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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Gone Girl movie review: proof of wife

Gone Girl red light

Ruins itself as even high-toned cinematic junk food when its justifiable cynicism morphs into something manipulative and dangerously disingenuous.
I’m “biast” (pro): love the director and the cast

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

This is a horror movie about a marriage. The marriage of Nick and Amy Dunne of New York City and North Carthage, Missouri. It’s a horror movie about what happens on their fifth wedding anniversary, when Amy disappears after signs of struggle in their palatial McMansion and Nick is soon believed by the police (and perhaps the viewer) to have killed Amy for various apparent motives that crop up in murder mysteries and real life all too often. It’s a horror movie about what happened to lead up to that terrible day and Amy’s disappearance.

And the what-led-to-it makes Gone Girl also a horror movie about marriage itself. The institution. The nightmare behind the fairy tale. The illusion and the delusion. The ways that a man and a woman manipulate each other and trick each other so that they can “fall in love” and pretend to live that fairy tale until one of them snaps–

Wait. What?

Look. I’m not married, I’ve never been married, and could be I’ll die without ever having been married. So I can’t speak to what marriage is like. But I can sure as hell say that if a lot of married people think their marriages are shams built on lies — and I don’t see how Gone Girl works in the way that it intends, as a sort of Warning To Us All, unless there some universality in it, however exaggerated — then what the fuck, people? I want to feel bad for you. But mostly I just wonder why you even bothered if mistrust and murder are what you end up thinking about when you think about your spouse. Get a divorce and get a dog. I feel bad for you people.

Of course, the other option is that Gone Girl is full of its own brand of delusional shit about “human nature” and the supposed societal pressures that force people into doing something they’d otherwise never do on their own (ie, get married).

If Gone Girl stuck to being just about the Dunnes, on a small, personal scale, I might have been able to give it a pass as high-toned cinematic junk food, the sort of sensationalistic, guilty-pleasure B-movie garbage that director David Fincher has never really wallowed in before. (Although his pointless remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was close. And so was Panic Room. But he still gets to coast on Fight Club. And Zodiac. And everyone is allowed an off day once in a while.) But it doesn’t. It goes to places where it itself becomes manipulative and disingenuous in unforgivable and even dangerous ways.

It’s like this: Amy (Rosamund Pike [Hector and the Search for Happiness, A Long Way Down], who is awesome, as always) is famous, having once been the inspiration for a series of immensely popular children’s books written by her mother (Lisa Banes: Freedom Writers, Dragonfly), so her disappearance is major national news. (Also: Beautiful rich thin white woman goes missing? Twenty-four-hour-news ratings bonanza!) In Gone Girl, nonstop media attention on Amy’s disappearance is but a metaphor for the limited outsider’s perspective that we can only ever have on someone else’s relationship: a couple might look absurdly happy in public, but only they know what goes on behind closed doors. Flashbacks to Amy and Nick’s life from the moment they meet, told via Amy’s diary entries, give us an intimate peek into what has been going on behind their closed doors, and it’s not pretty. It’s here where we get her side of the “But I changed for him!” story. It’s stuff that many women will recognize, and yet, I can’t have a lot of sympathy. You mean you pretended to be something you’re not, and now you hate what you’ve become and resent your husband for failing to be Prince Charming in spite of your lies and tricks? Whose fault is that?

I’d say the same thing to Nick (Ben Affleck [Runner Runner, Argo], also excellent here; though he’s always been good but often underrated, I feel). We get his side of the marriage via his conversations with his twin sister, Margo (Carrie Coon, ditto with the excellence). “I’m sick of being picked apart by women,” Nick complains, but he’s been putting on a false front, too: When you pretend to be something you’re not and you can’t keep it up — who could? — you start to look inconsistent. And, yeah, if you need women to be nothing but compliant Barbie fuck-toys, you’re gonna end up disappointed.

Gone Girl is still all good up to this point, with lots of delicious ambiguity and some really meaty stuff about the differences between the faces we present to the world — romantically or otherwise — and the roles we perform because we think we have to perform them, versus how we might rather just be sitting around eating junk food and playing video games all day. I might even go as far as saying that Gone Girl is a fascinating deconstruction of the push and pull that so many people of my generation have put ourselves through over what it means to finally grow the fuck up, or should we just remain kids forever, or can we combine the best bits of both into something new?

Except then it all goes to shit.

(Before I completely blast the film to shreds, I have to note the other members of the commendable cast, none of whom are to blame for that red light of mine. Neil Patrick Harris [A Million Ways to Die in the West, The Smurfs 2] as an ex of Amy’s? Dear god, I’ve never seen him this good; I’m not sure I knew he was capable of this. Tyler Perry [Star Trek, Meet the Browns] as the famous hotshot defense lawyer Nick hires? Amazing. Kim Dickens [Footloose, The Blind Side] and Patrick Fugit [We Bought a Zoo, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant] as the cops investigating Amy’s disappearance: perfect. Missi Pyle [Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, The Artist] as a Nancy Grace-esque cable news bloviator? Oh my god I didn’t think I could love her more, but now I do.)

What happens? Gone Girl takes sides: Sure, men and women may trick one another, but one gender ends up sympathetic, and the other one villainous. The movie throws all the ambiguity out the window, in the specific case of Nick and Amy and also in a less specific sense that is meant to apply to us all in the way that we approach he-said, she-said tales. It starts out with a general — and reasonable — deep cynicism about an institution (marriage) that plenty of people have doubts about and would probably like to remake (somehow) and drives that into a deeply perilous realm that appears to willfully misunderstand the realities of domestic violence and the more general violence against women that real women face every day in the real world. (It’s one thing when, say, a movie about serial killers misrepresents serial killers, for serial killings are rare and most of us will never find ourselves in the presence of a serial killer. But intimate-partner violence is so prevalent as to be mundane.) Yes, it’s all fantasy, of a sort… and it’s as frightening a fantasy, in its own way, as Fifty Shades of Grey (which, pray for me, I have recently subjected myself to, and it’s even worse than I could have imagined in how it renders as romantic an unambiguously abusive relationship). If the specific details of what happens here are what people are fantasizing about, then this underscores a terrible tragedy of our society that we should be horrified to acknowledge: that we’re encouraging the unhealthiest sorts of behavior in everyone.

Gone Girl seems completely — even blissfully — unaware of this, however.

It’s bad enough, and says enough bad stuff about us, when the sort of story that Gone Girl ends up being is tossed around as B-movie trash. When it’s Oscar bait from the likes of David Fincher, who has had a lot of tough things to say about how fucked up the world is but seems to miss that angle here, I despair.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Gone Girl for its representation of girls and women.

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Gone Girl (2014)
US/Can release: Oct 03 2014
UK/Ire release: Oct 02 2014

MPAA: rated R for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language
BBFC: rated 18 (strong bloody violence, very strong language)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • Lisa

    Had you read the book beforehand? Were you as offended by that? I’m guessing you haven’t

  • As it says right at the top of the review, I have not read the book.

  • Dammit.

    I’m about a third of the way through the book, and I’m enjoying it — so far it’s a fairly balanced presentation of both characters, and though one (so far) comes off looking worse than the other, there’s blame to spread around, and Nick and Amy aren’t supposed to represent All Men and All Women, respectively. And she doesn’t change for him, exactly. Before she even meets him, she sees other people, men and women in relationships, trying to change *each other*, and finds it despicable. In her efforts not to nag Nick, she tries to turn herself into her perceived ideal self, somebody so chill that she’s never bothered by anything. This trains Nick not to work very hard at his end of the marriage, and Amy finds that a permanent state of chillness is unsustainable. Sadly, this happens in real relationships all the time.

    All these adaptations of books I like have been coming out, and none of them have gotten good reviews: A LONG WAY DOWN, THE GIVER, THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU … Oh well, hopefully the Hunger Games series will continue its winning streak.

