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Film / Gone Girl

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"When two people love each other and they can't make that work, that's the real tragedy."

"When I think of my wife, I always think of the back of her head. I picture cracking her lovely skull, unspooling her brain, trying to get answers. The primal questions of a marriage: What are you thinking? How are you feeling? What have we done to each other?"
Nick Dunne

Gone Girl is the 2014 film adaptation of Gillian Flynn's novel of the same name, directed by David Fincher and written by Flynn herself. It stars Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, with Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, and Carrie Coon in supporting roles.

The film's story follows Amy and Nick Dunne (Pike and Affleck), whose seemingly happy marriage has culminated in the disappearance of Amy on the morning of their five-year anniversary. With the combined factors of an intense media feeding frenzy and persistent police officers, Nick's picturesque image begins to crumble, and the spotlight turns on him when suspicions arise that he may not be as innocent as he's letting on...

Please note that much of the suspense in the film's story comes from its numerous twists and turns. A majority of the tropes below are completely spoilered out, and thanks to Interface Spoiler, it's not even guaranteed that you won't figure out the twists just by reading what's below. With that said, read at your own risk.

Gone Girl contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: During the montage of Nick and Amy's first marriage, they end up fucking at the library, where the clue revolved around Pride and Prejudice, with Nick quipping, "God bless Jane Austen" - Rosamund Pike played Jane Bennet in the 2005 movie adaptation.
  • Abusive Parents: Amy's parents creating a fictional near-perfect child set a bar the real Amy could never reach and forced her to a life of being compared to her fictional self. When she goes missing, the parents act more like their fictional daughter has disappeared, even naming the website they set up after the character.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • Officer Boney is described as ugly in the books, but is nowhere near ugly onscreen.
    • Noelle is described in quite unflattering terms by both Nick and Amy, but she's reasonably pretty in the film.
    • Margo, for that matter, is described as quirky bordering on ugly (Nick says he has a thing for ugly women), but no amount of drab clothing or glasses can make Carrie Coon look like the sharp-featured, strange-faced woman described in the books. In a subtle nod, however, her hair in her introductory scene is indeed pulled back with the "nerdy girl barrettes" described by Nick.
  • Adaptational Badass: The police are much more competent in this version when it comes to following up on early leads, which streamlines a lot of the early subplots. Most notably, in the film the police investigate the abandoned mall and learn that Amy had tried to buy a gun from the homeless men living inside; in the book, this was done by Nick, his friends, and Amy's father because the police only investigated the mall during the daytime.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • The film version of Nick is a somewhat more sympathetic character than the book version, he's more of a regular loser than the near-sociopath he is in the book. Noticeably, while the book makes his awareness of her schemes more direct, the film has a very subtle example wherein Nick claims that they are "partners in crime." Amy looks visibly surprised. In the book, he also is so hell-bent on revenge against Amy, he repeats to himself lines like "Stupid bitch, stupid bitch" and "come home so I can kill you." He doesn't, but... yikes.
    • While not exactly heroism, Andie seems to get a better deal in the movie than the book, likely due to her being borderline Demoted to Extra. In the book, every scene Andie appears in she appears progressively more ditzy and clingy, failing to grasp the seriousness of Nick's situation. However, her demotion also means the audience doesn't get the succinct and cutting "The Reason You Suck" Speech she delivers to Nick when he breaks it off with her in the novel.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy:
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: [[Unlike in the book, Amy never follows through on her plan to get rid of her car. In the book, after she meets Desi again, they dump the car and Purell every inch of it. This does not happen in the movie; as far as the audience is shown, she just leaves it in the casino parking lot. Since this would create a gaping hole in her story, it leaves a potential avenue for the truth to be uncovered, but this fact never gets addressed and the movie acts as though she unambiguously got away with everything.]]
  • Adapted Out:
    • Desi's mother and Hilary don't appear in the film.
    • Tanner Bolt's wife Betsy, his partner in law, is adapted out. Since Betsy was black and Tanner (in the novel) was white, the move resulted in a Race Lift for Tanner.
  • Alto Villainess: Amy is a very rare speaking-only version of this trope. As the character, Rosamund Pike pitches her voice to be deep and almost husky — contrast against her voice in Pride & Prejudice (2005) or An Education.
  • Animal Motifs: Amy is very much like a cat, as shown on her movements and stare when Nick is caressing her hair both in the opening and ending scenes.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Discussed. Amy suggests that they have a baby when their marriage is going poorly, and Nick turns it down, saying that a baby won't "fix" anything.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Early in the movie, it seems like Amy's parents are throwing an engagement party for Amy and Nick, but it turns out to be a party for the fictional Amy, and they berate the real one for not wearing white and going along with the party theme. It's played with, though, as Nick actually does propose to her during the party, albeit in an unorthodox manner.
