No Such Thing as Nature, or, Gone Girl

Director David Fincher’s latest film, Gone Girl, based on the novel by Gillian Flynn, is something else.

It’s kind of like that movie where Jon Travolta’s son’s step-dad is both Vince Vaughan and a psychopath. It’s sort of like what I assume Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is. And it’s a bit like Robert Rodriguez’s Predators.

Batman.

Batman.

Let me tell you, it is quite a romp.

The film tells the story of Ben Affleck, whose wife, a girl, is gone.

Gone Girl.

Soon the law begins to suspect Affleck may just have had something to do with his wife’s disappearance.

You know this plot synopsis. I know this plot synopsis. God knows Dick Wolf knows this plot synopsis. There are probably thousands of hours of television drama milked from the same premise as Gone Girl. But rather than weave through choreography we all know too well Gone Girl uses a missing wife and suspicious husband as a diving board into a pool of bat-shit insanity, all the while tactfully examining that ever-elusive construct just under our nose – identity.

Is it our experiences or our genetics that shape us into the people we become? I’d wager a guess that most people would posit some combination of the two. But in the tilted world of Gone Girl nature has been all but removed from the equation.

Open mic night.

Open mic night.

The characters in Gone Girl exist in perpetual reaction to the imposing, surrealist world around them. They’re defined by talking heads in nice suits on television, they’re defined by their jobs and the economy, they’re defined by the law, they’re defined by their city and their community, they’re defined by their parents and their past and at the end of the day they’re defined by the person falling asleep next to them. Nobody in Gone Girl has any say in who they are. By the time the film is over it’s just as impossible for the viewer to comprehend who exactly these characters are as it is for the characters themselves. They aren’t a singular personality, they’re dozens upon dozens, fluid and ever-changing based on whose finger identifies them.

Whatever traits genetics gave these characters have been chiseled away entirely by society. Through the prism of Gone Girl we may as well have been born blank slates to be eroded by everyone and everything around us.

You guys, it is quite a romp.

Gone Girl is crazy and memorable for a number of reasons – ladies, you know what I’m talking about – but it’s the story’s exploration of the nature v. nurture debate, and the question mark the film leaves the viewer with, that are haunting my now nightmarishly existential day dreams.

So while the zeitgeist is preoccupied trying to decide whether Gone Girl is feminist or misogynist (I’m going out on a limb and calling it neither) I’ll be busy listening to Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross’ creeping score trying desperately to figure out if any of us actually have anything to do with who we are.

It really is fun for the whole family.

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