  • But this movie actually IS getting good reviews. MaryAnn is an outlier so far. Check RT.

  • So it is, thank you.

    Looks like I’ll be seeing this one unless the book ends up completely putting me off. I’ll rejoin the comments after I do. :)

  • FYI, I gave *Long Way Down* a good review….

  • RogerBW

    Can’t react to this without spoilers for the ending. But seriously unimpressed with the plot of the book, and it sounds as if this is being faithful to it.

  • Beowulf

    If you are like me (a big if, eh?), you will find the ending to be absolutely jaw-dropping.
    It also makes the police, fairly sharp up to that point, to absolute morons.

  • Beowulf

    You have noted in the past that a film review should not have to acknowledge the novel in any way — you are reviewing the film, not the novel. The screenplay was written by the author, though, and she has been accused (in this and her previous novels) as being a misogynist and its not hard to see why. “Amy” is a weird and frightening woman. It’s scary to think anyone could be that f**ked up!
    Ben Affleck seems perfectly cast, with his tight-lipped and slippery persona.

  • How did I miss that?!

  • milo

    I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions based on the first third of the book. Nor would I read ANY more reviews until you finish it. Not much more I can say without spoiling it for you.

    I do agree that the two characters are definitely not intended to stand for all men or all women, they are individuals and their actions are the actions of individuals.

  • It is within the realm of possibility that the novel could be better than the film (that’s usually the case, in fact), even with the novelist adapting her own book. Screenwriting is a very different sort of animal than novel-writing, and being good at one doesn’t necessarily mean a writer will be good at the other.

    I’m probably going to have to read the book now…

  • Rod Ribeiro

    There’s so much that critics have to consider – photography, acting, storytelling… and so many views about them that I don’t think RT means much. Maybe the positive reviews are just a sign that critics aren’t taking a deeper look into the message.

  • Tom F.

    There’s something I’ve seen in some critics’ reviews, certainly not peculiar to you, but which comes across as annoying. This is the practice of introducing actors with a parenthetical listing of other movie credits. As a number of critics have glommed onto this practice, it has become cliche.

    Hey, I know who Ben Affleck and Kim Dickens are- I don’t require a listing of previous credits. Those clear sentences become mucked up. Too, these credits have nothing to do with the subject at hand, and seem to exist only to pad out a review. The attitude of inserting these unnecessary credits seems to imply that the movie-going public needs to be reminded about these actors’ resumes; we don’t.
    Sure, one can see where you might want to mention an actor’s previous work, in say, comparing the narrative or characterization in one film from another. But that’s not the case here with the actors (although you did compare abstractedly), some of director David Fincher’s previous work).

    Need to pad out your review? Say something about the cinematography, production design, sound design, score, or any of the myriad elements of film you can touch on.

    Just as a change-up to the troubling factor of treating the reading audience as cinematic ignoramuses, a different focus (without all the credits) would be most welcome.

    Besides, the practice is tedious. Why would you want to parrot this lazy, tiresome usage?

  • Guest

    Tyler Perry is not in Star Trek!

  • Danielm80

    I can’t remember who Kim Dickens is, and I know I’ve seen her in something. Now I have to look her up on IMDB. I wish there were some sort of shorthand method you could have used, in passing, to mention her other credits.

  • Danielm80

    A lot of your comments become ironic after you know the ending, in a way that actually makes the book more interesting, and slightly deeper, for me. I didn’t find the novel sexist, more a commentary on the traditional roles men and women are expected to play in marriage, and why they’re damaging. The movie may have altered the story, of course, or MaryAnn might just disagree with me.

  • However the characters are represented in the book, there is a certain universality to the film’s depiction of marriage and relationships.

  • I am not “padding out” my reviews. I am pointing you to other films I’ve reviewed that a cast or crew member contributed to. It’s a way to keep surfers at my site. It’s not going away.

  • Yes he is.

  • The IMDb to every film I review is right there at the end of every review. So it’s not that hard to click over.

  • That’s sort of how I was seeing the movie, until the final third.

  • Danielm80

    That was my point. Maybe I need to attach a Mark of Snark to my sarcastic comments.

  • Tom F.

    It goes without saying why some writers blindly parrot this practice. It’s still lazy writing, emblematic of other lazy writers who use the same technique. Try the review with and without the clutter of credits (which have nothing to do with the film being reviewed), and it’s obvious which has more clarity.
    It’s lowest common denominator stuff, and condescending to cinephiles. Secondly, there are plenty of fine reviewers who don’t regress to the mean, and still make their points just peachy. Then again, some folks would rather be common than singular. If that’s you, fine. Wallow in it.

  • Bluejay

    You’re an Internet stranger and first-time commenter, and you’ve come here to dispense pearls of writing wisdom to a professional critic who’s run this website for 17 years, suggesting she’d be “condescending” and “common” if she doesn’t follow your sage advice. You do realize what a huge asshole you’re being right now, right? If there’s anyone being condescending here, it’s you.

    You’re also making a big deal out of nothing. The credits don’t dilute any argument she’s trying to make. They also aren’t just there to tell you what the actor did; they’re there specifically to link to MaryAnn’s reviews of those movies, to encourage readers to browse the site. If you aren’t interested, you can just skip all the words in red. It’s really not that hard.

    You don’t like the conventions she uses? Tough. Wallow in our indifference.

  • Now that I’m more than halfway through, I think I’ll shut up about what anything does or doesn’t mean until I’ve reached the end.

  • Dr. Rocketscience
  • Dr. Rocketscience

    In addition to a navigational aid for readers, it’s standard industry practice to cite previous credits. If you don’t like it, join the film/TV/theater industry and be the change you want to see in others.

  • I knew you were being snarky. I’m surprised MaryAnn missed it. Must be The Lurge.

  • David

    Yeah, and being an asshole on this site is my job!

  • David

    Rosamund Pike is one of those actresses that I keep waiting to get a starring role in something and yet keeps getting stuck in supporting roles. She has a natural charisma and intensity that is usually wasted. I remember first seeing her in Die Another Day and actually rooting for her to win even though she was playing a villain.

    As for the movie, I’ll catch it on netflix somewhere down the road.

  • Bluejay

    It really isn’t, you know. It’s possible to argue whatever position you want without insulting anybody. :-)

  • Danielm80

    I’m a big fan of snark, but I have to agree with Bluejay. Your comments are much more interesting when they’re not insults, provocations, or gnomic statements. In emergency situations, it may be necessary to be an asshole, but you don’t need to be nearly this proud of it.

  • John

    The brilliance of the book was that it never came across as a blatant message book at all. In fact, the book did not even treat itself as factually that plausible. What it did really do was convey the claustrophobia of marriage in a really profound way. By definition, marriage almost strips people of their individual identities and theoretically replaces them with a kind of mutual, agreed upon sense of values and purpose. Gone Girl is about what happens when that space that used to be filled individually is hollowed out by marriage but never filled back in.

  • milo

    I’ll have to see it and see how it is and how it differs from the book. But I have to admit, based on reading the book, I’m skeptical that having one character turn out sympathetic and one villainous is necessarily a statement that the *genders* are being presented that way. Same with having a character turn out to be a villain have to be taking sides (with either the character or the gender). Maybe the movie truly does make a point of somehow making it seem like it’s saying all men and all women are like the two characters but it’s hard to imagine (and other reviews don’t seem to see the movie that way). I’ll see when I get to see the film, hard to say at this point when that might be.

  • That position is not open.

  • She’s very good in this. It’s simply in service of a story with a lot of thematic problems.

  • I wouldn’t say that this is a blatant message movie, but if, as you say

    marriage almost strips people of their individual identities

    then it seems like you are agreeing that there’s something meant to be sort of universal — if exaggerated — in the story’s depiction of marriage.

