Who Am I? Who Are You? Who are We: Gone Girl’s Youth Appeal
Directed by David Fincher
Screenplay/Novel by Gillian Flynn
Executive Produced by Leslie Dixon and Bruna Papandrea
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Kim Dickens, Tyler Perry,
And Neil Patrick Harris.
Running Time: 2hrs and 30 minutes
I went into Gone Girl expecting it to be some kind of stylized murder mystery, let’s find the little girl. The husband was going to be hiding something, the missing girl was great and beautiful, just a victim of tragedy—a victim of a man who may have thought the world owed him something and that maybe we, the audience, will sympathize with him for being hurt—and the husband may or may not find his wife. And I was right. But these are the makings of that typical murder mystery-disappearance. The kind you see on Lifetime or in horror or thriller flicks, where we think, “Some people are just crazy. Lord help em.” Fact is, I think, like most people, especially those who are supposed to be “educated”, that I know everything. And one area that people seem to know everything about is romantic relationships. Gone Girl isn’t so much a portrait of a modern day marriage, or an explosive (volatile as far as this one goes) relationship, or the “compromises” you’re supposed to have to make a relationship work, but a questioning, and near presentation of the myths that surround people, relationships, and people who perhaps need romance to understand themselves and other people.
Amy Dunne, played Rosamund Pike, is a ghost for the first part of the film. Your understanding of her as a character and person come by way of flashback, voice over either from her husband Nick, played by Ben Affleck, or her own, setting up a narrative about herself and her marriage. Director David Fincher employs this technique of going back and forth between the “present” linear narrative Nick is in, and vignettes of Amy, to give the audience a quick story of their relationship and who they “are”. In the first half hour to an hour, Fincher does two things with his use of editing and narrative structure: he shows us how myth and reality easily blur when people want something to real or tangible, and the difference between how men approach dealing with relationships and how women approach it. Women get in their head; talk around things through memories and/or feelings, and abstractions. Men don’t talk about it until they’re forced to; until someone ends up missing. The question Gone Girl proposes throughout the film is whose narrative will you believe? And this is where the film becomes more appealing to a 20 something who may be re-considering relationships, marriage, and their own identity inside of a structure, i.e. the home, a job, school, maybe the arts, or a relationship, and who they are to themselves. Everyone’s got a story; it’s murder mystery after all. But what is special about Gone Girl is the implied reasoning for people in the film who believe in the narratives their told and how important the it becomes: a matter of life and death.
Throughout the film, media is ever present. TV news, Amy’s best selling book advertisement, her diary, billboards and blown up missing person posters, and Nick’s video games. The interesting think about Pike’s character is that its constantly referred to that no one really knows her. But that doesn’t matter because you still fall in love with her. Whether it be Nick or the townspeople of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, or the news media that shape and re-shape her narrative. One of the most brilliant shots is when Nick poses by the blown up missing person poster of Amy, at a press conference to initiate her search. You get the feeling then, that Amy as well as Nick have been mythologized for the screen—Amy is no where to be found and yet we immediately think she would be happy being back at Nick’s side and that Nick is guilty of her disappearance because he struggles to show emotion. On the contrary, Nick’s apathy toward his missing wife is a sign of a man who not only didn’t do it, but that he isn’t sure how he feels because he’s doesn’t know who he is, therefore isn’t sure how to feel. They are a myth as a couple and as individuals. The beautiful thing in the film that continues this questioning of identity and narrative and how they play into having what a marriage, or at least a committed relationship is, is how the two characters, more importantly Nick, starts to learn more about himself as well as Amy, when the two are separated. He has to start doing things he would not normally do, like get a male for support (hiring a lawyer played by Tyler Perry) playing a character on TV who doesn’t think he is, and confront himself when his secrets come up. He take’s action, (something you hear women usually complain that their men don’t do.)
The complicated narrative starts to shift towards a linear narrative that divulges secrets and answers to Amy’s whereabouts but only when Nick starts to trace Amy’s past through ex boyfriends (one is that dude who thinks you owe him something because you were nice to him). This plays on what us young people don’t like to do before we get into a relationship: wait until you know the person, wait until you know more of yourself. By the time Nick gets a lead on where Amy is, it becomes a battle for whose narrative will you believe and/or support, Nick or Amy’s? The same becomes an implied task for the press, the towns people and the police, and Nick and Amy themselves as they try to communicate how they feel to each other either through the media or by absence. Fincher continues to use flashback to reveal why Amy did what she did (revealing more of who she is) while the narrative we follow reveals Nick for who he is. The only time when the two ways of storytelling converge and become seemingly one, is when Amy and Nick re-unite. Ultimately, as a couple and a married one at that, they have to choose their narrative: who are they to themselves and possibly to each after being separate. In one scene, Nick says, “All we do is cause each other pain and try to control each other”, to which Amy replies, “That’s marriage.”
Never does the presentation of myth stop. What narrative do you believe? What is the truth? The one you feel or the one you’re told you look like? They, or Fincher, leave it up to you to decide, like whether or not you should see a movie you think you’ve already seen.
By Jordon Briggs