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Gone Girl tells the story of a woman, Amy Dunne, who mysteriously goes missing. But it's also the story of how her marriage to Nick Dunne went metaphorically missing years before.
The early days of Nick and Amy's union defied the grim warnings about weddings Amy had been given: Marriage is hard work. Marriage means compromise. Marriage will kill your soul.
"Not for me and Nick," Amy gushes in her diary on the couple's two-year anniversary. For Nick and Amy, both of whom write for magazines in New York City, life is a never-ending fairy tale full of creativity and carnal connectivity.
Until, that is, the recession rips away first Nick's job, then Amy's. Next up: the news that Nick's mother is dying back in (fictional) North Carthage, Missouri, and that they need to move back to care for her. Finally, Amy's parents (authors themselves who used their daughter as a template for a bestselling children's franchise dubbed Amazing Amy when she was a kid) inform her that they're broke and need to raid her sizeable trust fund.
It's all a "stress test," Amy writes in her diary, that will reveal what their marriage is really made of.
Reveal it does. But not in a good way.
Gone Girl can be interpreted as a parable—or maybe more accurately, as a deeply disturbing cautionary tale—about the peril of relating to others as we want them to be instead of understanding them as they are.
Amy comes to despise her husband's weaknesses. And he, in turn, despises her attempts to remake him. There's no grace here, no forgiveness. Unconditional love, Amy says, is impossible. And as each of them justifies his or her own self-centered positions, their marriage utterly unravels. None of that is positive. But it is possible to see Nick and Amy's barren interactions as an illustration of how not to treat a spouse.
And it's important to note that a lot of Amy's identity issues stem from mistakes her parents made raising her. Growing up as the inspiration for Amazing Amy, Amy comes to deeply resent that the fictional version of her was always a perfect projection of her own obviously flawed personality. "Amazing Amy has always been one step ahead of me," she tells Nick. That's why she so very much loves that Nick initially accepts her, warts and all. But then, slowly, she comes to the horrifying realization that he's actually more interested in "outwardly cool Amy" than who she really is on the inside.
Amy eventually reappears, pregnant. And Nick decides to stay with her for the sake of raising that child—the most self-sacrificial choice he ever makes. Nick's twin sister, Margo, is loyal to her brother and is his only ally when he's suspected of murdering his wife. She is also, rightly, frustrated that he hasn't told her the whole truth.
Margo says Amy likes to play God—"the Old Testament God." We hear references to people praying for Amy's return, including high-powered defense attorney Tanner Bolt, who says, "We prayed to God, and God answered our prayers. Amy Dunne is home." He dubs her return "The Miracle on the Mississippi." We hear Blue Öyster Cult's 1976 hit "Don't Fear the Reaper."
Three sex scenes between Amy and Nick involve him giving her oral sex, as well as them having sex on a table at a public library and up against a mirror. We see explicit motions of intercourse, hear sexual sounds and see everything short of full-on nudity. Nick is also shown having sex with the young woman he's having an affair with. Breast nudity is paired with graphic sexual movements. There's more nudity shown as she gets dressed afterwards.
A shower scene in which Amy washes a man's blood off briefly shows her breast and torso. She's also shown covered by bubbly water in a bathtub. We see her in clingy negligee. Two scenes give glimpses of full-frontal male nudity. Dialogue references oral sex, sexual body parts, incest, masturbation and strippers.
While hiding, Amy has sex with a guy she used to have a relationship with, then concocts a story …
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… about him kidnapping her, tying her up and repeatedly raping her. We see her use a wine bottle (under her nightgown) to simulate believable injuries to support her tale, and she stains her underwear with wine. But none of that comes close to what she does to her unsuspecting conquest while they're having sex: With her graphic sexual movements continuing throughout and even afterwards, she slits his throat, killing him. (Massive quantities of blood pour from his neck onto both of them.)
Amy hits herself in the face with a hammer to bolster allegations of abuse. She bites a lover's lip, drawing blood. To fake her own death, she draws a significant amount of her own blood, spills it on the floor, then cleans it up. In an argument, Nick throws Amy to the floor, and she hits her head hard. Another argument finds him slamming her head against a wall. Several references are made to people contemplating suicide.
Crude or Profane Language
Four uses of the c-word. Fifty-plus uses of the f-word and half a dozen s-words. "A--" and "a--hole" are used more than 10 times (combined). The same goes for "b--ch." We hear "p---," "h---," "t-ts" and "p---y." God's name is abused a dozen times, once or twice with "d--n."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Characters drink alcohol (beer, wine, champagne) and smoke cigarettes. Several scenes take place in a bar. We hear references to OxyContin and the fact that North Carthage has a growing drug problem.
Other Negative Elements
Amy plots how to retrieve a pregnant woman's urine from a toilet in order to fake a pregnancy test. A man and a woman rob Amy. Margo detests Amy, and tells her brother, "Anyone who would take her is bound to bring her back." Amy spits in another woman's drink.
Tanner suggests that big legal cases aren't about what happened, but about how likeable the defendant is. "This case is about what people think about you," he tells Nick. "They need to like you."
Marriage, as Amy Dunne narrates, can be hard. Gone Girl takes that observation and multiplies it to infinity in a story that spins ever more wildly—and sexually and gruesomely—out of the realm of normalcy and into something more like The Twilight Zone had it been created by the makers of Saw.
After all, most of the time a woman meandering through a cold spot in her marriage doesn't fake her own death, seduce a former lover, murder him while having sex, then show up again with a brutally and fully fleshed fictitious story about how she was kidnapped and raped.
Director David Fincher, of course, is no stranger to plumbing the depths of the human heart's deepest darkness, having already done so in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Se7en, Zodiac and Fight Club. Gone Girl now takes its place in that gritty, grimy group as a film that unflinchingly unpacks one deeply damaged couple's narcissism and psychoses. The image of marriage we get in this cinematic adaptation of Gillian Flynn's bestselling novel is truly grim. So grim that Time reviewer Richard Corliss wrote:
"In a property with all the killer-thriller tricks—sudden disappearance and violent death, dark motives and cunning misdirection—the true creepiness of Gone Girl is in its portrait of a marriage gone sour, curdled from its emotional and erotic liberation of courtship into a life sentence together, till death do they part. In Gone Girl, marriage is a prison, and each spouse is both jailer and inmate—perhaps even executioner, too."
And I'll write that this story is as macabre in its twisted blending of sex and violence as anything I've ever seen. Well, at least since Fincher's last film.
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne; Rosamund Pike as Amy Dunne; Neil Patrick Harris as Desi Collings; Tyler Perry as Tanner Bolt; Carrie Coon as Margo Dunne; Kim Dickens as Det. Rhonda Boney; Patrick Fugit as Officer Jim Gilpin; David Clennon as Rand Elliot; Lisa Banes as Marybeth Elliott; Missi Pyle as Ellen Abbott; Emily Ratajkowski as Andie Hardy; Casey Wilson as Noelle Hawthorne; Lola Kirke as Greta; Boyd Holbrook as Jeff; Sela Ward as Sharon Schieber
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