Gone Girl is a film directed by David Fincher, with a screenplay by Gillian Flynn, based upon her own novel. The film is a thriller with elements of social criticism in it.
Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) returns home one day to find that his house has apparently been broken into and that his wife, Amy (Amanda Pike) is missing. During the subsequent police investigation, Nick makes conflicting statements, and it is gradually revealed that he was emotionally estranged form Amy. Because Amy is the daughter of a writer of a popular series of children’s books, the case draws national attention. Suspicion begins to grow among both the police and the public that Nick murdered Amy. Nick’s sister, Margo (Carrie Coon), is suspected of being his accomplice.
What I found most interesting about this film is its devastating portrayal of the news media. Many of the events in this film are driven by a cable news reporter named Ellen Abbot (Missi Pyle), a character who is clearly modeled after Nancy Grace. Her sensationalist and biased reporting on the case help to create a lynch mob atmosphere in the small town in which Nick and Margo live. Gone Girl depicts the destructive effects of news reporters who try to identify “good guys” and “bad guys” in every situation, even though reality is rarely ever that simple. (I would argue that a similar criticism could be made of the Left, but I won’t go into that here.)
SPOILER ALERT. I AM ABOUT TO GIVE AWAY AN IMPORTANT PLOT TWIST
The early scenes create a strong feeling of suspense, as well as of foreboding. However, when, about halfway through the film, we learn what actually happened to Amy, it becomes basically a melodrama, and a somewhat cynical one at that. The film implies that the reason for Amy’s destructive behavior is that she is an emotionally needy sociopath. There is, however, a vague class consciousness here as well. Amy has a trust fund from her parents, and it appears that a sense of entitlement is part of her emotional make-up.
There is some psychological nuance, however. When Amy sees Nick apologize to her on TV for his behavior towards her, she decides to go back to him. Later, Nick tells Amy that he didn’t really mean it when he made that apology. She tells him she doesn’t care, that she would be happy to have him pretend to be the person he was at that moment. It’s clear at this point that Amy sees little distinction between fiction and reality. This may have something to do with the fact that Amy’s mother used her as the fictionalized subject of her children’s books.
And there is a deeper social criticism here as well. This film implies that many of us are like Amy: we are attracted to fake sentiment. After Amy returns, the media accept her implausible story of being kidnapped. People want to believe her story is true. Someone suggests that Nick and Amy should be in a “reality” TV show. Later, when Nick threatens to leave their loveless marriage, Amy tells him that the public will hate him for it. At this point, the public has become an almost tangible presence in their household. They are aware that they are constantly being watched by the media. Their fake marriage appeals to a society that watches obviously staged “reality” TV shows. At one point, Margo suggests to Nick that he too has come to like the spectacle of their fake marriage.
This movie goes on a bit long. Some things could have been cut out of it. Still, for all its flaws, Gone Girl is the most interesting and thought-provoking American film that I have seen in a long time.