Dark, Ironic Gone Girl Addresses Isolation

Fiona Deane-Grundman, Staff Writer

The movie adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best-selling novel, Gone Girl, directed by David Fincher, is a poignant, haunting rendition of the psychological thriller, brimming with insight on marriage and relationships and offering a keen perspective on individual isolation.

With its multiple story lines, which span both the month-long period of Amy Dunne’s disappearance and her entire, tortuous marriage, Gone Girl never fails to be engaging. It exceeds the plain-toast premise of a platonic marriage that has stolen the novelty of new love; this story offers insight into the charged and controversial issues of murder, insanity, the American legal system, the media, and the inherent flaws of human nature.

As the movie begins we are introduced to “Amazing Amy,” the 30-something daughter of, ironically, two psychologists, and the inspiration for the children’s book series they penned about her successes. Her perfection is alienating. Blonde and frigid with green eyes and a glib tongue, she instantly beguiles Nick, a charming writer, whose puppy dog eyes and witty quips cause us to like him far more than enigmatic Amy. Stunningly portrayed by the relatively unknown Rosamund Pike, Amy is a mystery.

Beautiful, adored by men and envied by women, Amy never smiles. Nevertheless, Nick’s sweet and down-to-earth manner wins her over. The two marry and eventually mover from New York to North Carthage, Missouri, to care for Nick’s ailing mother, equipped with all the trappings of an upper middle class life: a Volvo and a McMansion.

However, marital troubles plague the two. The recession hits them hard.  Amy is extremely unhappy in her suburban dungeon. Nick’s flippant behavior towards her perpetuates her isolation; she is short and irritable and he begins to avoid her and the multitude of issues, troubles, and anger they share. In separate narratives, they toy with divorce, but who wants to admit the ultimate failure for two newlywed yuppies?

When Amy disappears on the morning of their 5th wedding anniversary, the media, the neighbors, and America explode. The police immediately get involved, including the hard-hitting but sympathetic Detective Rhonda Boney (a triumphant Kim Dickens), straight from Law and Order: SVU. There is fury, confusion, and righteous outrage. How could a girl just disappear? Nick’s life is thrust into the spotlight, and the results are unflattering, as they tend to be.

However, one could argue that due to Amy’s misery and helplessness (and, in all likelihood, deep depression, compounded with other psychological issues from her pressurized childhood), she was never there to begin with. She was always gone, and her drastic “abduction” was the only way for anyone to realize it.

The camera is placed perfectly, juxtaposing conflicting characters, searching Amy’s empty eyes, showing the rabid crowd as they all but attack Nick. The eerie score is haunting and ever-present. As it is revealed that Amy is less than innocent, Nick meets a few unique characters, including the enjoyable if one-dimensional Neil Patrick Harris as an ultra-rich, creepily obsessive former flame of Amy’s. You will never look at him in How I Met Your Mother the same again.

The real discussion is Pike’s phenomenal acting. This is a breakout role for the English actress. Pike pulls all the stops with an impeccable Southern accent as a dumpy anonymous living in a trailer park and a regal stature as a cool and calculating enigma. She can be sweet as sugar, a trophy wife, and a battered victim. Most impressive is her interpretation of Amy at the very end, and her sadistic smile, which is the chill-inducing closing frame, set to triumphant music. Pike should be applauded for her performance.

If this is sounding all too grim for your tastes, do not fear. This was honestly one of the funniest films I’ve seen this year. It’s rich with satisfying dark humor and brims with irony. Ben Affleck lightens the mood with wit in the face of tragedy. Tyler Perry appears, and while funny, his character is painted too sympathetically. At one point I chuckled, surprised at how much blood can come out of a human body.

Laughter is the best remedy for the somewhat far-fetched plot.

If I have one bone to pick, it’s that the characters are at times one-dimensional. Take Neil Patrick Harris’ arrogant rich boy. How do characters like him always appear in movies, complete with 6 vacation homes? How do these gullible fools fund their extravagance, the lottery? If only Fincher had succeeded in adding a bit more complexity to the the film.

I would not recommend taking small children to go see Gone Girl. In fact, I wouldn’t go with my grandmother. Gone Girl is not for the weak of stomach.

Overall, Gone Girl was an exciting and suspenseful experience in the vein of Alfred Hitchcock. With some formidable actors, a rich plot, some inappropriate laughter, and a very important commentary on human communication (or lack thereof), it’s well worth the price of admission and a few chilling nightmares.