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Gone Girl is rated 18 for strong bloody violence, very strong language. The film is available on DVD.
Beautiful, intelligent Amy (Rosamund Pike) and laid-back journalist Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) were once the kind of golden couple that everybody envies. Amy’s diary records how, after meeting at a party, their relationship went from strength to strength, until they eventually got married. But then the recession hit, Nick’s parents fell ill, and the Dunne partnership began to show signs of strain.
Now, on the morning of their fifth anniversary, Amy has vanished without a trace. Nick finds the house empty, with signs of a struggle – and within hours his life is a whirl of police questions and television cameras. The whole community rallies around to try and find Amy, who appears to have been kidnapped. But what if things aren’t quite as they seem? As more clues emerge and hysteria builds, the finger of blame is pointed at Nick.
- Did you enjoy the film, and why or why not? If you have read the novel, how successfully do you think it has been adapted? What changes were made, and why might the filmmakers have made these choices?
- What did you make of David Fincher’s direction? If you have seen any of his previous films, can you draw any comparisons with Gone Girl? How would you describe his style, and his general outlook on the world?
- The novel features two unreliable narrators. How, and how successfully, has this device been translated to the screen? As an audience, do we ‘trust’ what we are shown onscreen more than we might trust words on a page? How might filmmakers play with this relationship of trust?
‘Writing from the husband’s point of view and then the wife’s… made me veer wildly from Team Nick to Team Amy.’ – Author Gillian Flynn
- Who had your sympathies at which points in the story, and why? Does Nick or Amy ultimately emerge as the more relatable character – or are they both unlikeable? What effect might these shifting sympathies have on an audience?
- How did you feel about the various plot twists over the course of the film? Did any of these ‘rug pulls’ make you disengage emotionally, and if so, why? Is Gone Girl designed to be an emotionally engaging story, and if not, what does it aim for instead?
‘Everyone told us, marriage is hard work. Not for me and Nick.’ – Amy
- Do people in our society expect marriage to be hard work? What common pieces of advice are people often given before getting married, and how useful do you think these are? What kind of ‘work’ do you think a successful marriage requires, and what other factors need to be in place?
‘This case is about whether people like you.’ – Tanner (Tyler Perry)
- How does Gone Girl satirise the role played by the media in cases like Amy’s? How does Nick’s presentation of himself – both deliberate and accidental – shift public opinion throughout the story? How might the media put pressure on someone like Nick to be a ‘perfect’ victim? Do you think our society values image more than truth, and what reasons can you give for your answer?
‘Nick’s unsavory feelings about his complicated missing wife and about women in general – feelings that might be charitably summed up as “b*****s be crazy” – seem indistinguishable from the filmmaker’s own vision of Amy as a black hole of ineffable female needs, moods, and desires. Does this make Gone Girl a sexist movie? A movie about sexism that isn’t fully in control of its tone? Or some unholy hybrid of the two?’ – Critic Dana Stevens
- Would you call Gone Girl a feminist film, a misogynistic film – or neither, or both? What arguments could be made for either perspective, and to what degree might the answer depend on whether Nick or Amy is seen as the more sympathetic character? What points does the film make about gender relations in our society?
- In a world where violence against women is ‘rampant’, and myths around false allegations are commonplace, to what extent is it morally responsible to tell a story like Gone Girl? How, if at all, might this kind of story influence our perception of women who allege domestic abuse or sexual assault? On what grounds, moral or otherwise, might you defend Gone Girl‘s storyline?
‘I’m conducting an investigation, not a witch hunt.’ – Detective Boney (Kim Dickens)
- How do issues of justice become complicated amidst the hysteria of high-profile criminal cases? What are the risks of ‘mob justice’, and can you think of any real-life examples? How might the police and legal personnel involved – as well as society as a whole – help real justice to be done in these cases?
‘At the moment it’s a he-said, she-said.’ – Tanner
- ‘He-said, she-said’ testimony may be the only kind on offer in certain kinds of criminal cases. How can judgements best be made when the only evidence is one person’s word against another’s? On what basis do we decide whether to trust someone’s testimony? Can we ever judge with complete impartiality, or will our existing prejudices always come into play?
‘Can you imagine, finally showing your true self to your spouse, your soul mate, and having him not like you?’- Amy
- What roles do Nick and Amy play over the course of the film – for example, the ‘cool girl’, the ‘perfect victim,’ the ‘penitent adulterer’ – and what conflicting stories do they tell themselves and others about their life together? Why is authenticity so disastrous for the Dunnes? Is true authenticity possible, and how might it strengthen relationships rather than destroy them?
‘The primal questions of any marriage – what are you thinking? How are you feeling? What have we done to each other?’ – Nick
- What did you make of the film’s final vision of marriage as a toxic co-conspiracy based on lies and pretence? Is there any truth to this vision, and how might a marriage become this way? Why do you think that Flynn and Fincher are offering such a bleak portrait of marriage, and what hopeful message – if any – might you offer to counter it?