Gone Girl: The Ultimate Marriage Gone Wrong

Wedding picture of Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck's characters from "Gone Girl."

Do people ruin marriages? Or do marriages ruin people?

This past weekend my husband Geoff and I watched the film Gone Girl. What did these newly-weds get from watching it you ask? Read on.

It’s not the film you’d recommend a couple to watch close to one of their anniversaries, or really ever, because it’s about a pretty twisted marriage. We actually thought before starting the film that we’d bail because it would be too gruesome. The result? It was a really excellent film, totally pulled us in.

Whether you’re a hopeless romantic, cynic or something in between, Gone Girl will shake you up. Happily married couples will probably feel closer after having seen the film. The film might make one or both partners in unhappy or toxic marriages reevaluate whether they should stay or leave their marriage. Whatever the effect, the film is stylish and terribly thought provoking about marriage, the mythos of coupledom, society, gender politics, and more. Despite being a little over 2 hours long, it was well paced and attention grabbing.

The timing of watching this film was funny for us because it was a week before Valentine’s Day, which is also our one year anniversary as homeowners and living together. Our one year anniversary of marraige is three months later. We were looking back on the past year as it was, and Gone Girl further took our examining of our first year to another level of deep diving.

One thing we got from the film was that marriage isn’t perfect, even for the seemingly “perfect” couples. Happy couples fight from time to time, and get on eachothers nerves. Trouble in paradise doesn’t mean you’re not perfect for eachother. What’s unhealthy are the couples who despite knowing they are toxic for eachother, marry eachother without really thinking it through.

Gone Girl is what happens when two flawed people fall in love with each other’s version of their better more perfect self. Both Amy and Nick pretend to be better than they are to get each other in the beginning. To some degree we all pretend a little when we’re trying to impress someone, but Nick and Amy take it too far, and when they can’t pretend anymore they surprise eachother with who they really married.

You’ll learn as you watch the film or read the book that Amy’s sense of identity has always been adaptive.

Amy: “For him, I’ll admit, I was willing to try.” – Source: Fox

Gone Girl Rosamund Pike Ben Affleck
“She likes what he likes”
gone girl rosamund pike ben affleck
“Intimacy is an act of the mind. The closer they get, the more they have to lose.”

Gone Girl Amy Elliott Dunne Rosamund Pike
“I lived in the moment. I was game. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy some of it.”

Nick is a harder nut to crack when it comes to understanding what makes him tick, but like Amy he pretended and eventually failed to keep up the pretense of the perfect husband.

Nick

I met Amy Elliott seven years ago and I was transfixed. Amy does that. I was an average guy from an average place with mediocre aspirations, and I met this woman who dazzled me. And I wanted her to love me. I pretended to be better than I was. I made a pledge to her, when we married, to be that man. The man who tries harder. The man  who thinks and acts and feels with as much passion as she does. The  man who makes her happy. And I  failed her. Instead of doing what was right, I did what was easy.

Source: Fox

Shmoop gives a good analysis of Nick’s part in the marriage’s ruin, “Nick’s initial love for Amy didn’t come from a healthy place. Quite the opposite, really. Amy’s perfectionistic attitude, Nick says, “made me believe that I was exceptional, that I was up to her level of play” (29.112). “
gone girl rosamund pike ben affleck
“But I made him smarter, sharper. I inspired him to rise to my level.”

It’s probably safe to assume that she fed the same ego his mother instilled in him as a kid.—“I’d fallen in love with Amy because I was the ultimate Nick with her,” he explains. “Loving her made me superhuman, it made me feel alive” (29.111).”

There are more reasons why Nick and Amy are the way they are, their childhoods, their parents, you’ll have to watch the movie or read the book to get the full backstory, but it’s important to point out that Nick was no less a pretender in the relationship than Amy. Only Amy still wants Nick to continue pretending to be perfect for her. Amy Dunne is determined to have the life she always wanted, like a little girl that wants the dream house, ken, car, and doesn’t care that it’s not real.

gone girl rosamund pike
“We were happy pretending to be other people.”  Source: Twitter

“Marriage is the perfection of what love aimed at, ignorant of what it sought.”

-Ralph Wlado Emerson

You can’t pretend to be perfect forever. A marriage based on pretending to be someone else to please your partner is destined to go wrong. For Nick and Amy it becomes a “marriage gone toxic” as author and screenwriter Gillian Flynn put it. The book and film explore “the geography of intimacy–and the devastation it can lead to.”

“We weren’t ourselves when we fell in love” Nick says in the book. “When we became ourselves […] we were poison. We complete each other in the nastiest, ugliest possible way (56.12).”

That is the major concept that Gone Girl deals with isn’t it? False appearances and decpetion.

Oscar-winning composer Trent Reznor added more insights into figuring out the major concept of Gone Girl in his discusssion of his approach to creating the film’s musical score.

“David [Fincher (director)] and I talked a lot about the concept of appearances and facades and if we could create sonically something that might appear to be perfect and pleasant on the outside but have it sort of rot inside. And the more it goes on, you start to realize that all is not what it appears, which comes up in a number of ways throughout the film…

“Here’s a couple that appears to the outside world to be ideal, but is not inside. [It’s] about spouses and their appearances to one another and the facades they try to hold up to attract to one another and what happens when that starts to break down. And we started to think about that in terms of music. What if we started to create some music that artificially was to make you feel like everything is OK, but almost in an insincere way. And that starts to unravel. And that we kind of translated into these instruments and tried composing with this structure that leads us into paths that start to flesh into other things.”

The only part about Nick and Amy’s relationship we could relate to was when they were the happy couple in the beginning of their relationship. The difference between our relationships, one, neither of us is a malignant narcissistic sociopath, two, we both came from good families that taught us about healthy relationships. The third, and most important difference, we never pretended to be anything but ourselves to each other from the beginning.
Gone Girl is definitely a cautionary tale, like all ‘marriage gone wrong’ films like “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” “The War of the Roses,” etc. It delves into some dark terrirtory relating to our post-modern notions about marriage, love, and personas. At the end of the film we felt pretty disturbed. We also felt grateful for the marriage we have. At nearly the one year mark of marriage, Geoff and I are still as mad about each other as ever. We love each other very much, and stories like this one only further make you appreciate your partner. They also remind you to never take your partner for granted. Take interest in your partner, let them into your world, never stop “dating.” Getting to know your partner doesn’t stop at “I Do,” and if you’ve hit a bump in the road, the real tragedy, as Amy says, would be,
gone girl marriage amy elliott dunne
“If two people love each other and can’t make it work, that’s the real tragedy.”

Source: Fox

Recommended reading and  viewing:

Author Gillian Flynn interviews Rosamund Pike in the October 2014 issue of Glamour.

Shmoop reader guide to Gone Girl, the book.

8 Ways the Marriage in ‘Gone Girl’ Is Exactly Like Your Own

Identity Politics & Being “Gone” in Gone Girl (Full Analysis)

Gone Girl: if you didn’t get the “Cool Girl” rant, think again

Dissolution of gender and relationship expectations

18 People Who Lost Faith in Marriage After Seeing ‘Gone Girl’

Advertisements