In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, the male protagonist, Rochester, keeps his psychotic wife, Antoinette, locked away in an attic until she appears to commit suicide. The book was criticized for its portrayal of Antoinette as animalistic, a woman without voice. There was a follow up novel, a prequel, by Jean Rhys called Wide Sargossa Sea in which Rhys provides the background of Antoinette in a way where the audience could only feel sympathy for her condition in Jane Eyre. It gave meaning to the way she acted. Antoinette did go crazy, but it was to limited fault of her own. The prequel was successful for two reasons: a) it gave Antoinette a platform and voice b) it didn’t really undermine Rochester’s decision to lock her in an attic. She was psychotic in part because of the way he treated her, but there was little else he could do given the era he lived. It showed the characters for what they had been, and what they grew to be. It provided additional character arcs and context.
One problem with Gone Girl is that Amy Dune’s background was provided, and yet it gave no insight into why she behaved the way she did. Yesterday, my roommate, Max, brought up research in support of the concept that human behavior is dictated by circumstances outside of their control. While this idea has yet to be embraced in real life, it’s quite central to the way we interpret and understand story. We expect characters with personality quirks and defects to have either experienced a tragedy or a problematic early relationship with their parents. If you are crazy, we want to know why. Stories exist to explain it.
Amy’s parents commercialized her childhood which inherently belittled her. The Amazing Amy books made her feel inadequate, and that despite her Harvard degrees, and brown stone she could not outgrow or outlive the Amazing Amy shadow. Even when she went missing, her parents seemingly utilized it as a way to promote the Amazing Amy books. But could Amy’s contempt for those books truly lead to such a unique degree of psychotic? It must have been annoying for her when the only reprise for a compromised childhood (her trust fund) was being decimated by the very people who gave it to her. Coupled with the unwanted move to Missouri, and things looked shitty for adult Amy.
But why had she wrongfully blamed someone for rape years earlier? What stopped her from simply leaving Nick? Did she just want attention? Did she simply want to put scars on Amazing Amy? Perhaps since her parents were taking away her money, she would try to ruin their creation. It’s possible Amy had always always been off, and did just enough to keep the lid on, and her trust fund in tact.
But if that was the case then could we at least get some explanation why she was crazy? Perhaps her parents drove her insane, but they are routinely portrayed as at least decent people. Also we never really understood why Amy loved NYC. What did she do there that made her miss it so much? And why did they remain in Missouri when Nick’s Mom passed?
Why didn’t Amy simply craft a life for herself in Missouri?
If it was going to be a psychological thriller along the lines of Fight Club, it either needed to build story around the character’s defects or embrace mystery. As viewers we knew just enough about Amy, Nick, and her parents to know that this was not believable behavior for a character with a seemingly average life.
And then Nick’s character was just so average. He’s living a pretty decent life in NYC initially, it would seem. GQ writer, pretty suave. Why does he want to remain in MO? Because of his mistress? If that’s the case, how come we don’t get more story there?
There’s just so much half-finished plot the movie seems to lack commitment to anything.