* W A R N I N G: C O N T A I N S S P O I L E R S *
There has been much talk about whether Gone Girl offers some sort of profound insight into marriage and relationships…Nah! It's a taught, criteria-fulfilling thriller; well-made and slick, visually stylish and nicely-acted - a great big bitter contraception pill of a movie. But meaningful probe into the human psyche it ain't.
The film (and book) is all about plot rather than character integrity. And given the lead is a brilliantly narcissistic psychopath in the body of a generic Homecoming Queen, it's hardly realistic either (not that realism per se is a mandatory vehicle for insight). Yet Amy still isn't a post-modern feminist psycho-killer. She can't be a great female role model 'baddie' because she simply doesn't have the moral ambiguity, fallibility or attraction of a Becky Sharp. So while she's strangely satisfying to watch in all her cunning, she holds few surprises that aren't plot-driven. It's like the difference between a movie where everything happens and you learn nothing or nothing happens and you feel spiritually enriched.
Perhaps this is down to the creator's technique; more really is too much and ultimately, we're led so far into Amy's head we know there's nothing real there. The moments when you imagine she could be an interesting monster; the 'amazing' creation of acquisitive, quasi-caring, self-serving parents, is a seam that's never fully explored in the novel or film, and I'd suggest Rosamond Pike's mesmerising performance makes the character just about as deep and interesting as possible.
So who's the (anti-) hero? Like Vanity Fair purports in its subtitle, perhaps there isn't one. Except here there really isn't one. The Husband? No. Nick, is ordinary enough to elicit sympathy but just that bit too ordinary to take on that mantle. He's borderline-dull and a bit of a mug, (superbly played by Ben Affleck). And although he wins a few battles, he loses the war. All the other characters are never more than pawns in the game (although I do like that Nick's sister is called "Go"; nice word-play) yet so commendably dedicated is Amy to her spiteful revenge on male inadequacy (for so it is), that we do still find ourselves - if not cheering her on - certainly fascinated by her machinations. Couldn't help but feel Amy's initial cock-up was that of choosing poorly...
What saves both film and book, what lifts them into properly gripping and entertaining, despite a pretty consistent and undisputed dislike of the lead characters, is the wicked humour; at its dark heart this is a farce and a neat one at that.
Clever, comic, ugly - not profound - you leave both book and cinema feeling slightly soiled. And maybe that was that Gillian Flynn's intention..because she's good, she's really very good...
"…his hands bound in a web of green silk, which she was unwinding."