Popular music has sung to us that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. A more apt song for Nick Dunne should have perhaps been Ariana’s ‘one less problem without you’. Except we don’t know that in Gone Girl until the twist. If you don’t know what the twist is (and I say the twist with emphasis because it is like none other) then perhaps you shouldn’t read on. Go and read the book or see the film if you’re a bit too lazy. Don’t let me spoil it. But anyway…
Playing essentially an extra in a time-consuming (for lack of a better word) Stoppard play, I was unable to see the film in its short lifetime at the Gala Cinema, so my experiences are entirely based on the book. This is probably the more climactic way of experiencing the story. A film goes quickly, but a book takes an age when nothing exceptional happens for 200 pages. There’s this guy who’s a bit of a twat and then there’s this girl who is with him despite his dull nonchalance. Lo and behold he has an affair, we hate him, we hate her for being an idiot and staying with him post domestic abuse, etc., etc. It’s the not the first book of its kind.
But then Part Two takes you by scruff of the neck and shakes you and says you’re so gullible. Shocked may not be strong enough. I literally sat with my jaw hanging open for a good ten minutes. It felt like an earthquake of similar magnitude as that which would erupt should I be told I was adopted.
If you have ignored my advice and don’t know the story but are reading this article, then I’ll explain (but I’m bad at explanations so bear with). Amy has gone missing. It all looks suspicious but we know it’s not Nick, her husband, who has done it, because we were with him the morning of. The police are not in the know in the same way and are pretty much just looking for ways to incriminate the classic wife-killer. Amy has left a diary, which forms her part of the narrative, and it essentially tells us how awful Nick is. But then it turns out the diary is planted, waiting to be discovered, and Amy is a psychopath who has set up her own murder because she’s pissed off that Nick has been sleeping with one of his students and their marriage isn’t passionate like it used to be. And then it all goes a bit mad but Nick figures it out and via the media Nick convinces Amy to come back via killing someone she tricked into harbouring her (you still with me?) and so he can’t sleep at night because his wife is a psychotic murderer and then in the most frustrating ever but also unbearably only plausible ending they stay together and have a child. I know.
First, let’s turn to a big issue. Who are we letting into our lives? I’m pretty sure my housemates are normal fun-loving gals but could I be wrong? Could one of them be a chilling maniac? In Gone Girl, Nick believes he knows his wife, like most husbands do. He believes she is clingy and gets angry when she oughtn’t and can be a bit cliché psycho but that’s it. What he is unaware of is what she is capable of, and more importantly, what her conscience allows her to do without guilt. Amy truly believes that Nick should pay for cheating on her by ending up in prison, and is even prepared to kill herself so there can be no proof possible to clear his name. They say love is limitless but… really?!
The next huge issue to deal with in this novel is sympathy. We stick with Amy for Part One and then obviously switch over to morally dubious Nick in Part Two because he’s the lesser of two evils. But Amy fully expects us to stick with her – because it isn’t her fault, which brings in the contentious issue: nature or nurture? Amy truly believes it is her parents’ fault that she is unhappy: because she was the inspiration for Amazing Amy, their book series, and she will never be as amazing as a fictional character written to moralise children. And then she thinks her actions are totally justifiable because Nick has been unfaithful. Whereas most women would be angry, Amy goes the extra mile to make sure she has the last laugh. But what does the reader think? The narrative practically forces us to pick sides. Which will we choose? And does it take a certain type of person to side with Amazing Amy?
I think the film version of this could be exceptional. Anyone who plans to see it in the cinema will have gone by now, and I know a fair few who have been jolted to read the novel itself, just to get the full picture. I hear it sticks to the plot well, though the ending is mildly different. The contrasting sides will have to be expertly timed with the twist introduced perfectly, but with a crack team on board as this film possesses, it could be the film of the year.