Gone Girl

Gone Girl ★★★★

I had watched that film twice in the space of 3 days when it was in theatres because I was so unsure of how I felt about its gender politics. Rewatching it now, I have more time for both its heightened tone and its complex vision of heterosexual relationships in the 21st century.

Female psychopaths are very rare in film, especially nowadays, but Amy Dunne serves as a great, confrontational tool to dig out the glitches of feminism and modern romance. Because Amy isn’t just a crazy cheated woman; she’s not simply a woman asking for respect from her man, like a smart modern woman. In reality, Amy has very old-fashioned ideals: she wants a husband who is always strong, always loving and never sorry for himself. Even in the toughest situations, she expects Nick to have a will of steel and to never be selfish. Nick is not allowed to be flawed. 

What complicates the picture is that Amy does have a point: Nick is shitty. He doesn’t talk to her about his problems, instead retiring within himself and getting a mistress. He, too, believes in old ideals of masculinity and can’t imagine opening up to his wife to show weakness. But was it the chicken or the egg? Is Amy disappointed in Nick because she’s prejudiced, or is she prejudiced because Nick has only ever shown her strength and hidden his humanity from her, up until the point when they meet financial problems? Is Nick shitty and lying because Amy won’t let him be weak, or is Amy refusing to let him be weak because he’s shitty and lying about his emotions?

The 21st century America setting further complicates the situation, as first Amy, then Nick too, use modern ideas of female emancipation and masculine empathy to manipulate each other and the press. Amy paints her suicidal escape as a case of domestic violence that escalated into murder, perpetrated by a lazy, cheating, video-game player has-been husband - a cliché of the bad man. Nick, eventually, understands the game Amy is playing and presents himself to the press as the exact opposite of the man she had made him seem to be. Wearing a black tie that she had bought him, and speaking with both the determination of a devoted husband and the tenderness of a heartbroken, generous man, Nick suddenly fits right with the times - and with Amy’s dream, which reveals how society’s expectations of what a man should be haven’t actually changed that much. 

When Amy comes back to Nick’s ideal man act, she accepts to play the ideal woman part too - and the press loves it. The press’s satisfaction with this cliché of happiness is the film’s last dig at society’s hypocrisy regarding its supposedly progressive sexual politics. The truth is that behind every picture-perfect family, there’s a psychopath (woman or man) imposing drastic, perfectionist rules on its relatives.

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