  • Black Comedy: There are moments of it. For example, Amy flipping her hair to keep blood out after she kills Desi.
  • Bookends: Both the first and last shots of the movie show Nick stroking Amy's hair while giving a voiceover monologue about the "primal questions of a marriage", before Amy turns to look at him to the upper-right. There is, however, one key difference between the two shots. In the first, Amy looks surprised, innocent, and even vulnerable. In the last, her surprise quickly fades, and she simply smirks.
  • Broken Aesop: Amy's "cool girl" monologue about being true to yourself is undermined by the fact that she seems as honest with Nick in her flashbacks as she's ever with anyone. Therefore, her anger seems misplaced. Likewise, Amy is incredibly unhappy when she's left to be herself and quickly falls into old patterns in order to make friends. Not to mention that one woman in a car that she focuses on as a "Cool Girl" turns out to be sitting next to another woman, not a man. It undermines Amy's point that women only act in certain ways to draw male attention, as opposed to simply being the way humans act for each other. Of course, given that Amy is a sociopath with narcissistic traits, the Aesop-breaking is likely deliberate.
  • Broken Pedestal: The film is a bit clearer that, despite finding out that Nick is innocent, Margo has learned some fairly disturbing aspects about her twin brother's character. At one point Nick admits that he was somewhat relieved that Amy wasn't at home; Margo's unsettled look speaks volumes.
  • Cassandra Truth: Nick is telling the truth when he says that he barely knows Noelle Hawthorne, and that he didn't buy any of the items that appear on his credit card. Also, at one point, regarding the underwear found in his office, he says something along the lines of, "If they're not Andie's, they're Amy's, and she left them there for me to find." Neither the characters in the film nor the audience believe him, given his track record.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: Every time somebody switched the TV on, it shows a report related to the investigation. Possibly justified, as Margo prerecords Ellen Abbot's shows.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Amy buys several extravagant "man-cave" items in Nick's name as a way to make it look like he was trying to build himself a new life once she was out of the way; she hides the items in Margo's shed to make her complicit as well.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • In-universe example. Nick points out how convenient it is for Amy's diary to end with her saying she fears her husband will kill her. Boney thinks so too, it's part of the reason she never completely buys into the idea Nick killed Amy, despite the evidence backing it up.
    • It's pretty convenient for Amy that Desi lives in St. Louis and has an isolated lake house where she can stay for a while after her plan is turned upside down by having all her money robbed.
  • Contraception Deception: As Nick was against having a child because "children don't always save marriages", Amy impregnates herself with Nick's sperm and uses this as a means to force Nick to stay trapped in a happy marriage facade with her.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • Nick and Margo's parents aren't given nearly as much focus in the film, with Bill only appearing in one scene and Maureen doesn't even get speaking lines. Justified, in that they are mostly used in the novel to explain Nick and Margo's own personality quirks.
    • Andie has comparatively less screen-time compared to the books.
  • Downer Ending: Nick's less sociopathic personality puts it more into this category. While there are those who are fully aware of everything Amy did, she planned things so perfectly that there is no proof, meaning she gets away scot-free. She also gets herself pregnant in order to trap Nick in their marriage as he can't leave because he'll be once again painted as unsympathetic to those who believe all of Amy's lies.
  • Dramatic Irony: Halfway through the movie, we learn the truth behind Amy's disappearance while the public is kept in the dark.
  • Exact Words: Margo predicts the manner of Amy's return before even Amy knows what she's going to do.
    "Anyway, whoever took her is bound to bring her back."
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Flashback scenes of Nick and Amy's marriage show her with long hair, which is cut shorter before she disappears.
  • Eye-Obscuring Hat: Nick temporarily adopts this as a disguise when Ellen Abbot's show attacking him and implying an incestuous relationship with Go plays in the airport waiting area.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • In the movie, we get a short glimpse at Desi's penis — after he has had his throat slashed open, with his corpse covered in blood.
    • A scantily clad Rosamund Pike? Good. A scantily clad Rosamund Pike covered in blood? Not so good.
    • The things Rosamund Pike does to her body and the ways she crawls around to spread blood everywhere are very disturbing.
  • Fanservice: A flashback showing Nick going down on Amy.
  • Flyover Country: Amy does not like living in Missouri and her parents clearly look down on the locals as well.
