Patrick E. McLean : Just what it says on the tin.

Gone Girl. Catharsis? Yes indeed.

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There’s are things I don’t like about Gone Girl, but let’s make no mistake, in both incarnations it is very well done. Read it. If you’re not going to read it, watch it. Don’t let anything else I say here dilute that recommendation. It’s great.

The book is great because it is masterfully written. The story and film are great because Amy Elliot Dunne is a magnificently unreliable narrator. Of course, this is far more powerful in the book than in the movie, but in both it’s good. Without the simultaneously talented and unreadable Rosamund Pike as Amy the I think the whole thing wouldn’t have held together on the screen. But it worked.

My problem with Gone Girl is it doesn’t have a satisfactory ending. I have this problem with a lot of stories. I get that endings are hard, but there seems to be some kind of post-modern problem with ending a story decisively. I guess if you don’t really believe in anything, you can’t really have a strong ending. But again, this might just be me. I’m a man deeply at odds with my time. I think post-modernism is the intellectual equivalent of a venereal disease. You get it when you play fast and loose with too many bad ideas. In some cases, it can even be fatal.

I get that the story is an exaggeration and exploration of the eternal battle between the sexes, but there is no way that the end of the story is a stable state. This is worse in the film, because we have no access to the character’s inmost thoughts. In the book Amy comes off as more sincere in her ‘conversion’ and in her love for Nick, because we can know what she is thinking. She is no longer speaking from the fraudulent diary, but from inside her head. But either way, she is very evil. And we want and need to see evil punished.

Sure, Nick’s a bad guy for cheating on his wife. But he’s a dopey, impotent bad guy. A schlep, a schlub, totally outmatched. A promise-breaker, but not an intricately premeditated killer. He’s merely bad.

I also understand and appreciate the feminist fantasy nature of this story. Nick is hopelessly outmatched. She has him in her control. She kills a man that tries to control her. But it is all so lopsided that, if not for the skill in plot reversal and Gillian Flynn’s beautiful writing — and I do mean beautiful — the book would be kind of laughable. But that’s really any plot. Poke at them hard enough and they are all silly, because they all require the suspension of disbelief. I try and enjoy everything for what it is.

If the work was cheaper and pulpier, I think the ending would work for me. But everything else is sooooooo good, it feels like Flynn isn’t playing a fair game. The ending doesn’t hold because Nick would someday do something. He might botch it, but he would most certainly try. And how is Amy’s narcissistic personality going to react to motherhood? As a recent addition to the ranks of fatherhood, I can tell you that ‘Baby Coming!’ is not the end  of a story.

I can only think that Amy, one day disappointed or hurt by her child, would end him. And it is not accidental at the end of the story she is going to have a boy. Another man-child for Amy to control? And if you’re Nick and you love your kid, would you be content to have him raised by such a creature? No way  in hell. You would take action.

I went to see the movie with my wife. A hell of a date night film. As we walked out of the theatre, her mouth still hanging open for she hadn’t read the book, I gave her a hug and said, “Doesn’t that make you feel wonderful about our marriage?” Catharsis? Yes, indeed.


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