On the day of their 5th wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) goes missing to the apparent bafflement of husband Nick (Ben Affleck). The investigation ensues, unearthing all the secrets of a marriage that definitely is not as picture-perfect as first appearances indicate…
Fincher has the un-flinching reputation of being a sadist filmmaker with the darkest of imaginations, what with the murky repertoire of Seven (1995) and Fight Club (1999) under his rain-mac. It’s not surprising, then, that he was drawn to the prospect of adapting Gillian Flynn’s hugely successful Gone Girl for the screen, where the central themes include murder, rape, adultery, plagiary and the darkest of all dark themes – marriage.
Together, Fincher and Flynn have attempted to crack open holy matrimony’s skull and spill its contents all over the screen for our examination. And it’s not an easy exercise to get one’s head around. We as an audience attempt to navigate our way into the history of Nick and Amy’s relationship, relying on strung-together clues such as Amy’s diary entries, accounts by family members, friends and past lovers, and physical flash-backs that may or may not be real. At the heart of it all, we realise, is the concept of the unreliable narrator: who the hell is guiding us on this journey, and can we trust them?
What is apparent is Fincher’s loyalty to the book; contrary to rumours, the film is a very faithful adaption in both form and content (which is not at all surprising seeing as the author is the screenwriter). He has captured the he-said-she-said nature of marriage, where we try to piece together fragments of the past to validate our side of the story as we play the everlasting chess game of power with our partner. In the end, all we have to go on is our selective memory, and it is exactly that selectiveness which is brought to light and questioned in Gone Girl.
Our incredulousness as viewers at one viscous turn after the other (the plot is basically structured around revelation after revelation) is epitomised in the character of Nick’s sister Margo (Carrie Coon), who, as the only beacon of sanity, voices just how mad all this madness is looking from the outside. We identify with her tender inclination towards her brother, whilst hating him at the same time for his blundering-husband mistakes. But most of all, it is her suffering a psychotic break at the trauma of realising that her relationship with her twin, whom, as she states, she has been with since even before they were born, is buried under piles of lies and secrets. Nick’s behaviour, which he has adapted to his married life, makes him scarily unrecognisable to the person closest to him…do we ever really know someone?
As the revelations plateau, we begin to realise that we are being taught an insider’s lesson on marriage politics at their darkest: in order to make it work, you have to risk everything, sacrifice everything, and be anyone. The crux isn’t just that this is a sensationalist thriller, like so many others, about a psychotic or cruel pair – they’re doing what they have to do to sustain their marriage. Whilst it may not be pretty, it’s honest.
Amy’s character, which had endless depth in the novel, is not as fleshed-out as I (Holly) would have liked to have seen. Less was made of why she was how she was, and the pressures she had suffered from her childhood and relationship with her parents which scar her life. What came across strongly, though, was her ability to simulate female gender stereotypes as and when they were needed, in order to preserve not only her marriage but other relationships in her life. She could be the passive ‘Cool Girl’ for Nick at the beginning, pretending to like what he liked, and ignoring his irritating dependencies. She could be the vulnerable victim to her friends when she needed their sympathy. She was, just like the family franchise based on (or stolen from) her idealised childhood, ‘Amazing Amy’ when she was called upon, and within this aspect of the story was a meaningful point about the expectations put on women to behave in certain ways.
However to me (Amelia) it seemed as though her character in the film was a lot less obvious, and at times it just seemed as though she was the ‘crazy bitch’. It is up to each individual viewer to judge whether she was playing this part, or whether Fincher and Flynn were trying to say that she was in fact a psycho bitch and Nick was just a lazy husband. Flynn has said numerous times that she tries to write female characters that steer away from the norm, when in fact at many times throughout this film it seemed like she was just perpetuating the stereotype. The background story of Amy’s character got lost in the movie, and a lot of her actions are not shown through how she has had to deal with things in her past, which again only stimulates the idea that she is just a bitch, for no reason other than she is a bitch. The story taps into male fears (such as faking a pregnancy and accused rape) but doesn’t necessarily address female fears. This is where perhaps the two of us Girls (on film..) disagreed in our take on the film.
Yet, the brutal truth that we all select versions of ourselves at different times to get what we want, and that playing at being married is maybe just part of a wider performance we call our lives, intentionally leaves a bitter taste in the viewers’ mouths (well done, Finchy). But we expected this film to be a lot darker and found it rather tame compared to what we’ve seen him dare to dabble in. Some of the murkier nuances of the novel have maybe got lost in the bigger picture, but all in all, whether you’ve read the book or not, Gone Girl is over-brimming with atmosphere and tension.
As for the viewing experience at The Electric cinema, part of the Soho House luxury franchise, it felt as glamorous and authentic an experience as it possibly could have from the moment you walked in to collect your ticket from the little man in his little booth. Each seat was cosy and spacious, with a stylish side table for your snacks and drinks, available from the bar behind you (we just love not having to travel far to purchase your Baileys hot chocolate and nachos). Whilst the prices there are undeniably, panic-inducingly high (the cheapest ticket was £18 and ranged up to £45 for the luxurious beds right at the front), there is no other cinema we’ve found as high-quality in terms of decor and sound and picture. It was the perfect type of film to see in such an all-encompassing setting: high octane, psychological and deep.
Best Bits of the Viewing Experience:
- The Location: situated on the bold and beautiful Portobello Road, nothing feels more exciting than stepping out into West-Central London nightlife after a great film.
- The short and jaunty pre-film number, packed with celebrity endorsements, telling us all the rules and regulations of The Electric in a comical fashion.
- I don’t know about you, but sipping a delicious hot chocolate spiked with Baileys in a private armchair epitomises the word ‘cosy’. The spacial seating arrangement is just splendid – you can even throw your bag carelessly to the side and not worry about tutting.