Gone Girl Is One Mean Metaphor For MarriagePosted: October 6, 2014
As I’ve discussed and referenced repeatedly on this site, I have a very happy and loving relationship with my girlfriend Shiran. We’ve had some hiccups to go along with all the amazing times, but I have a great deal of faith in our relationship because we both love each other and we are committed to being together. Any issues that might come up are worth working through and moving on from, and I feel that we’ve done a good job of doing just that. So with this experience and perspective on relationships in mind, I will say that I greatly enjoyed Gone Girl, and even respect some of its message about marriage, but that in the end the absurdly cynical approach of David Fincher and Gillian Flynn is something that I will happily disagree with.
Gone Girl functions best when viewed as a metaphor for the dynamics of a marriage, or indeed any long-term relationship. Through a variety of twists and turns, it expresses the idea that people put on certain personas for each other, and within the context of a marriage the maintenance of those personas is tantamount. The film shows us what happens when one side of a relationship (Nick, played by Ben Affleck) loses their commitment to that persona, and thus to their marriage, and the lengths to which the other side (Amy, played by Rosamund Pike) will go to try and rebuild that persona… or try to abandon it altogether.
If you take Amy’s actions on a purely surface level then it would be very easy to see her as the villain and write her off as a psycho bitch. Combined with some of the other female depictions in the film one could easily read the whole story as incredibly misogynistic. But looking at it as a metaphor we could just as easily see Nick as the bad guy, one who sees his wife as a convenience at best. Really they are both equally antagonistic to each other, and I found myself wanting Amy to get away with what she does as much as I wanted Nick to not go to death row. One thing that must be kept in mind is that the story is constantly being told either from Nick or Amy’s point of view, and so everything is being filtered through their respective (and deeply flawed) gazes.
Nevertheless, the midpoint reveal of Amy’s true whereabouts and plans is a stunner, one that had me laughing at the sheer audacity of it all. The film certainly doesn’t hold back from letting Amy seem at least a little bit insane, and I’m sure many people will react to her as such (even given the metaphorical nature of her actions). Perhaps if Amy seems insane to you, it is because the level of commitment and fight that it takes to maintain a perpetual daily relationship like a marriage going is kind of insane. It’s just an insanity that we’ve become inured to, which is why the ridiculous melodrama of Gone Girl is such a perfect metaphor for it all. And maybe my own (relatively) accepting outlook on the film’s themes speaks to my views on relationships, and how a close, committed relationship like a marriage is worth whatever strife and difficulty that goes into it.
It’s certainly hard to deny that the film makes these observations with the most cynical of overtones. You don’t use plot devices like kidnapping and murder to tell the story of a marriage unless you’re applying a dark worldview to it. While Fincher and Flynn might be saying what I think they are, they probably don’t mean it the way that I’m taking it. Theirs seems to be a much more condemning point of view, seeing marriage as a social contract that is maintained for appearances, and that the necessary effort is an unemotional and calculated gesture. But as much as I love Fincher’s work, and while I’ve indulged in my fair share of cynicism in my life, I’m also comfortable diverging from Fincher’s dark worldview, particularly in this case.
Regardless of whether you take the events of Gone Girl at face value or not, the story here can serve as a cautionary tale about the cost of marriage. If it doesn’t scare you away from marriage altogether, it will remind you of how much work goes into it. Marriage is a difficult and all-enveloping arrangement, and one that requires commitment and concession from each participant. It’s understandable that such commitments could falter, and just as understandable that a person would fight to keep those commitments alive… even though the Dunnes’ distinctive (albeit symbolic) brand of couples’ therapy might not be the best way to do that.