Okay, I admit it: I don’t get it. The appeal, the hype, the viral spread of Gone Girl. The movie was full of that hauntingly beautiful Fincher cinematography, the music was stellar, and the acting was top notch–especially Carrie Coon’s Margo Dunne. And full disclosure, I haven’t read the book. I realize book movies are always pretty different from their source material, but the script was written by the author, so I have to assume all the beats are there and not much was lost in translation.
So what is it?
Upon my initial viewing, I found the story a little bland. Too weak to be a true mystery, too far-out to be a realistic drama. Sort of a Home Improvement if it were a sloppy police procedural. So why is Gone Girl everybody’s go-to book recommendation? How come I can’t log into Facebook without seeing somebody raving about it?
And why, if it was so lackluster, and I’m blogging about it–still thinking about it–several days later? Why can’t I let this go?
As the credits rolled, I only had one wish: to have the last two hours of my life back. But I keep coming back to it. Not because it was so undeniably good, but because I can’t quite get a pulse on it.
My cousin said he couldn’t breathe when he was watching it. He said he stared at his wife for hours after the movie ended, trying to see into her skull, to see what made her tick. While I didn’t have that same experience watching it with my girlfriend, I could see where more than a few husbands/boyfriends would be shaping up after seeing this flick. That’ll happen after watching Ben Affleck get his life ripped out of him and stomped to a bloody pulp.
It did make me uncomfortable, I’ll give it that–I think it was supposed to–but I don’t think my reasoning is the same as the rest of the planet’s.
As a writer, I try to keep up on all the best-sellers, whether they’re my cup of tea or not. Especially as an ‘indie’ author, I find myself analyzing what about the story is so gripping. What about it makes it wildly virulent. I’m pretty good and ferreting this information out, but it’s a gift and a curse.
On one hand, it keeps me jacked into the pipeline of what’s popular. On the other, I have difficulty just sitting back and enjoying something because I’m so busy trying to discover how it works.
And maybe that’s why I find Gone Girl so…offensive. As a writer–and a male–it makes me look bad.
When I referenced Home Improvement, I wasn’t just trying to cash in on an obscure 90s reference, I truly believe that Nick Dunne was being presented as the ‘dufus husband’–this was even referenced comically in the movie. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the character was a bad guy, or at least, a shitty husband–but did he deserve to be be murdered via the death penalty verdict of an elaborate hoax? Hell no.
[Spoiler Alert] Luckily, that wasn’t the case. The elaborate hoax was discovered (by some of the characters, anyway} and Nick Dunne was spared–but at what cost? A miserable existence? A blackmailed living situation? A form of house arrest?
One could argue that even though Nick was a screw-up, he was still the victim of the story. And that his homicidal, psychopath of a wife was the villain. But I fear the book and the movie won’t be interpreted that way.
I fear it will be a sort-of how-two manual for getting revenge on an unfaithful partner. Is that why this book/movie is being so well-received? Because housewives around the world are relating to the character of Amy Dunne? I’ve seen some pretty freaky Twitter comments. And while I hope Twitter hasn’t become a microcosm for the people of Earth, the fact that even some people are thinking this way scares me.
Is “Gone-Girling” a deadbeat boyfriend going to become a thing? Instead of taking adulterous partners on Maury for a paternity test, are people just going to set them up for murder? Even if people are too stupid to pull it off–or the cops too smart–I worry that people will still try.
I’ve been cheated on, I think most people have in this day and age. And there’s always that moment where you want to “teach them a lesson,” but ultimately that’s not the answer. Revenge seldom is. But did Gone Girl justify revenge? One can argue that obviously Amy Dunne was crazy and everyone knew she was in the wrong…
…but then why did she get away with it in the end? She got what she wanted, more or less–or, at least, without any repercussion. Is that the message the author is sending to the readers? Sometimes the villain gets away scot free?
And that’s where I become offended as a writer. Because if that’s all it takes to be a best-seller, then I’ve been doing it wrong. You don’t need clues to be a mystery. You don’t need to solve the mystery to complete the story. Hell, you don’t even have to make sure good triumphs over evil, right? Just make sure you hit the biggies: pregnancy scandal, cancer, murder, betrayal, and a one-sided husband getting his come-uppins.
Or did Gillian Flynn write this as pure entertainment and the audience turned it into an anthem, or a battle cry, for spouses that feel they’ve been wronged?
Or am I way off my rocker, and this is just the next Twilight, or 50 Shades of Grey, or Hunger Games? That there’s no more resonating going on here than a cool, dark, edgy story outgrowing its beach-read status? Tell me partners are not going to start leering at each other across the dinner table with endless suspicion, and that the crime blotters are not going to start becoming revenge-porn about teaching “cheatin’ dogs” a lesson.
And somebody please tell me why if this was such a lackluster, stupid story am I still thinking about it? Is that the real beauty of Gone Girl? Is there something truly, genetically haunting about this story? That its simplicity, its predictability, is exactly the vehicle that inserts it under your skin, making it crawl? Is this what it takes to strike a chord in this business?
What am I missing here?