Nick Dunne’s (Ben Affleck) wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) goes missing in the morning of their fifth marriage anniversary. There’s an apparent crime scene in the drawing room, which, on closer inspection, seems to be a tad too neat. And then there are clues left behind by the victim… Treasure hunts used to be Amy’s favourite game, but this time, can they lead to her?
Close to interval, we get to know what really happened to Amy, and the film could have ended there. That the revelation does not make the second half at all superfluous is definitely credit to the storyteller(s). In fact, far from feeling a drag, as the film draws towards its end, the sensation of there being an activated time bomb somewhere on the premises grows stronger. The characters, instead of getting rid of the metaphorical bomb, have, for twisted reasons of their own, decided to keep it at home and are sitting on it, and who knows when will the thing go off and create a mess and of what proportions?
A word on the actors. Ben Affleck underplays Nick very effectively and makes him out to be a credible character. Neil Patrick Harris, in a much smaller but important role, makes a good effort, but the biggest thing holding him back must be the years of playing Barney Stinson. Someone somewhere must have been expecting him to throw off his intensity and exclaim, “Wait for it!”
And then there is the lovely, terrifying Rosamund Pike. It won’t be going too far to say that she owns the film. Her performance is the kind that kindles debates about whether it was the character which was more scarily fascinating or the actress, finally realising that it was both – each doing justice to the other.
But apart from being a gripping psychological thriller that you’ll need some time to get over, Gone Girl is a powerful statement about at least two important contemporary issues, and no, none of them is the fatal risks involved with getting married. One is the disgusting and ever increasing shallowness of media, the insatiable hunger for viewership that will not hesitate to hint at incestuous possibilities between a pair of twins for want of a new angle at any given moment.
And even more important than that is the question of self-image. Few people can be sure, at the end of the film, about how much they really understood of the two main characters, how much of their narratives were lies and how much truth, and even fewer will understand correctly. For in our anxiety to build and sustain a certain image, we are too often perfectly willing to lie not only to the world, not only to our near and dear ones, but also to ourselves. Gone Girl is (or at least, should be) a warning about becoming blind to the difference between what we really are and what we’d rather be, in a drive to become someone or something else – say, for instance, a perfect couple.
When you watch the film, it will not simply be Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike playing two parts, but Nick and Amy Dunne playing different parts as well. How do you decide which is the real them and which images are as carefully constructed as the Amazing Amy created by Amy’s mother based on her daughter – the one who’s always “one step ahead” of the real Amy? Social media demands that we put on a pretty face 24×365. That’s how a stranger, come to offer you condolences about your missing wife, can offer you a casserole and pose and ask you to smile and click a photo and share it with the world all in a few seconds, before you can think cheese and the next thing you know, you are that insensitive son of a whatnot who can’t stop grinning beside a hot chick even when your poor wife’s missing. What the heck am I talking about? If you watch the film, you may have some idea. Or you may become even more confused. But it’s not such a bad idea to think.
(Image borrowed from the internet: no copyright infringement intended.)