  • See, this is a problem with so few female protagonists in films. When we *do* get one, it’s almost inevitably making a “statement,” because movies do not view women as neutral in the way that it allows men to be.

    And then there are issues concerning domestic and sexual violence against women that are HUGELY problematic here.

  • Virgopunk

    Fincher sticks his toe into the gender politics arena and…just fucks it all up for the sake of it. Empty, cynical garbage. The stuff David Foster Williams warned us about!

    I agree that it started promisingly enough but then just crashed and burnt with no real point.

    So his clearly psychopathic, murderous wife get pregnant through foul means and…he decides to stay by her side because he has ‘responsibilities’ now?? He should be running as far away as fast as he can, like any rational human being would.

  • Virgopunk

    It seemed to me that, apart from maybe Margo, and the detective (who gets neutralised anyway) every other female role in this film was portrayed negatively: psycho wife, stoopid neighbour, scheming mother, untrustworthy trailer trash, evil news anchor. Intentional?

  • Virgopunk

    I think Fincher wanted to so much for it to be a message movie but forgot what the message was before they started filming.
    Walter Chaw at Film Freak nailed my feeling on this movie.

  • Please post SPOILER warnings!

  • Please add spoiler warnings if you’re going to reveal anything spoilerish!


    The men are all idiots, too, and highly susceptible to feminine manipulation. It’s ridiculous.

  • Virgopunk

    My bad. Sorry :( I guess I was to revved up! Won’t happen again.

  • Danielm80

    If you’re talking about David Foster Wallace, then you’re probably referring to the stuff he warned us about when he said, “I’m going to get a gun, try to kill Mary Karr’s husband, blame my friend, date Mary Karr, and treat her horribly for the length of the relationship.”

  • Virgopunk

    Duly noted.
    I also noted that Tyler Perry’s character really doesn’t achieve anything. Did he even need to be in there since I don’t really think he advanced the plot in anyway?

  • Virgopunk

    Yes, I did mean Wallace (not Williams – haven’t had much sleep).

    No, I wasn’t referring to that. I was referring to:
    “Postmodern irony and cynicism’s become an end in itself, a measure of hip sophistication and literary savvy. Few artists dare to try to talk about ways of working toward redeeming what’s wrong, because they’ll look sentimental and naive to all the weary ironists. Irony’s gone from liberating to enslaving. There’s some great essay somewhere that has a line about irony being the song of the prisoner who’s come to love his cage… The postmodern founders’ patricidal work was great, but patricide produces orphans, and no amount of revelry can make up for the fact that writers my age have been literary orphans throughout our formative years.”
    David Foster Wallace

  • Tonio Kruger

    Kim Dickens was in The Blind Side? I don’t even remember seeing her in that. (For that matter, I don’t remember her from Footloose either so I guess MaryAnn must be referring to her appearance in the recent remake of that movie.)

    Of course, most of the films I do remember her from — for example, The Gift, Mercury Rising, Zero Effect, etc. — did not exactly attract a huge audience.

    But it’s nice to see that she’s still working.

    As for the movie….

    An entire generation grew up watching Married, with Children and War of the Roses and we’re still supposed to be shocked, shocked in a unRenaultlike fashion at the idea that marriage can be a very disillusioning experience? Oh, brother…

    As for the idea of remaking marriage, well, that’s a subject for another day…

  • Lisa

    Stupid tiny camera screen – be interested to see what you make of the book if you get round to it

  • Lisa

    I skim read the book but it is kinda ludicrous. I did enjoy this aspect of it though. They are both horrible people but your point about movies not seeing women as neutral is right. I wonder why we can read stuff like that but not see it on a big screen? Innate Hollywood conservatism?

  • You could say the same about Missi Pyle’s character. Except they’re about massaging external appearances and extending the metaphor about how a marriage looks on the outside versus how it looks from the inside. They advance theme, not plot.

  • don’t remember her from Footloose either so I guess MaryAnn must be referring to her appearance in the recent remake of that movie.

    The link goes to my review of the remake, so yes.

    As for previous credits, I use the IMDb, which is rarely wrong with credits.

  • Because men make most movies, and so they inevitably tell stories from their own perspectives.

  • Okay, there are some actors whom “everyone knows”, but then there are some actors whom people don’t know. “Hey, that’s Joe X” “Who?” “He played the main guy in Y” “oh, yeah, that was really good!” So sometimes it’s helpful.

    And where do you draw the line? Where do you decide who is someone “everyone knows” and who isn’t?

    A former friend of mine had never heard of Michelle Pfeiffer until like a few months ago, and this is probably someone whom you’d think of as being very well-known. You never know.

    So, to recap: having the other films of the actors there if you don’t know who they are is helpful! Having the other films of the actors there when you do know who they are is no big deal and can easily just be ignored.

  • Beowulf

    My wife and I saw the film yesterday afternoon with a fairly good-sized crowd (who came prepared for a 2-1/2 hour movie with arms full of enough popcorn and soda to feed North Korea). Appreciate chuckles arose from the crowd at the appropriate moments. Indeed, the film is a well-crafted and entertaining thriller. The film even seemed to fill in a few of the more obvious plot holes from the novel. And, too weak to withstand the powerful political and sociological subtext, we went home and I beat her and she knifed me in the arm and cut up my Steeler Ts. (Had it been a caper movie, of course, we would have robbed a casino and killed a few cops.)
    GG is a satisfying film that will do great business, especially from discerning older audiences.

  • Tonio Kruger


  • Tonio Kruger

    I can think of many, many worse flaws to complain about in a movie review and as you yourself noted, MaryAnn is not the only one to use this practice.

    If this was the worst flaw you found in MaryAnn’s work, consider yourself fortunate. I have seen a lot worse. For example, New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley has a history of getting wrong even the most obvious facts — the title of a famous TV show, for example — yet she only recently got into trouble for an issue entirely unrelated to her weakness at fact checking or proofreading.

  • David1225

    What I liked about this movie was its reflection on the capacity of people to believe whatever (and whoever) they wish irrespective of facts or credibility. And so, they (including audience members, and perhaps reviewers) are disappointed to discover that the abused and neglected wife narrative of the first half is a play to our naive and simplistic preconceptions. We simply don’t want to accept the possibility that these high profile cases aren’t “teachable moments” about some archetypal social ill. We feel shocked and betrayed by, later, having to blame the Victim. What happened to that teachable moment?! Human beings and their interactions don’t fall neatly into our preconceptions victimization?! We can’t have that!

  • disappointed to discover that the abused and neglected wife narrative of the first half is a play to our naive and simplistic preconceptions

    And where it goes *after* that is *also* a play to naive, simplistic preconceptions that are *additionally* completely wrongheaded and even dangerously misleading about the real-world analogues to what happens here.

  • David1225

    Isn’t that precisely his point? It’s all dangerously misleading if it causes us to assume the guilt of someone we don’t know on the basis of facts that aren’t available to us.


    But we *do* have the facts available to *us,* the viewers of the film. We *know* that Amy fakes a rape accusation and uses that as an excuse to murder someone for being a jerk. Amy’s actions in the last act feed directly into the worst misogynistic presumptions about women that *directly contradict* the realities of violence against women.

