Have you seen Gone Girl yet? If not you really should. It’s trashy, satirical, fun and seems like something Brian DePalma would’ve made after Dressed To Kill. Yes. Fun. You read that right. The movie has a dark heart at its centre, and David Fincher, along with author Gillian Flynn, have brought it beating to life.
But this specifically is to talk about Amy, and her actions in the movie. Suffice to say, I’ll be spoiling the hell out of it.
To understand Amy you have to go back to the start. There’s a key scene early on, not long after Amy and Nick have met. She’s at a launch for another ‘Amazing Amy‘ book that her mother has written. We see the covers of the previous books; Amy gets a puppy, plays an instrument etc, but these are things the ideal Amy would’ve done. Her mother took what she had and molded it into something else. Amy is robbed of who she is, and has to play the girl that she’s been told she should be. We’re only left to speculate why her mother would do this, but we get to see the lasting effects it has on Amy.
Though this is mainly discussing the movie, the book actually delves into how Amy ruined the life of a girl who was more popular than she was. It’s one of the few instances of Girl-On-Girl crime that Amy commits and it’s understandable why, when running time is a consideration, this is left out.
Fast forward, and the rot is setting in. Nick is cheating. They’re in an unhappy marriage. Amy decides to burn it down in the most spectacular way. How does she do this? She molds herself again, this time into a man’s worst nightmare.
This is where criticism of the movie comes from. Amy uses false allegations against men, the type that Men’s Rights Groups often accuse women of using and therefore some viewers and critics have taken this to mean that the movie itself is misogynistic. It’s an unfair reading, and ignores everything that surrounds it, most of all it ignores Amy herself.
Amy as the male nightmare is the flipside to her ‘Cool Girl’ speech. It stands to reason that if she can go one way, then she can go another. She turns herself into what she thinks is the ideal girlfriend and wife, so why is it so hard to believe she would turn herself into what she thinks is a man’s worst nightmare?
It’s interesting of course that Detective Boney, a woman, ultimately sees through her lies. When Amy returns from her blood-soaked sojourn and is telling her story to a group of eager listeners. The only woman in the room is the one who doesn’t immediately fall for it. The men stand enraptured by Amy’s performance, Boney looks like she can’t make the pieces fit. When Boney raises her concerns she’s immediately admonished by the cold Amy. No one else in the room seems to care. Also of note is that Nick’s sister serves as the voice of reason, and is the only real innocent who’s affected by Amy’s actions. Again it’s not established why Nora would be targeted by Amy, except to say that she’s a strong female, and Amy doesn’t seem to like that very much.
The section with Desi doesn’t ultimately last that long, but it serves as arguably the most important sequence in the movie. In their limited time together we get treated to a little play in which the dynamics change a number of times. Amy calls on Desi as her saviour, a role he’s all too happy to play. When he finds her in the casino (Note that Amy plays with her coins the way we see people at slot machines often do, indicating that she’s about to take a gamble) she’s been robbed and punched in the face. She’s plain and resembles more the type of person that Desi would have clean his house, not someone he would go out with. But his services come at a price: His home is swanky but appears like a particularly luxurious prison. Desi turns from concerned saviour to a swaggering suitor, boasting about his perfect prison – sorry – home. Amy immediately understands her predicament and has to play his grateful guest, and in a great turn from Rosamund Pike (in a movie full of them) we can read on her face that she is, for lack of a better term, fucked.
Amy is nothing but resourceful though, and turns the tables by once again playing a role a new role: She’s the submissive to Desi and his need for control. She’s the sex kitten permanently clad in lingerie waiting for her master to come home because that’s what Desi needs. We never know if Desi actually tried to kill himself like Amy always claimed, and Neil Patrick Harris makes his confrontation with Affleck’s Nick ambiguous enough that we’ll never know, but it’s clear to see that he took Amy leaving him hard. There’s no real indication that he’s been with anyone else since, but we see enough to know that his unhealthy obsession doesn’t end well.
In the most memorable sequence, Amy is reborn as uber-Amy when she slits Desi’s throat mid-orgasm (His, not hers) and is bathed in his blood. Like Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut their marriage is saved through a blood sacrifice, even if Nick doesn’t realise it yet.
So Amy returns home, the police closing the case on her story, and makes Nick complicit in her crimes. Amy has found the Amy she needs to be to make Nick stay, and all she had to do was be herself. She has no more layers left to shed. Nick gets unfiltered, pure, Amy. He tells himself and his sister it’s for the sake of his unborn child, but Amy is right when she tells him that this is what he needs.
Nick, for his part, is as weak as Amy is strong. There’s dark comedy to the scene at the end where he’s tucked into bed by this mother figure. He does have one moment where he’s genuine though. He confesses on TV that like Amy, he too molded himself to her whims, to be the man that she needed him to be. It’s not difficult to picture Nick at home, reading issues of Maxim and finding out just what it is that women want. The difference between them is that Nick can’t keep up the charade like Amy can, thus sealing his own fate.
Does Nick deserve everything that happens to him? Not for his actions no. It is a problem with the movie that Nick comes off entirely sympathetic because his biggest transgressions come before the first frame starts. However they do pepper in moments that show the similarities between Nick and Amy, and largely how we misrepresent who we are so that we’re more desirable to the opposite sex. Nick plays the intellectual but wants to be seen as the local good boy too. He appears caring towards the local homeless population when people are watching, put he’s quick to blame them when Amy first goes missing (Class war is another facet of the book that’s hinted at in the movie). He is, in his own way, as lost as Amy is. Interestingly, while on the surface the movie can be seen as advocating against marriage, it ultimately argues for how important honesty is to a relationship. If Nick and Amy had been honest with themselves and each other from the start, they maybe they would never have got married. Maybe they would’ve just gone their separate ways. Maybe.
Truth, or ‘truth’, is a huge part of Gone Girl. Everyone has their own version of it and everyone is shaping their narrative just as much as Amy shapes her character. The role of the media in the movie serves to accentuate this. Nick is publicly admonished for being awkward in front of a camera. He isn’t PR trained, and instead believes that the truth is all that he needs. But the truth isn’t enough. He doesn’t act the way he should – a mistake that Amy would never make – and it’s decided he’s guilty on the back of it. Even the student that Nick has an affair with has changed. We first see her with what Amy calls “Come on me Tits”, but then the next time we see her she’s a dowdy figure on the TV, covered up and apologetic.
But ultimately the movie is about Amy herself, and the way the movie loops around recontextualises what we’ve seen. At the start Amy is an enigma, but by the end we see a woman who has become the villain in her own story. The image that endures the most though isn’t the blood-drenched Amy returning home to Nick, it’s her sitting in front of the TV. She’s dressed casually, her make up has been scrubbed off, her knees are folded and she’s eating ice-cream from a tub. She watches transfixed as Nick tells her all the things she wants to hear. We get a glimpse of that little girl, ready to mold herself again.