****SPOILER ALERT**** I will be discussing the just released movie Gone Girl, based on the bestseller with the same name by Gillian Flynn. I’m not planning to drop any major plot giveaways, but what I write will give you some ideas about the movie, so if you prefer to go into a film with a blank slate, don’t read this. Consider yourself warned.
I read this 400 page book over a weekend about a year ago — could not put it down. I saw the movie this past Saturday featuring Ben Affleck and relative new-name Rosamund Pike as main characters Nick and Amy Dunne. Other big names featured include Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris and Sela Ward.
After reading the book, I was not expecting to love the movie as much as I did — they’re never as enjoyable for me. This movie was everything and more that I could have hoped for — spot-on cast and the script followed the book almost identically. Flynn also wrote the screenplay, which I’m sure had a lot to do with how well the book translated to the big screen.
This movie, in a nutshell, is about a marriage gone bad — scary bad. But as the viewer/reader, I kept asking why? The flashback scenes show two young professionals living in New York who fall madly in love with each other — fairly standard. Once married they are dealt a recession, job losses, money problems, sick and dying parents, and a major move back to Nick’s hometown in Missouri. Amy leaves New York, the only place she’s ever called home, along with her friends and family. When you step back and look at it, it’s a lot. All of this happened in the span of about a year — not a long time for so many major life changes.
The movie affected me just as the book did. I related to Amy, and I see numerous similarities with Nick and my husband, Gil.
I went to the movies with two girlfriends from my book club. After, we went to dinner and one of them dropped a major bomb — she’s getting a divorce. This person is not a close friend who I talk with often, but we’ve been in a monthly book club together for nearly two years. I’ve slowly gotten to know her fairly well. I sensed that there were problems, but I didn’t realize it was to this point. The dinner conversation was hard and heavy, and between that and a good, but psychologically taxing film like Gone Girl, I was worked up and couldn’t sleep.
I ran across this post on a blog that I follow. Bipolar Barbie-Q had also just seen Gone Girl and was asking herself questions that sparked a bit of thought in me as well. This blogger is about to graduate with a degree in psychology, and she suffers from mental illness — bipolar disorder and OCD, which she writes candidly about in the post to which I’m referring.
****Again, spoiler alert if you’ve made it this far. The blogger poses several questions at the end of her post:
Was Amy just manipulative and selfish or was she mentally ill? Could I see myself in a manic state doing what she did? If I were treating Amy, would I have empathy? Would I recognize her as dangerous?
Reading this post must have been just what I needed because before I knew it, I had answered her questions (in a roundabout way) with a three paragraph comment. At the end I thanked her for inspiring such a bolt of insight from me and basically letting me use her comment section for personal therapy. Here’s the summarized version of my response:
I found myself asking similar questions as you described while watching. Mine were more — Am I crazy like Amy or rather AS crazy as she was? (For what it’s worth, I don’t like the word crazy and don’t use it to describe people who are mentally ill. Perhaps I should stop labeling myself that way — just a thought as I was re-reading my comment.) Did the relationship and the dynamic between her and Nick as well as their vastly different temperaments trigger something in her genetic make-up and cause her to snap? Could that happen to me? I remember reading this book and recognizing so many similarities with myself and Amy AND with Gil and Nick, even the part in the beginning of their relationship where she talks about molding herself into the girl that Nick and lots of other men want — easy-going & drama-free. (I think I did this unconsciously but doesn’t everyone to a degree? men and women) — She then talks about watching herself transform into the nagging wife who husbands just want to be away from and hating it but doing it anyway. I see so much of that in my own marriage which makes me ask — are we just completely wrong for each other and is reaching a point of resentment, borderline hatred inevitable, mostly because we’re a faulty match?