  • David1225

    First, the facts are doled out to us. We do not know at the beginning that Amy is, in fact, a psychopath who stages her own disappearance. And, up until that revelation, the film does a great job of inviting the audience (and other characters) to reach conclusions about guilt or innocence based upon their own prejudices and very little evidence. In the process, the main characters are presented as precisely the kinds of stereotypes that the audience is conditioned to accept. Nick is pure caricature: the self-absorbed child-man prone to take and not give; unable to be a true partner to a grown woman; using his position of authority for sexual gratification; emotionally distant, almost vacant; and suffering from a female persecution complex. (And, yes, there are men like this, but there are women like this, too.) Amy, likewise, is pure caricature: the selfless grown up doing her best as the fully manifested adult to deal with the necessarily adolescent Male who only takes, denies Amy her reproductive destiny, and ultimately objectifies her. (Are there women like this who take on this role in relationships? Yes. Are there men who do so as well? Of course. Is it healthy? No. Is it the whole story? Absurd. These are thinly revealed caricatures.) At the end of the first half of the film, most people I’ve talked to have decided to a large degree the guilt or innocence of Nick and Amy based upon unreliable evidence and personal prejudice. And, in the film, the public is ready to convict Nick, against which there is only a chirp of self-doubt from the lead investigator, and even she is swayed to the dark side by the Diary.

    And, yes, we learn the *facts* (or at least some of them) in the second half of the film. It turns out that the main characters were not the superficial cut-outs depicted in the first half of the film, and those who thought they *knew* the story before (before really knowing anything, except for a lot of self-serving information from Nick and Amy) were confronted in a fairly effective way with the lesson that facts matter, that rushing to judgment is wrong, and that untethered presumptions about men and women and how they behave may be just plain wrong in a specific case. We are individuals, not statistics, and not every case is a teachable moment about trends in domestic violence, and the capacity of men to kill or abuse their spouses. Most men don’t.

    What we learn about Amy is, in fact, about Amy. Her character is a psychopath and she is the villain. I have little doubt that there are men and women like her, although probably very few simply based upon her intelligence level. Does it play into misogynistic presumptions about women? The answer is probably yes, in the minds of people who jump to conclusions about guilt or innocence without knowing the facts — which was the entire point of the first half of the film, I’d submit. There are people who hate women who might see Amy’s character as a confirmation of their bigoted generalizations about men and women. Likewise, there are people who might look at Nick and Amy from the first half of the film as confirmation of their bigoted generalizations about men and women. That’s the inescapable lesson of the film. Human beings are almost innately bigoted, generalizing about people by category — whether that category is gender, race, ethnicity, or political affiliation. This movie plays into misogyny and misandry.

    There are statistical realities about violence against women, just as there are about racism. But, where those statistical realities cause us to react negatively to a specific instance where those “realities” don’t play out in a specific case, we need to ask ourselves whether we’ve been confronted with our own tendency to prejudge. You may not like Amy. You may think that she behaves in ways that reinforce stereotypes. That may be true. The question is whether we, as audience members, can accept the fact that those effects are incidental to the story at hand. Would the film have been more effective if Amy had not been so “extreme” a character? I think so, and I certainly would have written her (and Nick) very differently in the second half. But, that’s the artists’ prerogative, and extreme villains are what sell movie tickets.

  • Danielm80

    I don’t think the book is sexist, and I expect to enjoy the movie when I see it. I am, however, a pessimist, and I read the newspaper. I know that people–a lot of people–think women regularly make up false claims of rape. Many rape victims have had to go through agonizing legal trials, even when they had a great deal of evidence to support their testimony. Quite a few rapists have gone free because of the myth that women lie about rape, and they do it all the time. So, as much as I liked Gillian Flynn’s novel, I’m struggling to have as much faith in the audience as you do. I hope that most people will take the film as a sign that they shouldn’t jump to conclusions. But I suspect that, for many people, it will just reinforce the conclusions they’ve already made.

  • David1225

    The reality is that women do make up false claims of rape. It’s not the norm, but neither is men raping women. And just as rapists have gone free because of pernicious generalizations or myths about Women, there are men who’ve had their lives destroyed because of false rape accusations founded on pernicious generalizations or myths about Men. Whether either of those things are the case in any specific instance depends on the facts of that case, not statistical probability. Gone Girl demonstrates, I think, how easy it is for people to jump to conclusions about guilt or innocence based on presumptions and prejudices. As for whether the movie (or the book) will reinforce audience stereotypes or myths about women (or men), it probably will for some. But are we to expect of our writers and filmmakers self-editing because small-minded people might reach bigoted generalizations about a class of people based upon a single character in a movie?

  • And just as rapists have gone free because of pernicious generalizations or myths about Women, there are men who’ve had their lives destroyed because of false rape accusations founded on pernicious generalizations or myths about Men.

    The numbers are in no way comparable. FAR more rapes go unpunished and even unreported than there are men whose lives have been ruined by a false rape allegation.

    What that number — mens lives ruined — gets anywhere near the number of women who have been raped, then you can make the argument you’re making.

    Storytellers are free to tell whatever story they want to tell, in whatever way they want to tell it. And critics and filmgoers can are free to complain that they’re straining to make a point that does not need to be made.

  • Danielm80

    One of Anne Lamott’s writing students asked whether it was a good idea to base a character on a real person. Lamott quoted William Faulkner: “If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is worth any number of old ladies.” Then she said: When you’re writing, ask yourself: “Is this ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’?” If it is, go ahead and write.

    If you’re a writer, you might have an idea for a brilliant, life-changing story about a woman who makes up false rape charges. Or it might be about a terrorist who gives up information under torture, or a controversial allegory about abortion. If it really is brilliant and life-changing, then it’s important to write that story. But it’s also important to remember that other people are going to read that story, and those people are going to form opinions about life. Those opinions are going to affect other people. You may be one of those people.

    I liked Gone Girl. I’m glad Gillian Flynn wrote it. But I’m starting to worry about her mother.

  • David1225

    I guess I’m not completely surprised by your very predictable response. I thought about preemptively addressing it, but hope springs eternal, I suppose.

    So It’s about numbers? Honestly? I guess I’m no longer as certain as I was about what it means when you refer to yourself as a movie reviewer. It appears now to include disliking movies because you think the artist’s point is in some way dangerous or contrary to some greater social good. Or, perhaps more accurately, contrary to your statistical prejudgments about what human beings do to each other. Interesting that in all your comments you’ve not taken issue with the stereotype of men engaging in predatory behavior with naive young women, or of being emotionally distant or immature, or being incapable of financial responsible. Or being violent.

    Given your response, I think it is clearer than ever that this point needed to be made. As food for thought, I’d suggest that some serious questions are raised when a movie reviewer expressly bases an aesthetic judgment on his or her beliefs about the potential of a movie to feed into stereotypes held by ignorant people. Have you reviewed the Godfather movies? If so, I’m curious to see your critique of how they feed into destructive and negative stereotypes about Southern Italians.

  • David1225

    Small and/or disturbed minds in Germany read, failed to understand, and ultimately cited the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche in support of the Nazi ideology. I am grateful, however, that Nietzsche didn’t hesitate to write his extraordinary books on the basis that bigots and fools would distort them, or because they might feed into false ideas held by evil men or women. I think it is dangerous, especially for someone presenting himself or herself as a critic of the arts, to base aesthetic judgments on whether the movie might be misconceived, misused, or distorted by members of the audience. It leads to very dangerous places, history teaches.

    The best writers simply write. Do their stories “affect other people”? Of course they do. You may be one of those people. In fact, I’m sure you are. Every open minded, intelligent reader is almost of necessity affected by power works of literature and film. Sometimes they reinforce preexisting beliefs, and sometimes they turn those beliefs upside down. Assuming the world to be filled with fearful and small minds who might view a story as reinforcing of bigotry and false presumptions, however, is arrogant and narcissistic. Yes, there are people like that, but I can’t let the risk of reinforcing their ignorance (which will certainly find other opportunities for reinforcement) color my judgment about art.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I guess I’m not completely surprised by your very predictable response.

    If you find the response predictable, I’m guessing it’s because you’ve trotted this line of “reasoning” out before, and had it smacked down in the same way, probably several times.

    Looks like it’s time to send another feedback message to the Disqus people to ask for a “Mute/Block” button.

