With the new year approaching, we celebrate our films of 2014. David Fincher’s Gone Girl is up.
Year in and year out, there are so many cookie cutter mystery-thrillers that come out of Hollywood that it is often hard to remember which is which. In addition, the majority of them have the same resolution: good triumphs over evil in some way, shape, or form. It’s rare for a film to take a very simple formula and turn it on its head to metaphorically slap the audience on its collective wrists for foolishly thinking that the film would go through the same old schtick. This is Gone Girl in a nutshell.
Gone Girl slaps the audience on its collective wrists for foolishly thinking that the film would go through the same old schtick
In Gone Girl, Nick Dunne’s (Ben Affleck) wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), goes missing from their suburban mini-mansion one day, and mounting evidence suggests that Nick murdered his wife to collect a small fortune for his own personal gain. That’s the short version. While the plot continues to remain a mystery/detective story for the majority of the film’s run-time, Gone Girl quickly dissolves the stigma of the traditional murder mystery when the audience discovers that Amy is very much alive and has it in for poor Nick.
Many great films have used the turn where a supposedly dead character is revealed to be still alive, but Gone Girl is different. Nick has plenty of his own vices to atone for, and Amy uses them to her advantage. She uses her faux-death to basically taunt her husband and send him on a rat race, by way of clues she leaves behind that only he can decipher. Essentially, Amy’s disappearance is a sick joke and Nick’s downfall in the public eye is the punchline for her. Despite all of Nick’s faults, Amy is the true villain and the film tries (successfully, I might add) to make viewers feel bad for ever doubting that Nick didn’t kill his wife.
As with recent Fincher films The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Jeff Cronenweth handles the cinematography for Gone Girl. The film has a very clean and sterile look to it – the locales and houses are mostly drained of any vibrant colour, but maintain a modern type of elegance. Every single item has a particular place, all furniture and appliances appear to be brand new, and nothing is tarnished. For a viewer, it’s like looking at a lot of things that you can’t have and only people with an image of perfection are allowed to have.
It is because of their physical perfection and newly inconsequential lives that Amy and Nick despise one another
Don’t be fooled, though. Nick and Amy are anything but perfect. The film shows the early parts of their relationship, when things seemingly were great for the pair, but eventually the facade of happiness disappears. They both lose their jobs, relocate from New York to Missouri, and lose any spark they previously had in their relationship. They wind up becoming a walking stereotype of a perfect couple. On the outside, they appear to have everything they could ever want. On the inside, it is because of their physical perfection and newly inconsequential lives that they absolutely despise one another.
They had achieved the American Dream, yet now they live the lives of so many others that struggle monetarily. They seek other outlets for happiness, Nick’s outlet being infidelity and Amy’s being manipulation. Meanwhile, the media is in love with the idea of “Amazing Amy.” The press acknowledges Nick and Amy’s supposed happy life together and lambasts Nick’s inability to live up to the standard of a good husband. Of course, they bounce back and forth on their opinion of Nick, depending on how he responds to their criticisms.
In an obvious critique on the real American media, the more Nick avoids them and tries to be non-confrontational, the more they victimize him. On the other hand, the more he plays into their dog and pony show, the more sympathetic he becomes not as a man, but as a character (in the eyes of the media and in the film itself). Gone Girl is a film that is so critical of happiness and appreciation for what a person has that it almost makes you feel bad for wanting more.
As human beings, we love the idea of comfort. Nick sacrifices what he wants to retreat back into the comfort of what he knows
If your goal is to achieve the American dream, you can only expect to fail at hanging on to it. Nothing lasts forever and it takes hard work to better one’s self. Neither Nick nor Amy believe in this ideal. They want the quick fix, the metaphorical painkiller, and the illusion of being happy. As human beings, we love the idea of comfort, and Nick is no different. He ultimately sacrifices what he truly wants in his life to retreat back into the comfort of what he knows.
Maybe the purpose of this film is not to taunt us with a vision of the American Dream and how NOT to achieve it, but to maybe show that many of us have already succumbed to the notion that it truly doesn’t exist. Either way, Gone Girl excels in mastering the art of manipulation and is one of the best films of 2014…even if it does swindle and deceive you.
All images: 20th Century Fox