Pulling the Narrative Rug on the Audience
Gone Girl functions as a film that cannot be categorized within a single genre. It stands on its own and perhaps may inspire future films to follow in its footsteps. David Fincher’s newest film is a manipulative film, not in giving its audience what it wants, but manipulating in the sense of narrative storytelling. David Fincher’s Gone Girl points the metaphorical finger at its audience and wags its finger at them in shame for their proverbial bloodlust. Gone Girl gives the audience exactly what they crave; murder, suspicion, deceit, lust. Yet these elements are not offered in the traditional sense that audiences considered to be idealistic. Instead, they are practically reprimanded for even desiring these components within a film. For that, David Fincher is masterful in his storytelling within Gone Girl.
Gone Girl focuses upon its principle character, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), who becomes caught in the spotlight when his wife, Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike), disappears. With nothing to incriminate him, except his bizarre behavior, he immediately is suspected of murdering his wife. Despite claiming his innocence, his guilt becomes more pronounced due to pressure from the police and sensationalized journalism about his character. In the process of observing Nick’s plight, the film takes the liberty of presenting Amy’s past through a series of flashbacks through her diary, outlining a marriage that wasn’t as perfect as those outside of themselves perceived.
What Gone Girl does is take the classic murder case and dramatizes it for the benefit of its audience. This movie eerily mirrors the Laci Peterson case back in 2002, a sensational case the media ran with due to Scott Peterson, her husband’s, unusual behavior. Ben Affleck essentially is Scott Peterson, who showed no remorse over the disappearance of his wife, leaving the media to speculate about his motives and lack of emotional response. Once it was exposed that Peterson was deep in debt, engaging in an affair and had made claims of not wanting to be a father, it became evident, at least on a circumstantial level, that he was involved somehow in the disappearance of his wife. Gone Girl essentially copies this narrative, effectively painting Affleck’s character as the villain. The audience immediately accepts this is a valid truth and doesn’t question the sole evidence (that only the audience is privy to initially), Amy’s diary.
By that sense, Fincher relies on suspense and tension through the script-writing as the seemingly perfect Nick Dunne crumbles more and more. By a certain point in the film, the audience is expected to despise him. Fincher demands that you do not like Nick Dunne. His narrative technique demands that you despise him. Yet, once the audience believes the credibility of the story, Fincher pulls the rug right out from them. He teases the audience by showing them exactly what they want, but then denies them such a narrative. Inadvertently, Fincher shifts the narrative and presents an entirely new storyline that the audience must now follow.
Two things make this narrative shift possible: Fincher’s direction and Rosamund Pike’s acting. The entire movie hinges on her ability to convince the audience that she is as angelic as she claims, to which Pike is highly effective. Yet as the film transitions to satire, so does her acting range. Her ability to shift from meek housewife to femme fatale is extraordinary in that she consistently is able to provide shock value beyond what the screenplay demands of her. As a result, Pike is represented as the perfect foil character to Affleck, who in turn remains in queue with the emotionally repressive Nick Dunne. For her surprising turn as Amy Dunne, Rosamund Pike turns in one of the most effective performances of the year, one that is worthy of some serious awards.
The second half of Gone Girl satirizes topics that are seemingly too taboo to touch by contemporary standards, the most glaring being feminism. Using the media as a the tool to satirize such a topic, Gone Girl provides the representation of immediately suspecting a male of being guilty of an act and the female being the unwitting victim in a series of lies and deceit she never suspected. Gone Girl challenges that notion and presents the question, “What if that concept is flipped?” As a result, the narrative of the film provides a satirized representation of today’s society and classifying most citizens as ignorant and susceptible to lies that are done with a smile. The characters of Gone Girl are primarily stock characters who shift when the principle characters deviate from the narratives that have been crafted for them. This oddly seems to mirror a form of real-life, suggesting society isn’t interested in the truth, rather they are only interested in the sensational.
Therefore, society’s ignorance in Gone Girl further functions as an indictment against the media, to which they are portrayed as eager to destroy someone, even if their story is utterly false. Their interest is within crafting a story, maintaining that story and manipulating it whenever the opportunity presents itself. One of Gone Girl‘s motifs is showing the coverage of the disappearance where unqualified media analyst suggest Nick Dunne is a sociopath merely because he smiled when a photograph was taken of them. This one instance is enough to fuel coverage that they can paint him in any manner they wish. The same functions with Amy Dunne, whose character is completely crafted by the media. Their interest is not in finding Amy, but rather locating her body and crucifying Nick for the crime. Essentially Nick has been indicted before any charges have even been placed on him. The media functions under the guise of speaking for the people, therefore they believe they are charged with delivering justice. Additionally, Gone Girl represents the media as hypocrites, who show just as much apathy to the truth than Affleck’s character towards his wife’s disappearance.
Gone Girl is a remarkable film that seems to have guaranteed some award nominations for director David Fincher and lead actress, Rosamund Pike. The film isn’t an incredibly original concept, yet it is original in that it takes two narrative types and splices them into an entirely new genre. Most effectively, the film adversely incriminates its audiences and asks them, ‘are you satisfied now that you have gotten what you wanted?’ If the answer is yes, you may still find yourself perplexed as to ‘why’ you desired it in the first place. Gone Girl reminds us all that film continues to surprise our expectations, even when we are convinced they cannot be challenged anymore.