played.
Amy is such an interesting and complex character. With Amy, I am torn between reverence and repulsion, and the film almost does her justice. I do hope you get the chance to read the book even though you know how it all goes down, because in it you see more of the dynamics of the (seriously messed-up) marriage of Nick and Amy Dunne. They know each other better than anyone else, to the point of their own detriment.
Travis: Good point about Desi and the ice cream bowl. I probably forgot about that because I was shocked – shocked! – at the box-cutter incident which came several minutes later. Sort of mind wiped me. Changes/adjusts my viewing/reading of the film.
Multiple people (read: online critics I have glanced at) are going on about how Gone Girl can be taken as a critique of modern marriage. While I can see that, your point about the seriously messed-up marriage is a good one. These two aren’t indicative of modern marriage – they’re just characters with major flaws who have bound themselves together. It’s more story than parable. Which is disturbing in its own right.
I’m gonna go find a copy and read it. Like, stat.