  • Frame-Up: Amy successfully frames an ex-boyfriend for rape after he leaves her for another girl, landing him on the sex offender registry and ruining his life. It's her word versus his, only she's also faked some evidence.
  • Gray-and-Grey Morality: Nobody is completely good or completely bad.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: Around the one-hour mark, we get an Internal Reveal and a switch of POV from Nick to Amy.
  • "Hell, Yes!" Moment: Nick and company are rather elated when he nails a great interview on national television; predictably, it doesn't last.
  • Hollywood Geography: The movie takes place in Carthage, Missouri, but was filmed in Cape Girardeau which is on the other side of the state. What's egregious is that the movie constantly talks about the events taking place on the Mississippi River, being two hours from St. Louis, and prominently showing the distinctive Bill Emerson Bridge. Carthage does not sit on a major river, is about 4 hours from St. Louis, and about 200 miles from the Mississippi River.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Amy gives Desi what he's clearly been hoping for all along when she leads him to the bed in his lake house. He probably wasn't hoping to get his throat slashed, though.
  • In-Universe Factoid Failure: When a disguised Amy pretends to be from New Orleans, she talks to Greta about drowning herself in the Gulf of Mexico and letting herself be eaten by great white sharks. Greta points out that it's bull sharks that live in the Gulf, and since an actual Louisianan would know that, she starts to suspect her.
  • Jerkass:
    • Amy and her parents. The family, stereotypical upper-crust coastal WASPs, continuously sneer at "shit-smelling" Missourians; Amy in particular is called a bitch by no less than three characters even before she turns their whole shit upside down; her parents even modeled the character of Amazing Amy in everything the real Amy fell short in achieving. Understandably, Amy wasn't just simply not thrilled by this, it made her insane.
    • Ellen Abbott from the NNL Network accuses Nick of not only the disappearance of Amy based on his out-of-character attitude from a person that is supposed to be in bereavement, but also accuses him and "Go" of having an incestuous relationship; later, she even has the proverbial balls of showing up at their house after her venomous tirade once Amy reappears and Nick even calls her out on her hypocrisy.
    • James Gilpin also counts. Throughout the movie he constantly believes Nick is guilty and is always pushing Rhonda into arresting him. At the end, when Nick makes the very valid point that Amy couldn't have acquired a box-cutter if she was tied up the whole time, Gilpin just says, "Can't you just be happy your wife is back?" Also, unlike Rhonda, Ellen Abbot, and Amy's parents, he doesn't even attempt to apologize to Nick for painting him as guilty.
  • Karma Houdini: Amy destroyed an ex-boyfriend's life for little reason, put Nick through hell and now has him under her control, and murdered Desi, yet she comes out of all this looking like a victim.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em:
    • Tanner and Boney stop helping Nick and Margo after Amy returns - they note that while they are sympathetic, the case is too big for local police and that Amy's hero status is currently impenetrable.
    • Boney specifically states that the FBI being involved in Amy's case means that she can no longer have any involvement in it. She doesn't have any choice but to back down, even though she clearly isn't buying Amy's "kidnapping" story.
    • Amy doesn't try to fight off Greta and Jeff when they rob her, knowing that they outnumber her. In the book, she mentions she's never been in a fight before and wouldn't know what to do outside of what she's seen in movies.
  • Kubrick Stare: After showing her true colors, Amy demonstrates that she is a master of these.
  • Laugh of Love: Nick and Amy Dunne tend to laugh around each other early in their relationship, but this trope is gradually averted as their seemingly-perfect marriage falls apart.
  • Light Is Not Good: Before killing Desi during sex, Amy notably strips down to white lingerie.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: In an early scene Nick and Amy have sex in a public library.
  • Male Frontal Nudity:
  • Mouthing the Profanity: When Nick Dunne sells out his lover during a public speech regarding his wife's disappearance, she mouths "asshole" at him from the crowd.
  • Mr. Fanservice: A likely unintentional one with Nick. Ben Affleck had started working out to play Batman by the time of filming and so is in very good shape, which the shower scene shows off (although the context of the scene makes it more of a Fan Disservice).
  • Never My Fault: Nick and Amy blame each other for their marital problems rather than acknowledging their own wrongdoings.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • An example that also provides an aversion to Trailers Always Spoil: one trailer has a scene of Amy's lifeless corpse sinking in the water, but in-film the event is simply an Imagine Spot.
    • The trailers implied that Amy is dead or missing, not staging an elaborate revenge plan. That Nick is either guilty, or is trying to prove that Desi is the main villain. None of this is the case.