I do think Amy was mentally ill. (I also think Nick was depressed.) It’s hard for me to speak of being in a manic state. I haven’t been diagnosed with bipolar (though I’ve often wondered) but I have other diagnoses and when I’m under a lot of stress, I lash out and am horribly moody — usually at those I love most. I think people like us (meaning highly emotional people, with a mental illness or not) have a hard time handling stress in relationships. The quality I loved most about Gil when we met was that he had a calming effect on me — I really felt more chill and roll-with-it when I was with him. However, he also had some motivation issues. I think he liked that I motivated him. Our relationship ran pretty smoothly…and then we had kids…and then his dad died unexpectedly…and we had job and money issues. The stress made me more wound up but he was more depressed and avoidant (very similar to Nick.) It was awful. We were the absolute most horrible versions of ourselves. Now…all that said, I have not (that I know of) experienced infidelity in our relationship. That was another thing that drew me to Gil — he didn’t seem like a cheater. I knew that wouldn’t work for me. I can’t honestly say what I would do if I caught him with another person, but I can see that I might snap (this would have definitely been the case early on in our relationship) though hopefully not like Amy did. I like to hope that I’ve learned to manage my emotions and reactions better with therapy, education and medication.
I changed a few things from my original comment in the hopes of clarifying better. I also added further non-italicized clarification in parentheses. Hope it makes sense. Again, you can read the original post and my comment here. I’d also suggest that you check out the entire blog Bipolar Barbie-Q. She’s a wonderful and insightful writer who writes eloquently about living with mental illness.
I had a message from my friend, Ani, this morning. She was in our book club before she moved (back when we read Gone Girl) and saw the thread on our Facebook page about going to see the movie. She said that she was curious if I liked it adding that she wasn’t sure she could handle it because the book really messed with her head.
Hmm. Maybe it’s not just me. Perhaps that’s the attraction with Gone Girl. It’s a story about the worst of what can happen in ALL relationships. Maybe everyone watching can see a bit of themselves in the characters and their situations, but we all experience it differently depending on our individual situations and circumstances.
Tell me your thoughts. Did you love Gone Girl? Hate it? Did it make you think about things in your own relationship or past relationships?
21 thoughts on “Gone Girl Reflections”
I hated the book, and I thought the movie, while well-made, was just as bad. It wasn’t the premise (which I loved in all of its controversy), nor was it the characters. It was the structure for me — the hat trick exudes cheapness. It didn’t work well for me at all:
As for Amy, I have to agree with some of the other responders here…Amy is a psychopath. She’s aware she’s been playing a role since the very beginning with her parents’ Amazing Amy concept, and she later learns how to change the role/mask to her advantage. When things don’t go the way she wants them to, according to the role she was playing, she manipulates her (and Nick’s) situation to extremes so that she may get what she wants in the end. It’s all about winning the game, nothing more to her.
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Every time someone comments on this post I think — I need to go re-read this book AND re-watch the movie. It also cracks me up how many hits this post got (and still gets) because I was all navel-gazing when I wrote it and likely too wrapped up in my own personal drama to adequately write what anyone (self included) could actually call a review. It also screams psychology major (again with the navel gazing, geez.) I think now, nearly two years later, I’m inclined to agree with you and other reviewers — she IS a psychopath and everything was a game with her that SHE controls, even that stupid scavenger hunt that she did every anniversary when he obviously hated it. I mean, that could be fun if BOTH parties enjoyed it; otherwise it’s controlling and manipulative. I like what Laura said about it in her comment above (below maybe — can’t remember where the dang things show up): I’m paraphrasing, but it was something like no rational person could genuinely relate to Amy or her characteristics because she was fake and playing a role. Nothing was real. #truth
Now, again, I LOVE examining the why behind the crazy — even in movies. I just can’t help myself!!! So, for me it was a fun movie and book because while I wasn’t necessarily trying to figure out the plot, it gave me LOADS of opportunities for diving in to complex characters (mostly Amy). Then there was all the weirdness (OMG the weirdness) with her freaky parents and all that Amazing Amy stuff. I’m a sucker for some family dysfunction. 🙂 I’ll have to check out your review. Have you read any of her other books?
