Film Writer Fred Onyango analyses Gone Girl from a Staunch Test POV!
A concerned husband, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), rushes back home early in the morning of his wedding anniversary only to find his wife, Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike), missing. On the surface, it seems like the film is setting up a thrilling whodunnit as the detectives start investigating the disappearance of his seemingly murdered wife. The film very early on starts intercutting the investigation with flashbacks to when the two first met; their flowery past slowly wilting being the centrepiece.
Comparing Gone Girl to Fight Club is not anything new. The focus is usually laid on the paradox of their differences that make the two films eerily similar, through satire David Fincher masterfully explores the inherent toxicity of both performative masculinity and performative femininity. Whereas Fight Club gave us a take on what lengths men would go to to find a sense of self-worth in society, Gone Girl did the same with women.
Gone Girl was adapted from a novel with the same title by Gillian Flynn who stayed on board as the screenwriter for the film, she later went on to say that initially, she was worried she had ‘killed feminism’. Here at The Staunch Test, we focus on how women are portrayed on film and whether they are portrayed losing their lives, or as victims of violence, rape, abuse,or being abducted. We truly believe that how people are portrayed in popular culture greatly influences how they perceive themselves in their real lives. Since Gone Girl touches on all of these topics but somehow walks the thin line of maintaining a critique on the state of how women are viewed in society – it warrants a deep dive into its intentions and themes.
The film is not categorically a positive portrayal of women but through the stereotypes being amped up, the audience is subtly invited to criticize the characters’ choices and even their very portrayal itself. There’s no easy out as both the protagonist and antagonist are deeply flawed and unlikeable so whoever the audience latches on to, they are forced to also consider their actions. The satire is deeply layered from the very onset, we start the film with Amy Dunne’s parents publishing franchise books loosely inspired by Amy’s life – but in the books, her life is a little more perfect. Amazing Amy is great at everything Amy in real life isn’t. She even gets married before the actual Amy, she’s loved by the media, and Amy is constantly asked when she’s gonna live up to these expectations. Amy Dunne, thus, has a sibling rivalry with a fictional character that doesn’t have to go through the motions of real life. Women often have this unattainable version of themselves floating in society that they have to live up to and it’s brilliantly alluded to by that. And Nick seemingly plays the role of the knight in shining armour that frees her from all that by marrying her. It goes deeper and explores their marriage and how they both eventually turn into each other’s worst nightmare.
Beyond the satire and themes of the film, the prudent way with which a female villain is showcased is also noteworthy. Amy is very vindictive and she vows to get back at every facet of society that wronged her. She gaslights society with her fabricated story of abduction through the careful puppeteering of the reportage of her story. She ‘gets back’ at all her three exes in ways that encapsulate the gravity of how women are treated in heterosexual relationships; For the man who tried to ghost her – she falsely accuses him of rape to ensure he gets into the sex offenders list and thus never be able to forget her, for the man who started taking her for granted – she fakes an abduction and makes him choose between potential prison or renewing his commitment to her, and for the man who felt he was entitled to her life – she ends his instead.
There are few to no redeemable qualities possessed by Amy Dunne but even through her manipulative journey to lower and lower depths, we still remember her Cool Girl monologue much like Tyler Durden’s monologue on Fight Club, the audience is way too preoccupied with the real world similarities to focus on the characters’ hypocrisy in the narrative. That type of agency is just not common enough in female characters in the history of cinema. It’s common to see the film dismissed as having not been realistic enough in its portrayal of Amy’s situation.
What everyone does agree on, however, is she’s a villain who not only manipulated her fellow characters in her world but also us in our world into thinking she’s the hero and what was left was the aftertaste of an audience actually discussing women’s treatment in society and romantic relationships.