By Bonnie Anderson & Dan Webster
No spoiler alert. Nothing in this commentary will ruin this film for you. Just go see it.
Luckily, Gillian Flynn, author of the bestselling book, “Gone Girl,” also wrote the screenplay for the film. It’s a good thing, too, because the story is complicated, intricate, surprising and could have been another book-to-movie disaster. Unlike the American version of the film, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” also directed by David Fincher, “Gone Girl,” can be easily followed without having read the book. However, if you have read the book, “Gone Girl” easily transforms your personal visuals to the big screen.
Amy Dunne goes missing on the couple’s fifth wedding anniversary, and so it begins. Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck respectively, deliver stellar performances as Amy and Nick Dunne, each with their personal foibles and creepy, but distinct, behaviors. Police, media, Amy’s parents, Nick’s twin sister Margot (Carrie Coon) and ultimately Nick’s attorney (Tyler Perry) all serve as supporting actors to emphasize the bizarre unfolding of this psychological and often startlingly, physical, thriller.
If you plan to see this film, know before going that the breath-taking and graphic physical violence, coupled with the intense mental gymnastics exposes a form of evil that is unknown to most of us. Buckle up.
Amy and Nick start out gaining sympathy from the audience. Two young professionals find each in New York City (no small feat), get married, lose their jobs in the recession, and move to middle America to care for Nick’s dying mother.
Like many Americans who lost jobs in the 2008 crash their lives were stressed. Then a move…another stressor. Then the death of a parent. A lot of such stress on even the healthiest of marriages can bring out flaws or even worse, shatter them.
Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens), lead detective in the “find Amy” investigation, keeps a calm and measured demeanor amidst the craziness of the media and the drama of the plot. She holds tight to the law of innocent until proven guilty and is the one sane and even somewhat kind, character in the film. Nick’s sister stands by him, but she’s as wacky as her brother.
There are enough twists and turns, deep valleys and high plateaus to remind us of an amusement park roller coaster ride. But the film is not amusing. Sex and violence are used as forms of manipulation. Trust, betrayal, and the critical background noise of the media, effectively shape the fickle public perception of Nick’s innocence or guilt in Amy’s disappearance. Perhaps coincidentally, the portrayal of the role of the media in this film effectively rings true to the manipulative role that media often plays in “real life” during high visibility situations. Lesson to be learned by the public perhaps.
Just about anyone’s life, when it comes under microscopic evaluation, can turn up disappointing decisions and callous mistakes. In church language we call that, sin. We know that we all fall short of God’s hope and plan for our lives. That’s why in the liturgy of the Episcopal Church, other Christian denominations, as well as other religions, there are rites for the admission of sin, an opportunity for amendment of life and a commitment to do better.
As the pathology unfolds on the screen and the worst of the human condition presents itself, the question arises: Where is God in all this? Hard to say. It wasn’t obvious. But the words that came to mind are those said before many Holy Communion services in the Episcopal Church: “Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires knows and from you no secrets are hid.”
Secrets can damage the soul and destroy lives. When we can share those secrets with the Almighty there is the possibility of hope; a chance at redemption.
Bonnie Anderson is senior warden at All Saints-Pontiac, Michigan and immediate past president of The Episcopal Church General Convention’s House of Deputies. Dan Webster is a priest in the Diocese of Maryland and former broadcast news executive.