Gone Girl is a Heightened but, Unfortunately, Accurate Reflection of Our Culture

By Michael James Gonzalez

It’s not surprising that this weekend’s number one movie at the box office was Gone Girl. The film stars a handsome, all-American male, the plot centers on a possible kidnap or even murder of a young, beautiful wife, and we are led through a maze of clues and assumptions by the media, which begins to air the police investigation 24/7. Pardon the expression, but that’s so meta. If you watched the film over the weekend and felt less like a passive viewer and more like a participant in the film, then the joke wasn’t lost on you. Consider the extraordinary amount of TV shows devoted to tabloid-crime related news stories, and you’ll realize how much our culture is obsessed with the type of narrative depicted in Gone Girl, which gives us a fly-on-the-wall glimpse into the machinations of people involved in a high-profile crime and the subsequent media frenzy once the front door shuts on the news cameras outside. The film is based on author Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel of the same name and is directed by master craftsman David Fincher (The Social Network, Se7en). Gone Girl stars Ben Affleck as the seemingly perfect husband-who we come to find has quite a few chinks in his armor-and Rosamund Pike as the Northeastern-bred, sophisticated, equally perfect wife who disappears under circumstances that appear obvious but are anything but. We begin as Nick Dunne (Affleck) returns home to discover that a violent struggle has taken place and his wife Amy (Pike) is missing. After local police get involved, circumstantial evidence begins to point toward Nick as the prime suspect and a media circus quickly ensues. Flashback sequences begin to reveal cracks in Nick and Amy’s marriage-including money problems, a move from New York City to the suburbs of North Carthage, Missouri due to Nick’s sick mother, frequent arguments, and infidelity-as told from the point of view of Amy’s diary. But just as Nick’s smug behavior and lies surrounding the case lead police closer to arresting him for murdering his wife, we discover that there are far more malevolent forces at work which have led to Amy’s disappearance but perhaps not her death. The 149 minute film gradually reveals the context of Nick and Amy’s complicated relationship-from their first meeting to the day she disappears-the twists and turns throughout the police investigation, and the shocking events of the third act, which even if you see coming, you won’t know what will happen next. Fincher’s distinct directing style brilliantly fleshes out the film’s motifs–psycho-pathology set against the appearance of affluence and normality, and the investigation of truth versus the exploitation of it-with his usual chiaroscuro tones and still frames, both of which make the camera invisible but remind us that this is a dirty world we’re inhabiting.

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