From the very first words we hear from Nick, a monologue spoken over the opening credits, it becomes apparent that one of the underlying themes of “Gone Girl” is the toxicity which unrealistic expectations can bring to a marriage. “When I think of my wife, I always think of the back of her head.” Nick opines, “I picture cracking her lovely skull, unspooling her brain, trying to get answers. The primal questions of a marriage: What are you thinking? How are you feeling? What have we done to each other? What will we do?” The problem is, Nick is asking these questions five years after he and Amy have already taken their wedding vows, not before.
As much consternation as they can cause couples seeking marriage, those pre-marriage counseling quizzes provided by the Church force folks to consider the realities of life that accompany matrimony. Couples are asked to agree or disagree with simple statements such as “We are in agreement about the husband and wife roles each of us expects of the other in our marriage relationship,” “We are in agreement about how we will make financial decisions between us,” “My future spouse and I can talk about our sexual fears, hopes and preferences,” and “We disagree with each other over some teachings of the church.”
Interestingly, a 1995 study conducted by Purdue University showed that such quizzes were 80 percent accurate at predicting which couples would remain happily married by their five-year anniversary. Still, a lot of couples these days simply don’t ask these type of questions before tying the knot, so it causes them problems later on.
It’s not quite that simple in “Gone Girl,” of course. This being a Fincher movie, the characters aren’t just lackadaisical in their marriage prep, they’re willful in their disregard of such concerns. Remember how we mentioned that Fincher’s characters are often on the over-obsessive and/or deviant side. Well, over the course of the film, we learn that Nick and Amy actually pledged to live out their marriage in denial of the common problems faced by ordinary people and created false personas to that end. Once real problems like job loss and lack of money kicked in, though, Nick began to cave, setting off the twists and turns which transpire in the movie.
Because the two leads are such narcissistic characters, there are no real heroes to cheer for per se, though the various plot twists do pull your sympathies towards one or the other at various times. Kim Dickens’ detective and Carrie Coon’s turn as Nick’s twin sister are the closest the movie gets to “good” characters. Despite that, the mystery elements of the film are more than enough to keep you interested in the ultimate fate of the Dunnes and the people drawn into their dilemma.
With some strong performances, Fincher’s distinct direction, and a really smart script that’s part mystery and part character study, expect to see “Gone Girl” get some attention come awards season. Whether it’s Fincher’s best movie to date is arguable, but it’s up there near the top.
In a world he didn’t create, in a time he didn’t choose, one man looks for signs of God in the world by… watching movies. When he’s not reviewing new releases for Aleteia,David Ivesspends his time exploring the intersection of low-budget/cult cinema and Catholicism atThe B-Movie Catechism.