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Yep, I’ve read her other two — Sharp Objects and Dark Places. They’re much better, I think. Better developed. Not pandering to those who like their thrillers with cheap thrills.
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Sorry for the late reply. I’m here again since I’m learning more about my experience and remembered my comment to your review and opinion of this movie. I just thought maybe in some way my insights could be helpful in allowing people to be aware of other realities and see deeper into relationships. Hence, why I take the time reading people’s opinions and being open to other’s experiences as one can learn values from empathizing with them.
When one encounters and has been devalued and dropped by a P, your life and world view really changes. You see things differently and become more skeptical of people and their motives. You begin to understand that “the good” in people is sometimes never present at all–that some people are born with this genetic disposition for manipulating and feeling superior that emotions do not get the “better” of them, that they can be so stoic and heartless and do horrendous things without remorse (and lying is nothing to them), which is what Amy exudes.
I would like to know more about Nick’s portrayal in the book, why he seems attracted to Amy’s character (like Yin and Yang) or that perhaps he, in some ways as a masochist, enjoys being tormented and controlled, a sort of twisted ego boost in stimulating the stagnant and boring life which he seems to have come into upon their standstill in the marriage. Or perhaps this can also signify that he is of weak character, that he can easily be fooled and forgive others’ personality faults, thus succumbing to this endless cycle. But these are just speculation, and only persons with a degree in proper psychological fields can understand fully the motives and archetypes written in the book.
You also mentioned that you believed the two characters were very much in love in the relationship before the marriage. What if I say Amy never loved Nick from the start? What if she was interested in Nick’s cockiness or smugness (being so “sure” of himself) and that she wanted to have some excitement for a while, even if she had to get married? Why would she describe her “cool girl” persona in such a cold and shallow way, so very generic and like a word salad of jumbled up stereotypes, with no personal definition of her own? Perhaps she always put on these masks for her various partners; whatever tickled their fancy, she would do to win their trust (a sign of the P’s manipulative mirroring, like a chameleon). Why was she allowing herself to be “scouted” by suitors and why did she choose Nick in the party, of all people? I do not know more descriptions in the book but if there are clues, perhaps one might wonder why she ended up with him? If she was never to be trusted upon reading more of the book, doesn’t that show that these soulless people exist, that marriage is nothing if not just another tool a P can use, indicating no emotional attachment? That her strew of boyfriends are a testimony of her character? These are just some things that you might find important in people’s motives, that not all you meet are good and honest people, that there is a deeper evil in some people, depths of which one cannot fathom but it undeniably exists. These thoughts may be helpful to you and your readers; something to look after when dealing with people and situations. But just to be clear, I’m sorry to say though that I have no wish to buy nor support the book…for personal reasons.
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Haven’t seen the movie but read the book very quickly. Probably should read it again before I respond. But I took her for one crazy psycho. And a psycho is usually mentally ill with a myriad of issues. Bi-polar, depressed, pathological liar, you name it, untreated, undetected. But she was a man’s straight up worst nightmare come true. I think she was crazy from the beginning- I dont think it developed from that marriage it was just another stage another game. If I remember correctly she had mommy/daddy issues which I think are the stem of all her problems with some lighter fluid on top. So—I think Gyllian totally turned that normal but a bit crazy girl next door into say —the darkest someone could become. Usually, a person stops with crazy thoughts but when that is actually taken into fruition—oh lord. That’s what this is–the craziest things even sane people think of actually acted out to the extreme. And a man who thought he had a pretty normal wife–probaly made all men everywhere cringe in their seats amd look at their wives or girlfriends in a whole new light. Hoping that bitch won’t go, gone girl crazy on me.
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Yes. I do think the movie played up the crazy more in the present while the book was able to get more into the past. In the book I felt I was WAY more into his and her head. I watched the movie again last weekend. You should definitely watch it.
I’ve been reading up on what people have to say about Amy in Gone Girl, and I’m quite disappointed she has become a ‘feminist’ icon, when in my opinion, I believe the sentiment to be wrongly placed. And here I posit the problem.
