Film in review – “Gone Girl”

Gone_Girl_Poster“Them two deserve each other.”

That was the epitaph administered by a fellow moviegoer upon our departing the theater after “Gone Girl.” And despite the grammar lapse, I think the man had a good point about this movie: the two main protagonists are very complex and difficult to love. But they take us on a roller coaster ride.

Ben Affleck plays Nick Dunne with his trademark alternation of charming earnestness and diffident insouciance. Nick tells us the story of how he and his wife met and fell in love, and he will be the first to tell you that she brought out the best in him. When he was around her, he just wanted to please her and say the kind of things she wanted to hear and be the kind of person she wanted to be in relationship with. In that, he was extraordinarily successful: he charmed her right down the wedding aisle.

But there’s a price to pay for “putting on a persona” around your beloved: at the end of the day, you’re not really that person, and soon who you really are is going to come out… and some of that will be unlovely.

It turns out that Amy Dunne, played with convincing ferocity by Rosamund Pike, is not actually the winsome, giggly, lighthearted, sexy seducer that she consistently portrayed to Nick while they were courting. As he became embroiled in his work and she became increasingly frustrated about not being able to conceive a child, she found herself feeling that she was disappearing somehow. She found herself ruminating in a very frank handwritten diary, and thinking about previous boyfriends, and indulging in some nostalgia about her childhood, which, it turns out, was uniquely public: her parents were very successful children’s book writers who made her the star and seemingly the whole country watched her charming cartoon self grow up. But of course, that wasn’t the real her; only a whimsical fictionalized idealized version, which she still carries around and even occasionally attempts to portray.

Sound complicated? It is. Now add to the drama her sudden disappearance and the media circus accompanying it. Nick calls the police and goes public begging for help in looking for her, America’s childhood sweetheart, but even that is not all that it appears. Soon the police begin to suspect him, and the fickle public turns against him. It turns out that Nick Dunne does have some nasty secrets of his own, which he kept even from his twin sister, Margo (Carrie Coon), who’s maybe the only one who loves him exactly as he is, scoundrel and all.

Kim Dickens, as detective Rhonda Boney, is memorable in her nuanced role as the skeptical sympathetic investigator. The story, following the wildly popular (and mesmerizing) novel by Gillian Flynn, wraps the viewers in a web of intrigue and discovered secrets. Though it’s interesting to watch, at the end, there’s nobody to root for here, as everybody is flawed, sometimes fatally, but mostly by disappointing degree.

So the anonymous one-liner critic had it right: “Them two deserve each other.”


Ronald P. Salfen is parish associate at Woodhaven Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.