The Many Faces of “Gone Girl”

I read Gone Girl when it came out a couple of years ago. It was gripping, but so dark— the characters unlikable and so far beyond hope that I can’t say that I enjoyed the experience, and I’m inclined to avoid Gillian Flynn books in the future. I’m melancholic, to begin with, and I carefully balance how dark I let my outlook get. I tend to choose comedy over drama, because I’m better at the work of being me when I can find a bright side to look on.

So you might be surprised to hear that I knew I’d see the movie right away when it came out. Don’t judge me when I say that I’ve got a lot of respect for the work Ben Affleck is doing these days. I haven’t been to a recent movie of his that wasn’t well chosen and carefully crafted.

I couldn’t make myself go Friday. I’d had a rough week, and knowing how dark the story is, I wasn’t sure that I could see it without falling down the rabbit hole. So I went after I had some weekend wins to build on.

As I expected, the story was dark and twisted, and I emerged more cynical than I went in. But, surrounded by more positive things as it was, I was able to better take it in stride.

It had me thinking about relationships, and how much of a romantic relationship is related to the things that are between the partners, and how much of that is focused on how that makes people seem to the outside world. With an eye toward avoiding spoilers, I think that it’s safe to say that a major theme of the book and the movie is how the partnership appears to the world, how the individuals appear to the world.

My view of life and love say that it should be more than that— there should be a mutual gift of self between members of a romantic partnership, such that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, that the partners make each other better— more joyful, more resilient, more equal to the challenges they face. This partnership is a cold, teeth-clenched, got-no-better-choice affair. The purposelessness of both partners, neither of whom seems to have personal ambition beyond fame, expresses a world view in which making each other miserable seems like the best they each can do. No one in the world they’re living in aspires to anything better, higher.

There does seem to be a value placed on authenticity, but I’m not sure to what end. Why bother being yourself if being someone else puts you in a better position? No one who attempts any level of authenticity is any happier— they’re subject to the same whims as the serial manipulators around them, and they’ll never win.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this— for me, it’s nihilism personified. I’d be interested to hear the thoughts of anyone who’s read it or seen the movie and found some level of meaning in it that I’m missing.

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One thought on “The Many Faces of “Gone Girl”

  1. I had not even heard of this book or movie a week ago and now it seems to be everywhere. I’m going to have to read it because now I’m intrigued.

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