In my Gone Girl review, I wrote “if you read Gone Girl 100 percent at face value, it’s a story that’s intensely entertaining, but also a bit like one side of the gender debate’s wet dream.”
Allow me to elaborate. Back in the Loveline days, Adam Carolla used to say that when talking to a couple about why they broke up, the woman could put together a slideshow of bullet points, with headings and subheadings and annotations and footnotes explaining all the reasons it didn’t work out. But if you asked the guy the same question, most of the time he’d just shrug and say, “I dunno, bitch went nuts.”
If you read Gone Girl at face value (we’ll get to that “if” in a second), it seems like it exists entirely within that “bitch went nuts” universe. That’s not to say I interpret Amazing Amy to represent all women or Nick Dunne to represent all men, but let’s be honest, she is kind of a reddit commenter’s fever dream; the Evil Bitch writ large. She fakes pregnancies to get her way, makes false rape allegations (twice), uses the public’s sympathy against them, claims abuse that didn’t exist only to eventually push her husband to commit real abuse (the “cunt” scene), and is so scorned that she plans to turn herself into a kamikaze missile of pure spite. And all because a dude cheated on her. She’s the perfect male fantasy of feminine duplicity, where in the end it’s still all about him. She does it all to spite a man, and then turns around and tries to get him back. Chicks, right? It’s like, if they’re not faking rape and using pregnancy to manipulate people they’re trying to trap you in a loveless marriage out of spite. And of course, the fact that Gone Girl was written by a woman makes it that much more intriguing.
Sure, Amy’s descent into pure crazy could’ve been a simple narrative decision for the purpose of creating a solid page turner. If you start off the story making all signs point to the once-charming dude eventually becoming an abusive monster, there has to be a twist to keep it interesting, because we’ve mostly already heard that story. And if you start with a murder scene and blood all over the floor, and the husband didn’t actually do it, there aren’t many options other than that the “victim” was in on it. And from there, you sort of have to keep upping the ante, which Gone Girl does, brilliantly, culminating in that murder-during-orgasm scene that doesn’t have to be as believable as all the relationship stuff before it because you’re too busy saying “got-DAMN” to question believability.
As a side note, I’ve heard some people take a moral relativist tack, saying, “See, it turns out that they’re both bad people.” To this, uh… really? She staged a murder, committed another murder, made two false rape allegations in the hopes of ruining two different peoples’ lives, faked a pregnancy, then actually got pregnant non-consensually, and to add insult to injury she was just plain rude to her poor neighbor. And I’m supposed to believe that because Nick Dunne cheated on her with a student that they were even? If anything, Amy turning out to by a psychopath just makes Nick’s infidelity seem more explainable. Of course he cheated, bro, she was crazy! He ends up looking fairly innocent, if a bit of an easily-manipulated rube. So uh, just no on the “they were both bad” read.
But back to that “If.” For me, Amy is just too perfect a male fantasy not to read the story partly as satire. If Gillian Flynn didn’t intend it that way (and I never read the book to keep from spoiling the movie), David Fincher drops a couple hints that it might be, or at least gives me enough ammunition to come up with my own explanation. The way he opens the film with a shot of Ben Affleck caressing his wife’s head, wondering what might be going on in there, and then closes with the same shot – it makes it possible for me to read the whole movie as Nick Dunne’s extended daydream about female inscrutability. “They’re so hard to read, how dark does it get in there?“ Gone Girl reminds me a lot of that scene in This Is 40 where Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann are swapping stories about how they would murder each other, that psychology played straight, and to its logical conclusion.
Nick’s mistress also seems to fit the daydream/satire read. Isn’t it just too perfect that the woman Nick Dunne cheats with isn’t a Lewinsky or a Rielle Hunter, she’s literally a supermodel from a pop video with comically perfect breasts? Emily Ratajkowski’s scene in Gone Girl and Alexandra D’addario’s in the much more overtly-pulpy True Detective are almost the same scene. She’s less a mistress than a male fantasy of a mistress, and I have to assume that maybe that was the point.
Of course, making you wonder about Gillian Flynn’s intentions is at least half the fun of Gone Girl. Is it just a good pulp thriller or she trying to say something more? Just the fact of you wondering makes it more than just a good pulp thriller, not that there’s anything wrong with being “just” a good pulp thriller. That’s the beauty of Gone Girl. It doesn’t just depict Nick Dunne, sitting there wondering what’s going on in his wife’s head, it sort of turns you into him.