    • According to the director's commentary, David Fincher fought hard with the marketing department to keep the twist hidden in all the advertising.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: During the film, Amy's disappearance is covered by Ellen Abbott of the NNL Network, who quickly assumes that Nick murdered her. The segments are a clear spoof of the HLN Network and the Nancy Grace show.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Subverted. Initially we are not shown the interview Nick does with Sharon Schieber, but we are told he was performing exceptionally well. Eventually we get to see snippets of it when Amy watches the interview with Desi at the lake house. It's effective enough to convince Amy that Nick doesn't actually love her, but is willing to lie to himself enough to continue with the charade. Too bad for Desi.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Amy's face when they first stepped on Missouri.
    • Amy's face when Desi tells her that he is "never letting her get away again." Her expression is impassive, but her eyes are filled with terror.
    • Desi, when he and Amy are watching Nick's teary interview on national television.
    • Nick has a bunch:
      • When Amy tells him that she surrendered two million dollars from her trust fund back to her parents without even talking with him.
      • When he tries to turn the tide around with a heartfelt speech for the cameras and the crowd that initially bodes well, but then Amy's "best friend" opens her mouth. Unsurprisingly, Nick bolts out of there in a jiffy.
      • Again, when he opens the door to see Amy covered in Desi's blood from head to toe and then again when she giddily beckons him to join her in the shower still covered in blood.
      • And then again when Amy reveals that she artificially inseminated herself with Nick's fertility clinic sperm.
    • Margo has one of these when Ellen Abbott shares some compromising details about her and Nick on her show:
      Ellen: Nick keeps his father, who has Alzheimer's, in a facility. Number of times he visited him last year: One.
      Margo: Oh, fuck!
  • Opening Narration: The movie opens and ends with a monologue by Nick.
  • Overdrawn at the Blood Bank: There is plenty of blood in the scene where Amy slashes Desi's throat open. It's okay because the throat is a major artery. Blood doesn't so much gush as spray out when that one is cut.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Played with. Amy goes to reasonable lengths to avert it - dyes her hair, forgoes makeup, wears glasses, puts on weight, adopts a new accent and even smashes herself with a hammer to the face, looking reasonably different from her image in the media. However, a real victim of domestic abuse and trailer trash, Greta, sees through it and admits so when she robs her, even making a point of saying that she clearly has never been hit in her life. Then she socks Amy in the jaw.
  • Police Are Useless: Or in this case, incapable of doing anything except blindly following the narrative Amy has laid out. Detective Boney is the sole exception. When near the end of the movie she presents a perfectly reasonable question to Amy in why she wants to go back to the husband she's portrayed as an abusive adulterer, the other police present look at her like she's explaining how the CIA assassinated JFK.
    • They also apparently aren't going to investigate Desi's movements during the days Amy was missing. For all they know he has an airtight alibi on the day she claims he took her. Also tracking him during the days she was missing would've revealed that he was at the Casino (places with the most surveillance in the world) with Amy clearly not against her will.
    • When Nick makes the obvious point that it would have been really hard for Amy to get a boxcutter if she really was imprisoned, Officer Gilpin just asks, "why can't you just be happy that your wife is back?"
  • Product Placement:
    • Count how often Leffe beer comes up. Nick and Amy Meet Cute when Nick tells her to be careful where she puts her "monk-brewed Belgian wheat beer." She holds it up to the camera in some angles as they talk. It's also visible at The Bar and in Desi's refrigerator. Stella Artois and Hoegaarden, other Belgian beers owned by InBev, are also common.
    • In her first scene, Detective Boney spends a substantial amount of time holding a Dunkin Donuts coffee cup.
  • Race Lift: Tanner Bolt, who was white in the book, is played by Tyler Perry in the movie. The character had a black wife, who's been Adapted Out, and since Perry's Bolt takes on her media guru role, he could be seen as a Composite Character.
  • The Rashomon: All versions of the events are from Amy and were especially engineered so that Nick didn't have a version to defend himself. Ultimately, she sticks by her story and even makes up new details to leave Nick completely at her mercy and unable to reach to anyone.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Detective Boney never really buys the accusations against Nick, even once she finds the fake diary and assumes that his blunders are just a result of stupidity and shock. She immediately voices her suspicions so that Nick has a chance to provide his own context. Since Nick doesn't do that and antagonizes her by being uncooperative, it leads to his arrest after the police gets Amy's "anonymous" tip about the woodshed. Once Amy returns, she starts questioning the holes in her story, but is shut down by the FBI.
  • Right Through His Pants: Inverted. Desi somehow penetrates Amy through her panties before she kills him.
