Gone Girl is one of those films you wish you could watch for the first time again.
Masked as a typical murder-mystery, Fincher manipulates the audience into sympathising with Amy Dunne and despising her husband; Nick Dunne, thus shocking us when the screen cuts to black and the words: “I’m so much happier now that I’m dead”, are uttered. In a few seconds Amy’s ‘helpless victim’ persona is left behind, replaced by the reality of who she truly is; a villain. In one sentence our whole perception of her is changed and that’s how you do a plot twist.
But is it as simple as that? To label Amy as a villain, despite the way she was treated all those years? Yes, her diary was ultimately revealed to be mostly fabricated, but even before she met Nick; her parents created their own Amy, in the “Amazing Amy” series – making their daughter feel worthless and generally inadequate. While the real Amy Dunne was cut from her freshman volleyball team, “Amazing Amy” made varsity. This form of subtle, built up emotional abuse not only shows that she’s a victim, but also introduces the idea that maybe this new, stripped back Amy cannot truly be labelled a ‘villain’. Why? Because the other antagonistic forces around her; her parents and Nick, themselves moulded her into this unrecognisable woman.
Amy might have been missing for a few days, but the reality is that she had been the “Gone Girl” for a very long time. Replaced by Andie; a younger, more attractive “Cool Girl” and forced to relocate to Missouri, away from her family, she was left to feel unwanted and isolated. Her parents, and Nick always wanted someone better, someone who was not simply Amy Dunne.
There’s no use denying Amy’s psychopathic ways. She’s not the typical, caricature of a villain who has no depth and is evil for the sake of being evil. Her mental health deteriorates to the point where she thinks it’s better to frame someone for her ‘murder’ rather than divorce them for their infidelity. She suddenly decides to falsely accuse her then-boyfriend Tommy O’Hara of rape, ruining his life as he is now a registered sex offender. She slits her ex-boyfriend; Desi Collings throat during sex, even though he provided her with sanctuary, and fabricates a story of her kidnapping. Amy Dunne is crazy. But at the same time she left me breathless and captivated, and secretly I found myself rooting for her.
Flynn crafted Amy into an extremely intelligent person who thinks carefully thinks about every single action and uses existing problems to her advantage. Missouri is a dead end for her; a symbol of her failure. As the story unravels, I found myself thinking: why didn’t Amy just leave him? But that’s not enough for Amy. She wants Nick to be America’s most-hated man; the man who killed his pregnant wife. She wants him to suffer. Badly. She wants to ruin Nick like he ruined her. She’s sadistic but brilliant.
It gets worse.
Amy knew Nick extremely well. On the day of her disappearance, she told him to go somewhere and “really think” about their marriage. She knew he’d go to Sawyer; a secluded beach where no one would see him, thus giving him no alibi. And as the audience realises she’s a psychopath, the setting of the story; Missouri, doesn’t seem so random anymore. Missouri has the death penalty.
As the plot twist is revealed, one of the line’s in Flynn’s script describes Amy as being the [“picture of freedom”] – and she truly is. With her hair billowing in the wind, and a serene expression on her face; the audience can almost see her break free from the figurative suffocation she had to live with for all those years. Perhaps she’s a hero; a feminist icon who triumphed over her male oppressor. But of course we’d sympathise with Amy Dunne, especially since this victim guise is alluded to from her narrative perspective. She’s practically the definition of an unreliable narrator.
In my eyes, she’s a victim who does horrible things. She conformed to this ‘Cool Girl’ guise for years, even before she met Nick, destroying her piece by piece until she became a stranger to everyone – especially herself. She was failed by the system, forcing her to leave the comfort of New York and venture into Missouri; where she was not wanted or needed. She was failed by Nick, who betrayed their marriage and found himself a ‘better’ version of her. She was failed by her parents, who tried to mould her into a ‘better’ Amy. Failed by everything and everyone, Amy felt like she “no longer existed”.
Flynn concludes Gone Girl with: “Amy turns, and gives him a haunting smile”. She’s the epitome of chaos, but ironically now, she’s at peace. She’s finally in control.
Amy Dunne has finally triumphed.