Are you Team Amy? Or Team Nick? Maybe you don’t know what we’re on about? The novel Gone Girl was a smash hit, particularly amongst women readers, so there’s been a lot of fuss about this film’s release, but is it deserved? And what’s all this about a new ending? Rachel went to see it and gives her side of the story…
Last night I went to see Gone Girl. I read the book about 2 months ago (that’s a long time in my head) and loved it, however, I didn’t feel it was a flawless book. I took my mum, who hadn’t read it, and it was interesting to see her reaction, having not been exposed to the slight hysteria which surrounded the novel.
So, for the benefit of the uninitiated… the story is based around the seemingly perfect relationship between two magazine writers who live in New York: Amy Elliot and Nick Dunne, both stunningly gorgeous and highly intelligent. Nick is a laid back, cool guy. Amy is aloof, but brilliant. They marry, and aspire to never be ‘like the others’; she will never nag him or make him ‘perform like a dancing monkey’ as the other wives do, she says.
When this early, ‘perfect’ period of their relationship is played out, it’s almost cringeworthy to watch (and to read). I really disliked the characters, even thinking as I read the book ‘I don’t think I can continue reading if these people are going to act like this all the way through!’ Good job I did keep reading though, as all is not as it seems…
Things happen. They lose their jobs. They move back to his home town to help his dying mother, a town which has been decimated by the recession. They aren’t happy. Their perfect marriage is coming apart at the seams. Nick comes home one day to an apparent break in. Amy is gone.
The question is, did Nick kill his wife?
So, that’s the film’s premise. From this point, the audience is taken down a path where they think they know what’s happening, then it all changes.
Those who’ve read Gone Girl may agree with me that the twist, or ‘duping’, is handled better in the book. The fact that my mum wasn’t shocked at the story’s about turn is evidence of that. Still, I found it enjoyable to watch this key moment be played out on the big screen.
I overheard two young women in the local shop discussing the film the other day. One asked the other “Isn’t it a sexist film? That’s what I’ve heard…” I have heard this argument, and also one to the opposite end, that Gone Girl is a feminist tale. I don’t agree that it is sexist – the only possible reason it could be seen as such is that, for some of the film, Amy could be seen as being downtrodden. I firmly think it’s a feminist story. Whatever you think of Amy, whether you hate her (as many do) or love her (not met anyone yet!), one thing is undeniable: she’s a kick ass woman. You do not fuck with this girl.
My favourite bit in the book and film (thank God they left it in) is Amy’s thought provoking “cool girl” speech (it’s a voiceover in the film, made after the ‘twist’ becomes apparent). In this diatribe, she expresses disgust for girls who pretend to be something they’re not, just so men love them. She admits to once being this type of girl. The following is taken from the book:
“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes … while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want.”
If you’re going to see the film, watch out for it. If you’re going to read the book, ditto. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. This is the point in which my feelings for Amy changed. She’s a feminist, and I like that about her.
The character of Nick is more straightforward than Amy. This morally ambiguous male protagonist is presented as being a fairly typical ‘guy’. Intelligent, but not that bright; aspirational, but a bit lazy. He gets by on his charisma. You understand him more as time goes on (in the book his flaws are better understood as his childhood is covered in more depth). But still, you feel he kind of gets what he deserves.
As for the Team Nick / Team Amy debate, well, I’m neither. I’m Team Margo (Nick’s sister, the only likeable character in it).
The other major character in this film is the recession. It might not have any lines, but it looms large in the story, ever present in the main characters’ lives. It’s the driving force behind the main events in the book, and the story couldn’t exist without it as the backdrop. In years to come, I think Gone Girl will be seen as an era defining story in the context of these economically challenging times.
In part, Gone Girl is a bit of a black comedy. My mum’s first words after seeing it were, “That was weird!” There are parts that make you laugh out loud, even though the subject matter – essentially domestic violence – couldn’t be more grave. When the lawyer says to Nick “You two are the most fucked up people I ever met”, the audience erupted into agreeable chuckles. My co-viewer and I discussed the characters on the way home, as it’s that type of film – you need to talk about it afterwards – and I was probably more sympathetic to Amy than mum was. This for me is telling. Amy is a typical ‘Type A’, post-postmodern, media savvy girl who wants to look amazing, have a great career, a fantastic husband, and a perfect life. She’s a perfectionist, and this I can identify with. Amy’s character is a caricature of the modern girl – she wants it all, and she’ll Goddamn well get it! My generation thinks “Fuck yeah!”. My mum’s thinks “What a brat!”
The characters are perfectly cast in my opinion. In fact, the whole film plays out pretty much exactly as it did in my head, with what I can see as only minor changes. Very minor – I had to really think what was different about it. So why this big campaign to make people think the ending has been changed? We wonder whether it is a myth that has been peddled to help market the film, to get people who’ve read it to go and see it, to see how it ends on screen. I, for one, was glad it stayed essentially the same. I think a big departure from the original denouement would’ve diluted the ‘truth’ of the story itself. It would’ve interrupted my suspension of disbelief, if you will.
What can we learn from Nick and Amy? At the start of the film, Nick poses the question: how well can you really know the person you are married to? It makes you think about what goes on in a marriage, and you can’t help but ponder your own relationship afterwards. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll be a little bit nicer to my husband from now on… or maybe he should start being a bit nicer to me?
What did you think of Gone Girl, the book or the film? Who did you sympathise with? Did you like or loathe Amy? Leave a comment and you could win a copy of Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food for the best comment in October!
>> Gone Girl is showing at cinemas nationwide. Try Cineworld / ODEON / AMC / VUE to book tickets near you.
>> Buy Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn at Amazon.