  • Tonio Kruger

    In other news, Han Solo is not a loser! :-)

  • David1225

    As it appears that you cannot abide carefully written and respectful posts that raise points you are unable to address, and thus resort to snide quips, it’s best you press that button.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Truly you have a dizzying intellect.

    Excuse me a moment while I unroll my eyes. In the meantime, keep polishing that turd. I’m sure it’ll start smelling like a rose any day now.

  • David1225

    Rather than unrolling your eyes, which sounds a bit like “unspooling” someone’s brain, maybe you might actually think to engage in a respectful discussion. It’s often a very effective antidote to those kinds of weird physical spasms.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Here’s the thing, Dave. When you not at all respectfully refer to MAJ’s response as “predictable”, you are (unwittingly perhaps but still) conceding that you know your line of “reasoning” is a bullshit distraction.
    And that is all the brain cycles I intend to waste on you.

  • Plenty of other critics out there if I’m not compatible with you.

  • David1225

    Obviously, with a reaction like that, there’s more going on here than in a movie review. It’s disappointing when people you consider to be smart react this way to someone interested in having a meaningful discussion.

  • David1225

    Forgive me for suggesting that you might do well to spend a few more brain cycles on this. Anyone who reacts so irrationally and insultingly to a well articulated point, suggests the kind of arrogance that comes from false confidence. MaryAnn’s response was predictable because it was of a kind with her focus on the fear that one character in one movie would reinforce unthinking stereotypes about women. I never suggested for a split second that false claims of rape or sexual harassment outnumbered the number of cases of rape. My instincts tell me they don’t, as does my limited experience. More importantly, that sort of reaction was consistent with her review being oddly skewed because of concerns of the impact of the story on misogynists. It is only in this context that statistical evidence about rape is even slightly relevant to the merits of a film like this.

  • Sam

    The disturbing point to me is this: Yes, he should be running far away but because he is just as messed up as she is (although the movie doesn’t let us see this enough—it’s there just way too subtle)….Nick and Amy deserve one another. They like each other…they are turned on by each other. They further mess each other up. They are personality disordered people whose characterizations are not represented equally in this movie. In my opinion.

  • Sam

    Perhaps your last sentence might be on to something, but even then how can the dichotomy of personality disordered sympathetically presented husband and personality caricatured horror movie wife be overlooked? It bothered me. When leaving the theater, several males said aloud, “Guys be wary of the women you are with!” I almost said something aloud myself, but decided it would only fall on deaf ears. I would have said, “Many women need to be wary of the men they are with. Nick was just as sick as Amy.”
    From viewing this film the audience could easily miss this. Really only a few clues…several times Nick was physical in a harmful way to Amy (this was overlooked because of the horror her character played) and the line said by Nick’s sister at the very end…something like…oh my god, you WANT to be with her…as well as what Amy said to Nick after he banged her head against the wall. Yes, he wants her. Oh, and can’t forget the shower scene where there is that sexy shot of Nick getting into the shower, naked and vulnerable (really, he is?? ha, not a chance)—he gets into the shower with his blood-soaked wife. Did this tell the audience anything? Not really in the theater (packed) that I was in, evidently. And that was the creepiest thing to me.

  • Sam

    Oh…and Nick says in that interview at the end of the movie…”we are partners in crime.” He meant this, but the way it was portrayed was that he was under duress and said this.

  • Sam

    David, I saw the movie last night and the flaws that I saw were articulated well by Mary Ann, at least to me. It is the ludicrous way that Nick was presented as sort of OK and sympathetic and Amy was presented as a caricature of a horror movie wife or girl friend (I think of Fatal Attraction or any number of movies) and it is disingenuous. I don’t think many viewers will come away from this movie thinking that Nick and Amy are equally disturbed and that they like it that way–this is the truth of Nick and Amy. That is what is disturbing–that that part is buried for the general public.

  • Happy you were annoyed by this film!

  • David1225

    Thanks for the thoughtful response. I think, first off, that Gone Girl is a flawed movie that can’t seem to decide what it is. It felt half-baked. The first half is clever in ways, playing into stereotypes about men and women, and setting up well a reversal. With the public so ready to jump to conclusions about events before knowing the facts, it had tremendous promise. It reminded me in ways of Hostile Witness with Ray Milland, a decent little courtroom drama about a lawyer framed for a murder. Not that the first half of Gone Girl was perfect. Not by a long-shot. But it set the stage for a perplexing murder mystery that played into stereotypes about men and women — stereotypes that some people, even movie reviewers, accept as more likely true than not true. The second half is an over-the-top mess of bad acting and melodrama. It’s as if the director wanted to smash our faces into the idea that we are wrong to prejudge people, but felt the need to do so by revealing that Amy is a monstrous psychopath; that in a story “ripped from the headlines,” the media, the families, and the audience “got it wrong.” Do you really need to have the wife turn out to be Norma Bates to make that point? Maybe to make money at the box office, I suppose. This isn’t helped by Rosamund Pike’s “Snidely Whiplash” performance. If this performance doesn’t damage her reputation, I don’t know what could.

    What I took issue with, and which really concerns me, is why reviewers (or anyone else) gives a damn about what the general public does or does not take away from one so-so movie that involves some crazy characters, and in which a seemingly ordinary, educated woman turns out to be a murderous looney — often the same people who wouldn’t have a problem at all if it turned out the Ben Affleck’s character turned out to be a crazy killer (or at least “just” a killer). It’s a truism that people tend to lap up information that reinforces their beliefs and prejudices, and discount or ignore contrary information. But to have that “concern” infiltrate a movie review is frightening. Historically, it’s been art that clashed with social sensibilities, even the most well-meaning, that end up being the most important art of all.

  • Yeah, having the woman turn into a homicidal, castrating bitch is so clashing with social sensibilities.


    In fact, it is a preposterous cliché.

  • Sam

    Check out the review by Wesley Morris. He calls Gone Girl a “sick movie”, writes it is not a “smart movie”, that it is “messy–a messed up film.” He notes as Mary Ann did and that as some of us viewers have that there was not a balance presented by the two disturbed main characters, Nick and Amy. The wacko femme fatale is employed to outrageous lengths bring in box off dollars even if it is a pathetic Hollywood stereotype. He writes that Fincher makes Amy into every woman on screen “that ever terrorized Michael Douglas.”

    There are other reviews that bring front and center the problem of the unreliable storytellers (Nick and Amy) and the messiness and confusion of these POVs. That alone makes the movie into something nonsensical and yes, dangerous, as it rakes in the money and sells out at theater after theater.

    Yes, sick and nonsensical.

    It would be helpful if viewers remember how the movie begins…with Nick rubbing his wife’s heading and saying how much he wants to bash her head in. That gives us a glimpse of Nick’s character that the script and Affleck bury in this film.

  • Sam

    David, I don’t think that Fincher et al made Amy into a wacko murderous wife to make a point that it is easy to prejudge people. I don’t think that’s it at all. I think they made Amy this way because it is a Hollywood (and cultural) stereotype that actually covers over domestic violence and trivializes it. It is what sells tickets too, sadly and sickeningly.

    Just think again about how the movie begins—what Nick says—the first words of the movie (not that viewers always listen to words as opposed to images–remember those words of Nick’s?)—what Fincher did with Amy’s character made Nick’s problems (which were equally disturbing almost forgettable.) There are a few other images and several comments that Nick makes but it’s doubtful those are what viewers will remember.

    Another reviewer says that Fincher et al make Amy into “a composite of every woman who ever terrorized Michael Douglas.”

    That is what is truly a problem with this film to me and what makes it manipulative and disingenuous.

  • David1225

    Do you really think that’s the point I was making? It’s easy to become sarcastic when you incorrectly characterize someone else’s point. What clashed with social sensibilities was that the husband didn’t turn out to be responsible for his wife’s disappearance, and that this kind of prejudgment can lead us to be completely wrong about the differences between men and women.

