About two-thirds of the way through Gone Girl, a fatigued but poised Nick Dunne is getting interviewed by a NBC News television personality about the disappearance/ murder of his wife Amy Elliot Dunne. Nick sits back in his chair with firm posture and targeted eye contact, answering each predicted question with a carefully-thought out planned response. When the interviewer asks Nick to turn to the camera and gives a wry, mocking plea to Amy to come home, touching his chin with two fingers, a secret signal meaning there was no bullshit behind his message.
This is maybe the third or fourth time I’ve watched Gone Girl but the first time I noticed Nick touched his chin during his prime time TV interview. In the book, it’s made out more clearly that this is when Amy actually believes Nick wants her back, and then cuts a new path back to him through Neil Patrick Harris’ throat. Like other moviegoers, the first time I watched Gone Girl, I was trying to figure out if Nick killed his wife. This time, I found myself perplexed if Nick actually wanted Amy back after all the harm she had done to him. It seems impossible, she was framing him for murder and tarnishing his reputation with every minute of airtime and every click on Us Weekly’s website. But Nick does admit to his sister Margo at the end that he still wants to be with Amy and raise their child.
It’s a bone-chilling thought, and one that echoes one of the strongest themes of this movie and book that you can never really know what your lover or someone close to you is thinking. Throughout the movie, we can make a safe guess on what every other character is thinking except for Nick and Amy. We now that Detective Rhonda Boney is skeptical of Nick’s actions but not certain about his guilt. We know that Margo is angry with her brother for his lies but still loves him after his faults. We know that Tanner Bolt may or may not be sure that Nick did it, but is certain he’ll make a big chunk of change trying to help him out. And we know that Detective Boney’s partner Officer James Gilpin thinks Nick is an asshole and isn’t afraid of to say that to his face.
Nick and Amy, though, are a complete mystery. Nothing they say can be truly believed, their actions never fully trusted or their motives 100% legitimate. As Tanner puts it so eloquently, the entire movie is a “he said she said.” Nobody has actually witnessed Nick abuse Amy, they just have to decide whether to believe it from Amy’s mouth. No one actually heard Amy confess to killing her creepy ex-boyfriend Desi, they just have to choose to believe that she told Nick that in a shower. The only two characters able to see through pretty much everyone’s bullshit are Greta and Jeff, two blue collar neighbors Amy shares a few carefree moments with when on the run. After they see Amy drop her wad of cash, they don’t need to hear her admit the truth that she isn’t who she says she is, they already know it for a fact and use that information to rob her blind.
This is also where Gone Girl’s indictment of mass media mayhem comes into play. Before we even know the true facts behind the story, the media has already crafted its narrative, and has allowed itself to be manipulated by others, just as long as they get beat their viewer and pageview quota for that week. Nick is first deemed sorrowful husband by the media, then murderous husband, then regretful but not guilty husband, then grateful husband, and then America’s favorite father to be at the end of the film. The couple never has to work again in their lives, as Nick and Amy’s future from here on out will supported through tabloid magazine covers and yearly bookings on 60 Minutes. Yes, Nick does reveal a brief plan to expose the truth to the media of everything that went down near the film’s end, but Amy not-so-gently reminds him that simply isn’t possible, that death through shame and humiliation is far worse than death by lethal injection.
It’s a powerful message that isn’t heavy-handed. Flynn or Fincher aren’t climbing to the Missouri rooftops, desperately shouting that the MEDIA IS EVIL to anyone that will listen. This movie is an a honest, 100% accurate imagining of how the media would react in this type of scenario, and reveals an even scarier reality that there really is nothing that can be done about it.
Gone Girl is a masterpiece. The score, the stylish direction from David Fincher, the taut screenplay from the book’s original author Gillian Flynn, and powerhouse performances from literally every single person involved. It is one of the finest book adaptations to screen, and one of the most rewarding moviegoing experiences of the past five years. The movie provides the answer that we can’t ever really know the thoughts and movies of another person, but begs an even more important question: That even if we were able to figure out just exactly what our partner was thinking, their 100% true, unfiltered, no bullshit thoughts, would we be satisfied with what we discovered?
Probably not, but there is a soothing catharsis that comes from hearing real truth and a bona fide confession. Nick and Amy have some version of that with each other through Amy’s confession of killing Desi and Nick’s confession that he really just fucking hates her. For the rest of the characters, they will always be in a perpetual state of uncertainty, constantly asking themselves “what if” as the media tells them what is the true answer, with no actual truth being revealed at all.