David Fincher’s underappreciated Gone Girl, while marketed as a mystery thriller, has a core focus on the relationship between its two main characters, Nick and Amy Dunne. To be fair, it is not the typical kind of love story we here at Story Screen have been covering and screening this month. The relationship of Nick and Amy Dunne is dark, vile, twisted, pulpy, manipulative, and the dictionary definition of unhealthy. However, that’s not the reason I find the film unique.
About halfway through the film, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) pays Desi Collings (Neil Patrick Harris) a visit to see if he can get information on Amy’s (Rosamund Pike) previous relationship, and why they broke up in high school. Desi is confused why Nick drove such a long distance to ask him these questions, to which Nick replies, “I thought there would be another side to this story.” That sums up the entire movie’s method of storytelling. Instead of focusing on a single character, David Fincher and Gillian Flynn present both sides of Nick and Amy’s story. This is not something you see in a lot of movies about relationships. It’s much more typical to only view one character’s perspective - how they feel, what they want to say, and how they react when the relationship faces turmoil. Can you imagine how different 500 Days of Summer would have been if you actually saw Summer’s side?
When taken separately, Nick and Amy’s perspectives are woefully unreliable. The idea of trusting someone solely on what they say versus tangible evidence is a big theme of the film. When both unreliable sides are shown simultaneously, the shocking truth is revealed. If Fincher and Flynn just focused on Nick throughout the entire movie, we would think he’s a far more evil and conniving person than he really is. We would see through Nick’s shit eating grin, that he’s a nasty husband who abused and murdered his wife, and he’s doing his best to lie to everyone so he can get away with her murder. He’s a cheater and a liar, for sure, but he’s not the murderous bastard everyone thinks he is. That’s because Fincher and Flynn do something brilliant with Amy: not only does Amy fool all of the characters in the movie, she fools us, the audience, via her journal. At first, Amy’s journal is presented as fact. The movie even goes as far as showing a scene where Nick pushes Amy to the ground with the intention of hurting her even more. This flashback was to show Nick as an abusive monster and to display Amy as sympathetic. It’s later revealed, via Amy’s perspective, that this scene was total bullshit, (or was it? It is kind of ambiguous). This reveal completely turns the tables on Nick, and shows him, while still a cheater, to be just an oaf who’s in way over his head, dealing with a completely psychotic wife. It’s almost like when you’re shown both sides, your bias towards who you want to side with completely changes. How about that?
What David Fincher and Gillian Flynn are trying to say with Gone Girl is that humans are complicated folk, and relationships aren’t completely black and white, like those movies on the Lifetime channel seem to convey over and over. The movie takes the story of one of those typical films and puts actual human characters inside of it, making you decide if Amy is justified in her actions against Nick, or if Nick is a sympathetic character who has a manipulative psychopath for a wife. “Sometimes I find the correct answer is the simplest,” says Officer Gilpin halfway through the film, “I’ve never agreed with that,” replies Officer Boney. The film leaves you cold, confused, conflicted, and angry, and I believe the best films - and this applies to art in general - are supposed to leave you with many emotions to consider in the end.
Jeremy is younger than he looks, and has passionately studied the art and craft of filmmaking for as long as he can remember. He is currently a freelance wedding videographer, and is also heavily involved in Competitive Fighting Games. IG: jeremyko95