  • David1225

    I don’t see it that way. But I will watch it again when it comes out on Netflix.

  • Danielm80

    It’s funny how much the radical, iconoclastic ideas in the movie resemble very conventional stereotypes, which have enabled men for generations when they’ve mistreated women.

  • What clashed with social sensibilities was that the husband didn’t turn out to be responsible for his wife’s disappearance

    Yeah… because his wife turned out to be a massive stereotype of *precisely* the sort that men often use to justify the violence against women that frequently *does* result in their deaths.

    If this movie wants to be about “the differences between men and women” — instead of being just a ridiculous piece of pulp junk — then it has to be honest about the realities of mens’ and womens’ lives. The world being wrong about Nick Dunne does not negate the fact that women are frequently victims of violence at the hands of their intimate partners. This movie about a man wrongly accused of his wife’s murder does not lead us to any sort of conclusion about “the differences between men and women.”

  • David1225

    It’s pretty clear we’re not communicating. I’ve certainly tried, and I’m sure you have, too. It’s just that we’re ships passing in the night on this. First, I don’t know what kind of men you associate with, but no man that I know has ever revealed to me a stereotype of women anything like Amy’s character. If a woman as brilliant, dishonest, and psychopathic murderer resembles a “conventional stereotype,” then I’ve missed that entirely despite reading widely and having close, intelligent friends of both genders. Nor was her character interposed as an excuse for anything other than a divorce. It was not presented as a justification for violence. Indeed, she was (against the stereotypes I’m familiar with) the narcissistic, violent psychopath. In movies, she’s inhabiting a traditionally male stereotype, in fact.

    Now, perhaps the “stereotype” you are talking about is a woman lying about her husband’s behavior, and making up a false claim of abuse. Amy certainly did that in this movie. In other words, a single character in a single story lied about domestic violence, and did so, it seems, precisely because she presumed it would be believed. This, in fact, happens in life. Men and women have equal capacities to be dishonest. That one individual does it, however, doesn’t mean that its a common occurrence, and nothing in this movie suggested that it was. Indeed, Amy’s character is so extreme that she doesn’t plausibly relate at all to the non-psychopathic women who are victims of domestic violence. It’s as if, however, we shouldn’t be talking about the idea of a woman falsely accusing a man of domestic violence — not because it doesn’t happen (it certainly does), but because it doesn’t happen very often. And, I suppose, we shouldn’t talk about cases in which false claims of racist violence are asserted (such as the Tawana Brawley case), either? To me, however, this point of view, however abhorrent, doesn’t really matter in a case where the antagonist is so extreme and unrealistic as to never be mistaken with an average person who is the victim of violence at the hands of his or her spouse.

    What is a bit ironic is that, while I have not heard of the stereotype of the dishonest, psychopathic murderess, what I have heard is the male stereotype portrayed in Amy’s diary: the narcissistic, immature man-child who expects his wife or girlfriend never to criticize him, who doesn’t want children, who is emotionally unavailable/distant, unfaithful despite having a loving spouse, and is ultimately driven to violence because of his inability to be in a meaningful, adult relationship. That is a stereotype, and an egregious one. And that was, I think, part of the point — how eager the media, other characters, and the public (and the audience) were to presume Nick was the stereotypical man who kills his wife. This isn’t always true, and I think the movie could have made that point far more effectively without making Amy a psychopathic murderer.

  • Danielm80

    It’s as if, however, we shouldn’t be talking about the idea of a woman falsely accusing a man of domestic violence — not because it doesn’t happen (it certainly does on occasion), but because it doesn’t happen very often.

    Of course we should talk about it, but when a movie reinforces harmful stereotypes, we should also talk about that, and point out how far the story is from most people’s experience. And when the stereotypes show up as glaringly as they did in the Tommy O’Hara scene, some people in the audience may find that those details take them out of the movie, in a way that affects their opinion of the film. A critic should call attention to those things. In fact, it’s her job.

  • Bluejay

    Films (and books) can have extremely negative consequences, but I’ve always felt that judging art by its consequences is a dangerous practice.

    How is it a dangerous practice? Censorship is a dangerous practice, but no one is calling for that here. Critics (and audiences) have every right to praise or pan the message they believe a film is promoting, and to consider a film’s themes and subtexts — its relationship to issues in the real world — in their response to the film, and to argue about it. To fail to do that — to talk solely about, say, the aesthetics of Birth of a Nation and nothing else — is disingenuous in the extreme.

  • Sam

    I agree with Mary Ann on this. Plus, it takes only a look at the trailer to see the domestic violence in this film that gets glossed over. Again, I point to Nick’s voice over at the very beginning of the film. And his banging his wife’s head against the wall toward the end. And using abusive language toward her. I don’t think Ben Affleck was best for this role, btw. I think his brother might have been far more effective.

  • Sam

    David, she means conventional sterotype in our MOVIES and also culture to a great degree. You know…the woman as the “bitch”… It was extremely telling when leaving the ttheater after the movie (which was full) several males said loudly…”watch out you guys…beware of the very women you are with.” My gosh. I was shocked. I started to say something then figured…no way they would even get it. Oh, there comments were met with much approval btw. Creepy.

    Also, men in movies get to play all sorts of characters…and yes, psychopaths is one of them…but there are many others…such as heroes galore. You can’t say the same for female roles.

  • Sam

    I don’t think the movie was about “the difference between men and women” except maybe the way they are cast in Hollywood films especially. We all knew that the husband was not going to be responsible for his wife’s disappearance anyway. We knew there was some sort of twist from the get-go. It just turned out to be ludicrous and turned Amy into a psycho when Nick was just as much as she was (yet this was just not shown in a way that would have made the movie much more interesting and actually far more believable. I truly don’t think the average viewer will see Nick as a domestic abuser (he is), a immature child man (he iis), a whining child man (he is), a man who really is turned on by Amy as it turns out. I don’t think he ever really had plans for any divorce.

    I never for once thought Nick was responsible for his wife’s disappearance.

  • Lady Tenar

    lol, yeah, the reason we’re not engaging you on your boringly cliched false rape accusations/rape false equivalency is because it’s just too challenging for us! Not because we’re hunting around looking for our MRA talking point bingo cards so we can mark off th space or anything.

    And yeah, numbers do matter. Numbers reflect risk. As far as I can tell, men don’t live in constant fear of being accused of rape. Most men are I know seem reasonably confident that this won’t happen as long as they don’t rape anyone. Women don’t get to feel that way about being raped–it’s something we have to fear all the time. If we ever get to a point where you’re living with the reality that you have a between 1 in 4 and 1 in 6 chance of being falsely accused of rape in your lifetime, when every man knows another man who’s been falsely accused of rape, I think you’ll agree that numbers matter.

  • Lady Tenar

    Yeah, there is a lot more going on here, Dave. You’re so smart! There’s a discussion of rape culture and how media can play into it going on here. Sorry if us wimminz (and allies) can’t have your manly, lofty detachment from an issue that is the stuff of our lives.

  • David1225

    Do you insult everyone you disagree with, or do you reserve that for men?

  • David1225

    They weren’t equally disturbed. Nick was a lost, not very bright guy and Amy was a brilliant, psychopathic killer.

  • David1225

    You honestly think men hold stereotypes resembling Amy? You know men who do? I don’t.

  • Bluejay

    You honestly think men hold stereotypes resembling Amy?

    I’ve read male commenters in online conversations about domestic violence who hold the “psycho bitch” stereotype, and use it to defend (or at least excuse) male abusers by arguing that “she made him do it” and “she’s just as bad as he is.”

    Take the comments section in this NPR piece for instance, and the comments of “Joe Blow” in particular:

    They like knowing they can drive someone who loves them dearly to the point of violence. It’s not like anyone is unaware that DV is bad or looks forward to beating up their significant other. […] Driving a normal person to the point of violence through emotional abuse is just as bad as hitting someone, if not worse for the scars it leaves and the fact that the victim is labelled a monster.

