Well Amy...who are you?

Well Amy…who are you?

Every guy has been there. It’s a roomful of strangers, some he knows – some he doesn’t. The occasion for the gathering isn’t anything deeply personal, which is to say it’s nothing he can’t duck out of. In the middle of this, he sees a pretty face and realizes that face is one he’d like to get to know better. But how to do it?

Ordinarily it comes by pretending to be someone you’re not. When that happens, we men have sealed our fate. We’ve shown to the pretty face, to the world, and to ourselves how very un-manly we are. It’s all downhill from there.

GONE GIRL begins on the fifth wedding anniversary of Nick and Amy Dunne (Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike). That morning, Nick is hanging out with his twin sister Margot (Carrie Coon) at the bar they run when he gets a call from a neighbour that his front door is open. As he returns home to investigate, a chilling scene awaits. There are traces of blood around Nick and Amy’s house…signs of a struggle…and no Amy to be found.

She’s missing, and presumed to be hurt – possibly worse.

As the case unfolds, much of the community rallies around Nick. Amy might have been slightly aloof in her adopted home of Missouri, but her disappearance seems to have brought everyone out of the woodwork to find her. Average citizens and pillars of the community all do what they can to find this gone girl. They search high and low. They keep the home fires burning. They prop up her worried parents and her untethered husband.

At first…

Then the story of Amy Dunne’s disappearance gets strange. Nick is seen smiling in the company of strange women. He flashes a curious smile in front of media cameras with Amy’s missing person poster behind him. And we learn – along with Margot – that Amy wasn’t enough for him and he was sleeping with one of his students. What begins strange quickly becomes incriminating. Where once Nick looked like someone worth supporting, soon he looks like someone to blame.

He’s the husband, and in cases like this the guilt usually falls on the husband. This happens because husbands are men…

…and men are idiots.

Affleck and Pike in Gone Girl

GONE GIRL is 100% pure pulp. It is a meaty yarn befitting a paperback copy of the novel it is based on. Do not read that as a derogatory reaction: the world needs pulp, the same way we need catchy love songs and pepperoni pizza. The story of Nick and Amy Dunne is a clever, fun, messed-up thriller that grabs you by the balls two hours. Oh, and every time you think it might let go, it just squeezes your balls harder. The film has brought out the best in the source material with killer execution supported by perfect casting.

In the middle of all that pulp, there is an interesting question; are men really men anymore?

Leading the starting line-up for GONE GIRL is a character who from arm’s reach appears to be the prototypical “guy’s guy”. He writes for a men’s magazine, he’s tall, built, square-jawed smart, drinks whiskey and loves beautiful women. He has the physique of a blue-collar worker and a good degree hanging on his wall. On paper – on the very paper of the magazine he writes for, that should be enough. Hell, that should be more than enough, that should be the goddamned gold standard. However, Nick Dunne is not a “guy’s guy”.

He cannot keep his beautiful wife happy. He cannot take care of his ailing parents. He cannot fully pick himself up after getting knocked-down by the loss of his job. He goes back to the place his story began, not because he feels a calling, but because he has no better options. His version of “manning-up” is reverting to being a boy. Might his entire lot in life played out differently if he’d had a better grip on being a better man?

Maybe Nick should have taken a page from another character in the film and amassed his holdings. Perhaps he should have idolized every fibre of Amy’s being, and been ready to worship the ground she walked on. Perhaps “being a man” means providing every conceivable luxury and being the epitome of sophistication. Not because that truly interests him mind you, more because it seems to interest her. Perhaps that’s what being a man is all about.

I doubt it.

What GONE GIRL takes great delight in underlining is that Nick Dunne might not be in the tricky spot he is in if he’d been a better man. Whether a guy is the alpha male, the confused lost boy, or the stalwart torch-holder…really, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that certain expectations are absolute. Men do not hit a woman. Men are not unfaithful to their wives. Men are not completely oblivious to their spouses daily lives. Nick ignores all of these rules…because, well…he’s an idiot. You could also say “because he’s a man” and you’d be equally right. By ignoring these rules, he invites consequences – consequences he could have avoided if he’d only manned-up long ago.

Therein lays the ultimate takeaway from this smartly-stylized piece of pulpy fast food; That so much of what gets men into trouble in this world could be avoided if they’d just be better men. Unfortunately, so many men in the world are not “better men”, and that’s what prompts so many of the problems we see today. The goal of any child is to be a better person than their parents. So if modern boys are to be better than their fathers, one could conceivably say that they are to take the role of strong provider and temper it with intelligence, openness, and emotional understanding. The boys of today get umpteen opportunities to become “better men”. Perhaps one day we’ll start seeing men grab hold of one of these opportunities…

…before they’re gone.

Matineescore: ★ ★ ★ 1/2 out of ★ ★ ★ ★
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