  • Rule of Three: Amy's love interests. We meet Nick first, and he seems like a fairly normal guy, if a bit stonefaced. The audience also knows he had nothing to do with Amy's disappearance. He meets an old boyfriend of hers, who tells Nick how Amy ruined his life with a false rape accusation. He's understandably bitter, but other than that, a fairly normal guy. By now, the audience is ready to discard Amy's parents' line about her always attracting obsessive lovers. But then we meet Desi.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Desi and Tanner, who are almost always seen wearing business suits.
  • Shout-Out: Nick can be seen playing what is quite clearly Battlefield 3 in one flashback segment.
  • Shower Scene: Both protagonists together in a shower towards the end for fanservice.
  • Spotting the Thread: Amy, in hiding, has said she's from New Orleans, and casually brings up drowning herself in the Gulf of Mexico (It Makes Sense in Context) and becoming "food for great white [sharks]." Greta informs her that "It's bull sharks in the Gulf." This is our first sign that Greta suspects Amy.
  • Stepford Smiler: Amy is unique in the way that she doesn't just put a facade for Nick, but she has done so throughout her lifetime towards both women and men; in doing so, Amy is even more unique in the fact that she is a character that is both a misogynist and a misandrist. After the whole ordeal (murder, faked rape and all), she intends to continue the facade even when Nick sees right through her and she is even able to manipulate him into begrudging submission.
  • Street Smart: Greta certainly doesn't have Amy's education, but she's no slouch at sniffing out lies and recognizing opportunities. She's savvy enough to see through Amy's story very quickly, and correctly reason that she's on the run and can't call the police if she's robbed.
  • Symbolic Glass House: In addition to his city home (which doesn't qualify despite being both big and fancy), Desi has a home in rural Missouri that is all glass. Amy uses it against him when she realizes that she's essentially trapped and he has no plans to let her go, by throwing herself down and screaming in front of the glass doors and security cameras to make it appear as though she's being held captive as a Sex Slave.
  • Symbolic Serene Submersion: The official trailer for the film ends with a disturbing shot of Amy, hair arrayed, sinking slowly beneath the water, apparently having been murdered. This shot is not actually in the movie, where it turns out she is not dead. The book connects this image to Amy's sense of drowning in her boring life and marriage to Nick.
  • These Gloves Are Made for Killin': Subverted. The mystery of Amy's kidnapping/possible murder is revealed in Flashback and it shows Amy herself is the culprit behind her fake abduction, and she wears latex gloves as she stages the scene of the crime to frame Nick after discovering his affair.
  • Too Clever by Half: Amy might be a dangerous and highly intelligent sociopath who outwits everyone around her, but she is outmatched by simple, everyday criminals in Jeff and Greta, who rob her, beat her up and get away scot-free thanks to common Pragmatic Villainy.
    • A large part of her ability to manipulate people comes from their emotional investment in her. Almost everyone she successfully deceives have some form of personal relationship with her, be it her husband, parents, extended family, neighbors, ex-lovers, or fans of her work. Jeff and Greta have zero clue who she is, and the realization that she is unable to manipulate those who have no investment in her was likely a reality check and big reason she called Desi.
  • Turn the Other Cheek: Despite her scorn over Nick's affair, Margo never falters in standing by her twin's side. As she puts it:
    Nick: Go, you're my voice of reason. I need you with me on this.
    Margo: Of course I'm with you. I was with you before we were even born.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: After the Half Way Plot Switch, the story splits off into two parallel story lines following Nick and Amy separately, but not necessarily in chronological order.
  • Twincest: Mentioned by name after the media spreads rumors about Nick and Go.
  • Unable to Support a Wife: Played with. Amy married Nick for him to become an unrealistic paragon of emotional and financial fortitude for her delusions; when he failed to deliver, she made it even worse for him by surrendering a two million dollar cushion to her parents and intentionally framed him as a reckless spender.
  • Unfolding Plan Montage: Amy's monologue during the Internal Reveal includes images of what she is going to do, involving committing suicide by drowning. Of course, Unspoken Plan Guarantee applies and the plan changes due to unforeseen circumstances.
  • Viewer-Friendly Interface: A close-up on Nick's phone reveals Andie's text message (that she is waiting outside) displayed in large font in the center of the display.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Amy suffers a small one after Greta and Jeff steal her money, angrily shrieking into a pillow because for once in her life, something hasn't gone according to plan.
  • Wacky Marriage Proposal: Nick proposing to Amy during an interview.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: After Amy's reappearance, Andie (Nick's girlfriend) is not mentioned again, albeit in hindsight she did good in getting the hell out of Dodge after accusing Nick of Amy's murder on national television.