    And this:

    yes; I have heard of [men] walking away [instead of resorting to violence]. I am also aware that is not always an option. […] Would you want to leave your house in your underwear with an irate partner on the loose? That’s when you come back to a house full of broken valuables or your dresser emptied onto the lawn. Then everyone will coddle your girlfriend for standing up for herself by destroying your property, making you a laughingstock, and going to sleep with that guy she knows you can’t stand.

    So yeah, there are such men out there who think this way.

  • Stop it.

  • Try Googling. This site in not Feminism 101, and it’s not our job to educate you.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Yes. Yes. Your experience may not be typical; perhaps you should get out more.

  • It’s absolutely horrifying — yet not at all surprising — how many men have no inkling of the realities of women’s lives.

  • David1225

    You’re asking me to stop it? The fact that you are not responding to the person who is being demeaning and insulting is rather incredible.

  • David1225

    How petulant.

  • David1225

    Yes, let’s stereotype men and call them ignorant because their limited experience differs from your limited experience.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Dave, Dave, Dave. Are you really so stupid as to not know that when you type things like

    You honestly think men hold stereotypes resembling Amy? You know men who do? I don’t.

    you are implying that, because you have not experienced such things, they therefore don’t exit? Because, a) you are, and b) I don’t see how anyone as verbose as you could possibly be that stupid. So stop playing stupid.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Running out of cue cards and 50 cent words, I see.

  • You’re gone.

  • I just blocked him, so don’t expect a reply.

  • Jeff

    Potential spoilers ahead:
    Wow, you’ve drawn some things out of your viewing of the film that I really don’t get. That it’s saying marriage turns you into killers and liars. Some marriages might do, but that’s by far a small small percentage. Not sure where your getting that perspective from. Surely you would realise that this is focusing in on a particularly bad relationship. A movie about a happy couple of meet each other, fall in love, have kids, buy a house etc isn’t exactly going to be a thriller.
    And the whole violence against women thing. I like your reviews, and I know you tend to be very pro-women, which I don’t have a problem with. But I don’t think Fincher is trivialising domestic violence at all, or even taking sides as you suggest. The domestic violence you do see is a crucial part of the story line (trying to avoid spoilers here), and you should realise that this is not a comment on domestic violence or about taking sides in the issue. This was a pretty messed up relationship, to a point where the domestic violence even becomes questionable, which is what drives the whole movie. This is clearly a movie about two sides of the same story. I’m never saying domestic violence is ok, but everything is not as it seems.

  • Sometimes the hype for a movie can cloud people’s judgement, when’s the last time you saw Titanic? Doesn’t hold up, it’s awful.

    Movie is a complete and utter mess, there is no message to be taken, its just grunting at you prettily. In hindsight all the critics who praised this will be embarrassed.

    I suspect Gone Girl the novel is another example of people being super defensive of the only book they’ve read that year.

  • Tonio Kruger

    I guess then that it’s a good thing MaryAnn hasn’t read Gone Girl yet — which is just as well since I can’t really picture MaryAnn as the type of person who is content to read only one book per year.

    Then again, I haven’t read Gone Girl yet and I am quite sure that the number of books I’ve read this year is somewhere in the double digits at the very least.

  • Foodi

    I am in complete agreement with your assessment of this film and shocked at the pretty muh universal pass it’s recieving from other critics. Dragon Tattoo was a disappointment but I’ve never been more disillusioned with Fincher than I am now. I can only guess at what he saw in this mediocre tale.

  • I’ve seen *Titanic* numerous times, including during the 3D rerelease. It holds up beautifully, and it’s not awful. But if you want to discuss that film, please do so here:


    *Gone Girl* does have a message: “Bitches be crazy, and men are idiots.” I fear that some people actually agree with this, and are happy to see that reflected (again!) in a movie.

  • Sam

    Warning: SPOILER
    David, Who would ever think though that in this movie Nick was the killer? Even watching the previews you knew there would be a twist, that he was not the one. The movie became very boring to me in the sense of all the time spent on the TV stuff, the media craziness, etc. I’m reading the book and it’s very different so far. I would have much preferred movie time spent on the real aspects of their relationship as the book thus far does…I’m not that far along and still there is more I have read about them than was in the movie.
    Back to my point…I don’t see how your argument holds—that we are to see how we prejudge. Yes, we know media hype causes that often, but as viewers of this particular movie, you know that Nick did not kill her. Never did I, as a viewer, think that for a minute.

  • Sam

    MaryAnn, you got it with the statement “Bitches be crazy, and men are idiots.” Yep, that’s the takeaway from the movie in general.


    I guessed from the trailer that the wife had faked her own disappearance in order to frame her husband for her murder.

  • Sam

    Amy is a totally fake self with Nick when they date, by her own admission—(in book, she calls this “Cool Girl”)–then once married, she is surprised he doesn’t particularly care for the bait and switch.
    How do we know she tries hard at her marriage? We only have her diary which she later writes is a ruse anyway. So we really have a huge problem with unreliable narrators (at least from Amy’s viewpoint) in both book and movie. That’s enough to make for a bad read and movie too. In my opinion.

  • Sam

    MaryAnn….re: the problem of an unreliable narrator (and Amy is one)—in both book and movie—how do we know domestic violence ever occurred? The only place it appears really is connected to her diary account and she later says the diary was a ruse anyway. So Amy is playing on the domestic violence scene to make herself appear a victim all the way around. Again, unreliable narrator problem, it seems.

  • You needed spoiler warnings there. So, continued spoiler warnings, I guess.

    I did finish the book some time ago, and you’re right. My earlier interpretation was skewed by not having gotten to the big reveal yet. I’d meant to come back here with further comments, but it’s hard to do without massive spoilers.

  • Sam

    Yeah…me too. You were right to give this movie a red light. Book deserves one too. Another stupid thing that many Americans focus on, especially in marriage, is the whole infidelity thing. Divorce is just fine in America—yet, infidelity is somehow heinous. Seems so absurd. Check out Esther Perel’s TED talk (very sharp couples’ therapist who is on to something that American culture could learn from.)

  • We don’t know if the DV actually occurred. But in the real world, DV is not generally something women invent. In fact, women do they opposite; They hide it and pretend it’s not happening.

  • Danielm80

    I just came across this essay, which seems loosely related to this thread as a whole:


    Accusing someone of a crime he didn’t commit is not something a person with a conscience does for any reason, let alone some petty personal grievance. So if you believe it’s something a woman might just do after any given sexual encounter, for the flimsiest of reasons, you pretty much believe that women, as a class, are prone to sociopathy.

  • Sam

    Problem in this book and movie, though, is that we have no idea really whether any DV actually occurred as you say. Amy writes in her diary that it did but then in 2nd half of book (and in movie) she says diary was a ruse. The whole thing seems about a woman who is pissed off because she herself pretended to be “Cool Girl” and then was shocked when husband didn’t care for bait and switch. Who would care for that? Husband could easily say (as he kind of does) “who” is this woman? And he has a reason for that. He is himself when they are dating. She by her own admission is purposefully not.

    She seems shocked and furious that he did not like her baiting and switching. Huh? Who would like that? So that is an issue and then there is the affair which Amy totally fixates on, as if the affair is “the problem” in the marriage. It’s not.
    Again, unreliable narrator problem is huge in my opinion in both book and movie. So this reader/viewer simply doesn’t buy into either.

    I also do think that women (girls especially) far too often fall into “being what the guy wants” or “what they think the guy wants” …maybe not to the degree Amy did, but it happens a lot. And is not a healthy thing that is all too often something females do and then wonder why they are frustrated in relationships with men. Amy even names (in the book) all the different personalities she adopts in this pleasing guys thing. Pleasing guys at the expense of your “self” (if there is one—don’t think Amy had one really) is not ever a healthy thing to do.

