Nick Dunne: Single, P-P Moral, Pro (Untransformed Lone Hero)
Amy Dunne: Single, N-N Moral, Ant (Untransformed Deceptive Lone Villain)
I just went to see Gone Girl. I guess that makes me a Went Boy.
And when you went, you made quite a mess. Let’s turn our attention to this interesting Ben Affleck-flick. Go ahead and recap, Went Boy.
We’re introduced to Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) – an unemployed author married to the woman of his dreams – Amy (Rosamund Pike). He comes home to find his wife has gone missing. And all the clues point to Nick as the culprit. Local Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) is tracking Nick’s activity and is building a case against him. There’s blood on the kitchen floor and on the walls. There’s Amy’s insurance policy that was doubled in recent days. There’s the nosey neighbor who claims Amy said the marriage was on the rocks – and Amy was pregnant. But without a corpse, there cannot be a murder. Then, Boney finds a diary where Amy lays out a story of a marriage gone bad and a husband she fears.
As public opinion turns against Nick, he senses his imminent arrest. Wisely, he seeks the legal counsel of Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry), who attempts to rehabilitate his public image. A big setback occurs when Nick’s adulterous affair with a college girl half his age is revealed. But wait, a bigger reveal is that Amy isn’t dead after all. We learn that Amy is a psychopath who has orchestrated what appears to be the perfect frame and set-up of Nick. Amy’s plan is dealt a huge blow when she is robbed of all her cash and must turn to an old boyfriend (Neil Patrick Harris) for refuge.
Scott, this is a great story. We’re pulled in by the story of the perfect relationship. Then the relationship sours. We are lulled into the sense that Nick is the typical terrible husband. That he just might be capable of murder after all. And just when we, like everyone else in the movie, believe he is guilty – we learn that Amy isn’t dead. In fact, she’s setting Nick up for her own murder.
This premise is easily as frightening as Basic Instinct or Fatal Attraction. Nick has scorned Amy and now she uses every intimate detail she knows about Nick to implicate him in a terrible crime. It’s anyone’s worst nightmare – that all the secrets you share with the person closest to you can be used against you in the court of public opinion.
The greatest element of this story is the turnabout of the villains. The first half of the movie sets Nick up as a dreadful man (and to a certain degree it’s a deserved reputation). Then at the halfway point, the tables are turned and Nick becomes the victim to Amy’s villain.
You got that right, Greg. Gone Girl is a dark movie. It’s dark in showcasing the worst of humanity and also dark in the way that darkness conceals things. There are hidden agendas of varying degrees throughout the movie, and they keep us guessing and re-guessing. This film is a chess game on steroids, with chess pieces moving methodically along the board in surprising and sinister ways. I’ve never been a big fan of Ben Affleck’s acting ability, but here he is a master of exuding mixed signals, rendering us uncertain of his culpability and character.
Nearly all of this film’s darkness emanates from the story’s main malevolent character, Amazing Amy herself. For me, Amy is the most memorable female character in the movies since Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, released in 2011. Amy is sexy, smart, confident, and accomplished. We cannot even imagine her attaining the level of diabolical evil that she reaches. But reach it she does. We’re left aghast and appalled while admiring her stunning, disturbing intelligence.
Ben Affleck as the hero of the story is severely flawed. He is childish, a philanderer, and actually not that bright. We’re given a tale of him as villain first and when the tables turn he is the victim. The story follows him center stage from beginning to end. It’s his conversion from the controlling husband to the one controlled that we are witnessing. He’s different from any other hero we’ve studied thus far. He is transformed, but this time, not for the better.
Amy is likewise a complex villain. At the start of the film she is painted as the dutiful wife who does whatever her husband wants to do. But at the halfway point we come to realize that she’s the one who is controlling Nick. She becomes the villain. And again, unlike any villain we’ve studied so far, she is more capable, more cunning, and more powerful than the hero of the story. She is the ultimate villain.
Nick is not your typical hero. He’s not a terrible man but he’s not a good man, either. He goes through hell in this movie yet we hardly see signs of change or growth in his character. He becomes wiser but appears not to use his wisdom to better himself or the world around him. I think this is the point of the movie. We learn that dark people do dark things, and if they’re smart enough, they’ll get away with murder, literally. We need heroes to stop them but in Gone Girl the heroes are neither smart enough nor virtuous enough to rid the world of its darkness.
I do believe that Rosamund Pike is outstanding in her role as Amy and deserves Academy Award consideration for her performance here. There is a multi-dimensionality to her acting, ranging from demure sweetness to true psychopathological rage. I agree with you, Greg, that she is the ultimate villain, making everyone around her look foolish as they try to keep up with her true motives or her next move. Amy is a force unto herself, literally; there are no henchmen or henchwomen to aid her. She is a true lone villain, perhaps the most formidable force of evil that we’ve seen this year at the movies.
Gone Girl clocks in at two and a half hours – and none of it was wasted. I was getting a little bored by the time we got to the midpoint where the tables are turned. Then I was riveted. This is a completely engrossing tale told spectacularly well by all members of the cast and crew. I give Gone Girl 5 out of 5 Reels.
Nick is a flawed hero as we have discussed. He’s not altogether bright nor altogether virtuous. He lets women mold him into whatever they want him to be (his mother, other girlfriends, then Amy). We really don’t have much sympathy for him as a victim. At the end of the movie he has a way out, but he isn’t strong enough to take it. This is a complex protagonist that is difficult to score on our usual scale. I give Nick a 4 out of 5 Heroes.
Amy is the most manipulative, spiteful, vengeful, cunning and controlling villain we’ve ever seen. If there were a Villain’s Hall of Fame, I’d nominate her for it. Her “unreliable first person” narration first paints her as the victim, but in the end we realize she’s the one in control. I give Amy 5 Villains out of 5.
Gone Girl is one of the year’s best movies with it’s stylish portrayal of love, treachery, and murderous revenge. This film drags us through the muck of human relationships and the nadir of human conduct. I enjoyed this movie despite the fact that afterward I was left feeling alarmed and ashamed of the human race. At film’s end, there are hints of a sequel, which I would dread seeing with great anticipation. While not a perfect movie by any means, it is engrossing enough to merit a full 5 Reels out of 5.
The hero Nick is confident, handsome, and charismatic, but he’s not terribly admirable. He blunders his way through the movie without evolving or learning from the disastrous choices he’s made (and continues making). The fact that at the end he remains married to Amy is a horrifying testimony to his lack of heroism. That he even survives his arrogance and foolishness is a miracle — or perhaps it is grist for a sequel. The near absence of heroism in this movie is unfortunate but probably necessary to drive home the film’s bleak message about humanity. Generously, I award the rather hapless Nick 3 out of 5 Heroes.
As you point out, Greg, Amy is a force to be reckoned with, one of Hollywood’s most formidable and memorable villains we’ve seen in years. I believe her level of malevolence rivals that of Hannibal Lecter. I hope none of our readers take this the wrong way, but I’d enjoy seeing her tear up additional flesh in future sequels. Because of her magnetism, her backstory, and her ability to surprise us with one chilling act of evil after another, I’ll also award her 5 Villains out of 5.