I think what a lot of people don’t see is the “Amy IS a psychopath” view. A lot of reviewers may perhaps be empaths or apaths without having experienced first hand the emotional and psychological rape of a psychopath, hereon termed as “P”. Surely majority watched it in the “housewife gets back at husband” view, where it is too broad.
The main character/underlying plot I took from the movie is Amy’s psychopathy. Having survived a relationship with one, I can honestly say that as I was watching the movie, I was looking for the ‘signs’ I encountered before–how Amy lures her lovers/strangers/friends by being a ‘cool girl’ (Ps can be whoever you want them to be, hence how they seem “perfect” until you realize too late), how she downright ‘stares’ and seems to act like a robot (if you’re keen) in private and public settings, how she absolutely does not care about social norms nor has no qualms about killing or framing people (Nick, Desi), how she seems childishly ‘ecstatic’ when she “wins” by jumping or looking at her admirers from the police ride back home, a sign of her narcissism as a psychopath. I was looking at the movie from a “victim of a P” view. I read a lot about Ps after the horrid experience I had, as it was a complete “mind fuck”, an experience with a predator, rather than a “human being”.
The epiphany on realizing (eyes wide open) that the tormenter, in the movie’s case Amy, is a P helps the abused (Nick) into making sense of how impossible everything is happening to him seems; however, for a P like Amy, such an act is truly possible. Nick’s case in the end makes him realize he has to keep the child safe from a P who will not at all feel or care for the child, if only to fuel her narcissism in the future. This the reason for his offering himself to his ‘fate’. Although… I read someone say that in the book, Nick is just as effed up as Amy in regards that he may perhaps be masochistic, but that’s not what is seen in the movie, where he is more victimized than ‘at fault’.
I will try in another viewing to look at the movie in the majority view. I got to say Pike’s acting as a P was spot on, though her and the author make me doubt their personality. Was Pike’s portrayal from an actor who learned or was taught about the mannerisms of Ps, or is it perhaps from ‘something else’? Same goes for Flynn as a writer of these stories. People project what they are sometimes in writing. I wonder..
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As an added note, the underlying theme for me regarding Gone Girl is not about Marriage; it is about a Psychopath, specifically what a Female Psychopath can do. From the very start, having known that Amy was a P (by some reviews, and stated in the movie itself), her character reflects the life of a Psychopath. It just so happens that the movie presents her in the stage of marriage, with a cheating husband–either the action as an insult to her or a part of her life now showing her boredom w/ Nick, as marriage to a P is just a game, a means to manipulate the man/woman and keep herself entertained for the time being, until she moves on to the next victim. It is not the marriage that causes her to “snap, as what I get from your thought is that all the pressure caused her to become mentally unstable. No. She just “is”. She just IS a Psychopath, born with the predisposition, and influenced and promoted by her parents making her “Amazing Amy”. It is my belief that parents have the ability to change or influence the future person of the child, that one may have ASPD, borderline, but not necessarily be a Psychopath. Bipolar disorder I believe from my understanding, is different from these, a far less ‘close’ mental illness to Psychopathy than the spectrum of ASPD and borderline, where it may be hard to tell the difference. Amy is a female P who utilizes her Psychopathy near perfection, therefore she is absolutely, truly one.
This movie and the response from viewers also leads me to wonder if there may be a lot more women who come across as Ps, but are hidden in the norm that “this is how women are”, that “women can get ‘bitchy'”, especially reading in some other anecdotes that a lot of women WOULD HAVE done what she did? Are women predisposed to be more psychopathic/sociopathic or is it because there are little studies on female Ps that makes one afraid of a woman’s capabilities? That my fear that women are more P is blown out of proportion? I am a female who has survived a female P. Or is it just perhaps wishful thinking by the viewers, like an influence wherein because it is shown in popular media, where people consume what is given to them, they believe themselves capable of doing such, like a ‘trendy’ or influential thought, kind of like inception, but perhaps it may not be indicative of their true nature? Just a thought.
