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‘Gone Girl’ Will Chill Your Blood and Queer Your Thoughts On ‘Traditional Marriage’

'Gone Girl' Will Chill Your Blood and Queer Your Thoughts On 'Traditional Marriage'

“My fondest dream is
that it will be the date movie that breaks up couples nationwide. Maybe people
will walk out of there and think, ‘Maybe not. I don’t know if I know you well
enough.’”

These comforting
words, spilled from the lips of Gillian Flynn — superstar author, and now
screenwriter, of “Gone Girl” –do little to inspire comfort in the reader. They are also
the first indication that David Fincher’s latest peek inside murky realities
royally fucks with the already-suspect notion of “traditional marriage.”

Flynn’s is, in fact,
a rather queer perspective on modern marital relationships. The foundations are
all there, including unemployment, financial strain, widening gaps in
communication, and baby drama. But the murder mystery of her story forces
audiences to question, as she mentions above, just how well one may know their
partner. Perhaps most interestingly, her writing is filled with observations about
gender and how the roles hoisted upon men and women may be at the core of the
marital divide. It would not be far-fetched to say that the strife which Amy
(the poised, fierce, and hyper-focused Rosamund Pike) and Nick Dunne (Ben
Affleck at his best) encounter in their five years of at-first-ideal marriage
is rooted in differential expectations and disappointment based on their gender
roles. 

“We’re so steeped in
pop culture and so steeped in different roles. How can you possibly combine
with another person and have that truth exist in a relationship,” Flynn asks.
The apotheosis of her inquiry lies in
the book and movie’s infamous “Cool Girl” passage, in which Amy laments the
archetypical modern woman, conforming to man’s desires under the guise of her own
and, one can assume, losing herself in the process. Did Amy’s refusal to become
“Cool Girl” force Nick to kill her? Did she try too hard to conform to the role
and kill herself in the process? You’ll find no spoilers here–the twists and
turns of the film are too delicious to reveal, as evidenced by the New York
Film Festival’s quite vocal audience.

It isn’t giving too
much away, though, to say that the media scrutiny Nick undergoes as Amy’s
disappearance lingers is rife with satirical critiques of what husbands and
their wives should be doing. Nick is criticized for not knowing his wife’s
blood type and seconds later an officer poses the question, “Should
I know my wife’s blood
type?” His female partner waves him off with a “no” and a grimace. Nick is
clearly not enjoying himself, but many people are quick to believe his friendly
demeanor and charming smile match those of a sociopath. 

The combination of
tense procedural and sharp wit may not yield a highly intellectual film, but
they make for a wholly entertaining and engrossing cinematic experience,
expertly crafted by Fincher’s go-to crew. Flynn’s adaptation of her own source
material is the strongest piece of a uniformly heavy-weight film, though,
streamlining the novel while retaining every ounce of narrative and character
integrity. Amy’s voice is sharp, Nick’s alternately furious and dumbfounded,
and the surrounding characters’ disbelieving and trusting in realistic measure.

The tension and
release of it all is almost enough to make one want to do away with marriage
altogether, or at least to seek relationships which evade “Cool Girl” and
dutiful husband binaries reinforced through our media and culture. That is not
to say that same-sex marriages, where two men or two women are theoretically unable
to fill the roles Flynn outlines, are necessarily the answer (though I’d like
that). In fact, as the Neil Patrick Harris-David Burtka couples of the world
begin to marry and put their idyllic domestic lives on display, will they not
fall further into some of the role-based trappings? It is possible, and queer
activists have been pushing back against the more and more popular marriage
equality movement for those very homogenizing reasons.

Flynn’s writing is
queer, then, in its
insistence on screwing with the ideal, on making us question the validity, and
possible danger, of whatever roles we inhabit in our daily lives. Wife,
husband, partner–there will always be those who assign particular significance
and duties to what could be a title-and-benefits contract. It is queer in its
highly critical approach to gendered media coverage, as well, given phenomenal
voice throughout the film by Missi Pyle’s rampaging, man-hating reporter. And
the overzealous enjoyment that media-saturated society (and the film’s audience)
takes in the mysterious possibility of an unraveled relationship certainly
queers (and asks: “How much do we value…?”) the notion of sanctified,
“traditional” marriage.  

Those have typically
been indicated by love, children, and an unconditional commitment between a man
and a woman, or so many conservative idealists will tell you. “Gone
Girl” delivers what may come
when the unconditionality sours, and the divides between one man and one woman
become insurmountable. It may not force you and your significant other(s) to
break it off, but it will undeniably make for memorable pillow talk.

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