****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?