Sorry if my ramblings bother you. I just hope for a greater discussion and insight on this aspect I have seen.
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I love what you wrote and your ramblings don’t bother me at all. Our takes are different, I think, because of differing circumstances.
I agree that Amy is a psychopath with no hope for changing or rehabilitation, and her behavior is deplorable and I was just seeking to understand. By no means was I justifying her actions.
I do think that the book gives more insight into Nick, while the movie focuses on Amy the bad girl and Nick the victim. Half of the book is written from Nick’s point of view, so I felt I knew him better. In the movie we hear Amy’s thoughts through her narration and diary but we only see Nick, so it’s less balanced.
I certainly don’t see her as feminist icon, but I haven’t read any reviews on the book or the movie — just a short synopsis here and there, and I did write this back in October. I’m a novice reviewer — when something strikes me and I want to talk about it, I put it out there.
What I love (and loathe) about fiction, particularly when it comes to reading reviews is that individuals with unique experiences are the ones reviewing. I always have to remind myself of this when I disagree with a review. It’s simply another person’s interpretation of an author’s vision.
I find it fascinating how this book/movie touched a nerve in so many different ways with SO many people. I related to trouble in a long marriage (both to Amy AND Nick) that began with two people being very much in love — so that theme very much affected me and made me question how far people can be pushed. You, because of your circumstances with a psychopath, examined different parts of the movie. And btw, it sounds like you had a horrible time. I am so sorry.
I actually wrote a much better reply, but it’s lost in WP land, so I wrote this one quickly.
I loved Laura’s review in another comment. She brought up how Amy manipulated the reader for the first half of the book proving that she was never to be trusted.
I’m looking forward to watching the movie again once it’s out on DVD. Thanks again for your thoughts. I love comments that make me think.
Great post. I haven’t read the book or seen the movie (will definitely do so now) but I’ve heard loads about them. Obviously both the novel and the movie have touched a chord for many people. Relationships can be the most difficult thing we ever do and when things go bad they tend to develop a momentum of their own which just carries on – and which can also make it less likely that couples seek the help they need. (That sounds bland, I know.)
We’re in our 4th year of marriage (with 2 kids) and things have been VERY stressful. Some major life events ( including renovations and money problems but no dying parents – please God). At some points it definitely felt that we were hanging by a thread. So I think I’m in a good place to identify with some of the stresses that this couple went through. Very curious now to read the novel and see the movie. Both from a psychological point of view and a personal one.
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Doesn’t sound bland at all! You’ve certainly had your share of stress in a brief married life. We were married for nearly seven years before our first child came along and oh my goodness was that ever stressful. I am happy to report that our kids are now 7 and 5 and things have gotten much more manageable. Hang in there!
You should definitely check out Gone Girl — book and movie. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by.
I read the book and, like you, couldn’t put it down. Haven’t seen the movie yet, but after reading your blog post I’m even more sure I want to do that. Great piece.
I think you’d enjoy it. I didnt expect to like it as much as I did. I’d love to hear your opinion after. Thanks for reading.
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Haven’t seen the movie, but I did enjoy the book. The way I viewed Amy was as a sociopath, mentally disturbed but not the same way bipolars or others might be. She has no empathy for others. She manipulates them; she even manipulates the readers for that first half with the fake journal entries that she intends to have discovered after her disappearance (and presumed murder). In that first half, she’s actively creating a more sympathetic person than she really is; she’s not totally likable, but we still sympathize with her and her marriage issues (to varying degrees).
Then she appears halfway through the book, and she shows herself to be unable to connect with others in a normal way. (Think about one thing she does after she returns: she deliberately becomes pregnant, an act that is akin to daring Nick to kill her because she knows that will infuriate him. And she isn’t afraid to die. Even then, she wants to bring Nick down more than she cares about her own life. That’s abnormal.) Every word, every tear, everything is designed to manipulate others and give her power over them.