  • Did you miss how Nick pretends to be something he isn’t, too? Did you miss how Amy is angry that he isn’t what he pretended to be? Did you miss where I covered this in my review?

    Also: Don’t use “females” as a synonym for human girls or women. We’re not farm animals.

  • LaSargenta

    Actually, using “females” is putting us even lower than farm animals. Any farmer with livestock has far more precise names for her or his breeding stock: filly/mare, heifer/cow, gilt/sow, pullet/hen, doe/dam, gimmer/ewe…

  • Sam

    yes, I should have posted spoiler warnings on that one. I suppose since I was writing about the book, it slipped by me…however, the book and movie were more similar than I thought in that regard. Spoiler warning: If the movie had chosen to really get psychological and into “false selves” that would have been another thing. And mental health workers know that one “false self” does not typically marry another and if so, then the marriage is usually over very very fast. Like maybe 6 months.
    Thanks for your post to mine

  • Sam

    David, it felt half-baked because it is half-baked…just like the book. Unreliable narrators really don’t work. It’s a cheap rip-off for readers or viewers. Spoiler: The writer used cheap tactics and then movie follows.

  • Sam

    True and this is something problematic (understatement) that the book and movie ignore.
    I don’t think of this book or movie about marriage though…I see it about two borderline/narcissistic personality disordered people. The movie just takes it to a level the book didn’t…at least in terms of the graphic elements. You knew them but there was no blow by blow. And…spoiler alert…there was (in the book) the clear creepiness of old boyfriend who holds Amy in his “safe” prison. Truly controlling creepy guy.

  • Sam

    Daniel…I don’t get your last sentence at all. It’s like saying if you believe that a male would rape a female (check out what is happening on our university campuses as an example) then you “pretty much believe that men, as a class, are prone to sociopathy.” Huh?
    Yes, there are women who would accuse a male of a sexual crime he didn’t commit…that is happening on college campuses too….but far far more males are raping women on said campuses and have been for a very long time—and getting away with it. The stats speak for themselves.

  • Sam

    Book and movie focuses on individuals with significant personality disorders but present them as regular individuals. Then makes Amy appear the screwed up person and Nick as a victim. Even though there are clues he is not—they are too understated.

  • Sam

    MaryAnn, I understand that Nick had as many problems as Amy but where does Nick present himself as something he is not? Maybe I am influenced by the book which helped me see how the movie is so messed up (as the book is also). Amy’s entire diary is full of her self-professed “false selves”….very purposefully false selves. That’s what borderline and narcissistic personality disordered people do. We just don’t have Nick’s journal.
    What is the problem with writing “females” when I also write “males”? How is that different than women and men (which you seem to prefer)? Please explain…thanks.

  • Sam

    LaSargenta….how so? Please explain. How is female and woman not similar? And male and man not similar? Thanks for the explanation which I hope you will write.
    There are two excellent books written by a neurologist who is a “woman” and the books are incredibly well-researched—one is “The Female Brain” and the other is “The Male Brain.” What is wrong with her use of terms?

  • Yeah, don’t use “males” as a noun. The problem is that hardly anyone actually does that, while many many men (and some women) use “female” as a noun as a way to reduce women to biology. “Male” and “female” are adjectives.

    Nick discusses the pressures to be successful in his career, and how he pretended this was something he was actually interested in. And then we see that he is much happier running a bar.

  • As I explained in my other comment, “male” and “female” are properly used as adjectives, not as nouns used to stand in for human beings.

  • Danielm80

    Have you read the essay the quote was taken from?

  • LaSargenta

    I think you misread Daniel’s comment.

  • LaSargenta

    I have not read those books. The author obviously had reasons for using those words. As I have not read either, I cannot comment on the author’s use.

    However, on the use in this comments section, this is not appropriate. “Male” and “female” are biological descriptors and not species specific. They are also extremely general, flattening the objects of the discussion and not acknowledging membership in the human species. Women have frequently been equated (even legally) with livestock. I was ponting out that even livestock gets the ‘honor’ of having species-specific names (admittedly based on reproductive status) for the “male” and “female”.

  • You do great justice to the subtle, intelligent first half of the film, the things that are valuable in what it does. Other than what I’m hoping is a joke about Ben Affleck being under-rated – the guy who won an Oscar for Argo, one of the lamest bend-over-and-service-Hollywood historical misrepresentations in recent history – I pretty much agree with your perceptions, and you’re dead right that the film “takes sides.” I don’t try to avoid spoilers at all, but my own thoughts are here. I rather loved the first half, then hated, utterly, where it went with the material. http://alienatedinvancouver.blogspot.ca/2014/12/on-torrenting-gone-girl.html

  • Beth3000

    I think the novel was far superior to the film, providing deep insight into each character. We get inside both Nick’s mind and Amy’s in the book. Well, for the first half of the novel, the Amy we get to know is the false Amy that she constructs for the sole purpose of framing her husband. It is only after the reveal that she is alive that we get to meet the true Amy, a person who is quite clearly meant to be a portrait of a highly successful sociopath. She enjoys manipulating others, doesn’t truly love or care about anyone, and is Machiavellian in her ability to justify her behavior. On the flip side, we can’t feel too bad for Nick, who is also dishonest and unlikeable but not nearly as slick and smart as his wife. He is not a sociopath like his wife; he’s just a total jerk.

    In short, I felt the film left much to be desired and, as you state in your review, seems more of a criticism of the institution of marriage in general. In the novel it was more clearly a character sketch that took us into the minds of two people who were not just your average Joe and Jane Schmo in a bad marriage.

    An adapted screenplay should stand on its own and Gone Girl, the film, does not manage to do that well. On the contrary, the novel is quite compelling.

  • Thera Pitts

    **Possible spoiler?** I don’t think the book is misogynistic in how it chooses to present Amy, in fact I think Flynn identifies a great deal with Amy, trhe fact that she happened to be a manipulative psycho in the end didn’t necessarily negate her earlier frustrations with Nick or let him off the hook for anything. The plot twist at the end didn’t seem to be saying “well I guess Nick is the good one” I think it was Flynn’s way of working out her frustration with the pressures that deep-seeded gender dynamics place on people, and how they can cause men and women to resent each other. Whether she chose the right tactic, I don’t know. But I did enjoy the book, and the film, although I think it lost a bit in translation.

  • It doesn’t matter what’s in the book. And in fact, Gillian Flynn wrote the screenplay, so she did the translating herself. It’s safe to assume that the film is the version of the book she wanted to put up on the big screen.

  • Thera Pitts

    Yeah, true. But like you said, not everyone who is good at one medium will automatically excel at another, also, screenwriters hardly get the final say in what goes up on screen. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the movie, I just thought the book did a better job at giving Amy a real presence and point of view.

  • Pieces like this one (there are many others) indicate that Flynn’s script is exactly what she wanted.

    I don’t doubt that the book is better — this is almost always the case — but it does not excuse the movie from its problems.

  • Thera Pitts

    I stand corrected. And sorry to keep bringing up the book, because that really doesn’t excuse any problems in the film, I’m just kind of on a discussion kick since I finished it so recently. I’m not sure why Flynn chose to make Nick a more likable (albeit still flawed) character than in the book, where he was also something of a sociopath, or why she chose to underplay some of Amy’s POV and uncomfortably apt flashes of insight, but I’m guessing it’s because a lot of it just wouldn’t have filmed well, considering it was mostly internal.

  • Maybe that’s why. And yet by pure coincidence, how she altered the book for the screen seems to align with Hollywood’s prejudices about women. Funny how that happens. :-/

  • Thera Pitts

    I’m still not convinced that Flynn is a misogynist, but you could be right about that.

  • Maybe she was trying to be a Cool Girl in Hollywood.

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