GONE GIRL is a mystery about Amy, who goes missing, and her husband Nick, whose odd behavior leads people to think he had something to do with it, possibly having murdered her. But the reality ends up being much more complicated than that. WARNING: this review is actually full of spoilers, so if you don’t want to hear them, stop reading now. It turns out that Amy left town, framed Nick for her murder, and eventually sought shelter with a rich, possessive ex-boyfriend. Then when he got too possessive, she killed him and returned home. All this because she was dissatisfied with her marriage.
How does that sound? It sounds pretty ridiculous to me. I know a lot of people enjoyed this movie, but I’m not sure why. The whole thing feels like a setup for one ‘Ah-ha’ moment, which was woefully underwhelming, and a gruesome murder scene to follow it. Maybe that’s a bit harsh; it’s a beautifully shot movie, pretty well acted, and the music is great. But this movie is all about its story, and the story is full of holes.
Nick Dunne is a polite, charming Midwestern guy. Like many charming guys, there’s not much to him once you get beneath the surface. And he’s unfaithful. For Amy that’s sin enough to condemn him to death row; instead of getting a divorce, which he in fact wants, she stages an elaborate murder plot. It’s a mind-numbingly complicated plan, which the whole country falls for. But as a viewer, I felt like I was being insulted.
Amy must be smart beyond belief to pull something like this off. She constructs a complete crime scene, anticipating every move of her town’s CSI supercops, and she even manipulates the national media into crucifying her husband. What cunning! But she still manages to get robbed of her bankroll by a couple hicks, which is why she takes shelter with the creepy Desi Collings. Then, seeing an out, she kills him and crawls back to her husband in front of the cameras.
Am I supposed to believe this? Why does North Carthage, Missouri, even have CSI supercops? I live in New York City, and I frankly doubt that homicide police here are as sharp as Detective Rhonda Boney. I guess we’re supposed to accept the seemingly endless budget of North Carthage’s police department because of Boney’s throwaway line towards the beginning of the film about a ‘spike in violent crime.’ Last I checked, most of the violent crime in Missouri is committed by police officers.
Now let’s look at Amy. She is literally a criminal mastermind, which is probably why people like this movie so much, because we’re morbidly fascinated by her. I love gangster movies myself, particularly convincing portrayals of psychopaths. But GONE GIRL is not one of them. It would have us believe that someone as smart, calculating, and ruthless as Amy Dunne spends her time and energy terrorizing her oafish husband, when in reality she would be conning people out of billions of dollars on Wall Street or some such place, and retiring to Boca Raton.
This is why GONE GIRL feels like an insult to my intelligence. I know I’m particularly nit-picky about psychological realism because I’m a therapist, but come on! Her motivation is ridiculous! Film is a director’s medium, but a screenplay is still the soul of a movie. If the director is filming shit material, he’s not going to get a good product. The writer, Gillian Flynn, treats us with kid gloves throughout the whole movie. We’re constantly told what to think, like when Nick’s national television interview is explained to us before we get to watch it ourselves.
The sad part is that the movie starts a lot of interesting conversations, but doesn’t pursue them. The volatility and manipulability of the mainstream media, and their ruthlessness at bothering average citizens. The expectations people bring into relationships, and how disappointment with one’s partner can be interpreted as malicious. And the most interesting character in the movie is probably Desi Collings, who is woefully underdeveloped. When he turned out to be a creeper, I expected the tables to turn on Amy finally. The results disappointed me.
UPDATE: This article at the New York Review of Books makes many of my points in wittier fashion! The conclusion to Heller’s article makes me think of another rebuff to GONE GIRL: it’s like ANTICHRIST without a spine. (Don’t take that to mean that I like ANTICHRIST; I think it’s rubbish too.)