To what extent can I identify with this? I can’t identify with the real Amy and her marriage problems, but I can identify with the diary-Amy and her portrayal of her marriage-gone-wrong. (But then, the book is messing with our heads: that isn’t necessarily an accurate portrayal of her marriage, but one designed to manipulate us and other characters after her disappearance.)
One thing I CAN identify with is Margo (Nick’s sister) and her response to Amy and Nick, especially after Nick tells her that he won’t divorce Amy because she’s pregnant. I can’t be the only person who feels the impossible Catch-22 he’s in, but also Margo’s frustration and anger that her brother will stay marriage to Amy.
Long comment. . . . Can you tell that I was an English major and still like to analyze fiction?!
I can totally tell you were an English major and like to analyze fiction!! Your take is so SPOT ON!! Excellent!
It’s true — nothing about Amy is legit in the first part of the movie/book and even when we’re “identifying” with her, it’s all fake because she’s a master manipulator. She is a sociopath and has no empathy/feeling for anyone — very different from someone with a mental illness like bipolar. She absolutely had no remorse.
And my gosh — Margo. What a predicament to be in. I loved the movie version of Margo. She and Bonnie, the detective, were by far the most relatable characters in the movie. I got chills reading your take on her and remembering the last scene with Margo in the movie — she was utterly defeated and heartbroken for herself and her brother. Can you imagine?!
You took that analysis to the next level. Another friend and I were discussing this shortly after I saw the movie and right after I wrote this post, and it’s funny because she was also an English major and she repeatedly said basically what you did (though nowhere near as eloquently) — Amy’s unstable, a sociopath, etc. and I wholeheartedly agree, but we continued to discuss it, and I kept returning to the why. How did it come to this, what triggered her, which frankly is a bit ridiculous since, hello, it is fiction. My friend finally said, “Oh my gosh, you psychology people!!! You can’t let it go.” Of course I laughed because it was all in good fun, but it’s true, the psychology major in me couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t stop thinking about my past — jobs I’ve held especially in community mental health and some of my former clients. Spooky.
Thanks for weighing in. Watch out, I’ll be asking for your take again! 🙂
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We experienced a million life-changing events in the first 5 years of our marriage. My husband had poor coping skills, imploded and developed addiction issues, refused to get help and lied about his activities (including infidelity). In the past two years (although not so much recently), the people near and dear to me were terrified something bad was going to happen because of strange and stalkerish behaviors (and because a therapist he agreed to see at the end told him that he has the emotional capacity of an 8 year old and that it is likely he has NPD and/or BPD.) I am in the midst of the whole marriage break up thing. So now I HAVE to see this and read the book. Apparently I have been living under a rock.
I think it’s easy to overlook things in relationships — especially when you’re in the thick of life. Before I had children I had a lot more time and energy to work through problems in my marriage. Once the kids came along, nurturing the marriage seemed like too much and by the time they were in bed at night, all I wanted to do was retreat to my bed with a good book. Plus, as you mention, life-changing events and a partner who doesn’t cope well don’t make things easier. I’m sorry you’re dealing with a breakup. I loved this book and movie. It might be heavy since you’re mid-breakup, but it’s certainly entertaining and makes you think. Hope things begin to get easier for you soon.
I love your take on this film! I didn’t even think about what mental illness Amy might have.
Thank you! It’s funny, even with my personal and professional background, I didn’t consider that she might be mentally ill until I read Bipolar Barbie-Q’s post. I think what I love about this movie and the book is that there are so many angles to examine. I’m fascinated by how much a person can take until they snap. I don’t Amy’s actions were justifiable by any means, but I love how Gone Girl (the book especially) takes the reader back in time and even touches on her childhood, living in the shadow is the Amazing Amy character — she had to be a ticking time bomb. There’s so much in Gone Girl that feeds the psychology junkie in me! 🙂
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Definitely! You opened my eyes to a new angle. Me too! I love movies/books that have loads of diffrent ways you could interpret them and the characters.
Haha, I’m not surprised! I’m definitely going to read the book!
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