Who among us cinephiles haven’t watched Gone Girl? Some can even quote the legendary Cool Girl monologue by heart. David Fincher’s masterwork takes female-led modern psychological thrillers to another level and much of its notoriety credits upon Rosamund Pike’s outstanding portrait of Amy Elliott-Dunne. As a victim-turned-antagonist, Amy proceeds to make viewers root for her, even at her most Machiavellian moments. Much like Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), the audience is bewitched by her heterogeneity.
From the get-go, Amy Dunne is extremely lovable. She is funny, smart, charismatic, and kind. It’s not until later that we discover she is playing a part — her cool-girl persona. Amy needs us to like her regardless – acting or not — so she consistently works to gain sympathy. The most effective way is by being relatable; someone we can understand and, hopefully for her, still empathize with. Amy tells us her side of the story and explains, step by step, how and why she did it – it being all the morally dubious actions she commits in 145 minutes. We accompany her on this journey, and in return, Amy shows the multifaceted complexity of her character. Even if her methods aren’t exactly agreeable, Amy remains relatable because of the way she enthralls us in her psyche.
The most admirable traits of Amy Dunne are self-discipline and patience. Those two characteristics turn her into a deadly weapon, literally. With diligent willpower — to the extent of not caring about pain or any obstacle — Amy goes after her goals, knowing her capability to achieve them. She planned her disappearance meticulously, always one step ahead of Nick, the media, and even the police. When she had to reach out for Desi Collins (Neil Patrick-Harris) after her plan faltered, Amy still conducted a contingency to come out on top — pun intended. Her calculative nature is intrinsic, emerging wherever adversity follows.
Unlike some may believe, Amy is not a psychopath, she’s a profoundly flawed human yet still capable of feelings; granted, framing your husband for murder with the intent of getting him the death penalty isn’t textbook humanity. However, Amy never accomplished the catharsis of her plan because, she truly loved Nick — although not unconditionally — even after everything that happened between them. As long as he played by the rules, they’d have a perfect relationship.
Amy is deeply frustrated by the institutionalized sexism in society, the way women have to conform to men’s expectations — molding themselves in order to be validated. What outraged Amy, pushing her to unleash her grand masterplan, was that she played the game for Nick. She transformed herself for the sake of becoming what she knew he wanted. And when Nick had the audacity not to reciprocate — going so far as cheating — after all that she had done was something Amy would not disregard.
Amy’s motive provides a deeper understanding of her revenge rampage. Amy had a good life in New York as an upper-class, educated woman who was the center of attention in most circumstances. She falls in love with charming Nick hoping he is everything she ever wanted, which stays true for some time. For him, Amy blew her entire trust fund, moved to Missouri, bought him a bar and settled with the life of a small town girl. What did she get in return? Disloyalty and mediocrity. Amy’s compromise was faced with disappointment.
It was never what she had envisioned, living the very reality she used to mock. Nick took everything from her and she couldn’t allow it to go unpunished. If Amy had decided to take the ordinary, manslaughter-free route and settled a divorce, it would fulfill her worst nightmare: being one of the mediocre women she perpetually despised. Going back was not an option, she had to uphold her winner status. In this particular branch, that she invested so much in, it becomes imperative for her to succeed.
Another aspect worth acknowledging: Amy Dunne is also a victim. Her background is permeated with unrealistic standards, familial pressure, and societal expectations. Since childhood, Amy’s overall success has been associated with the Amazing Amy books, which depicted her as a perfect girl who could accomplish anything. Her parents used her development as a vessel to enrich. Throughout her life, the shadow of Amazing Amy haunts her, to the point she starts to fall behind. Her shortcomings convert Amazing Amy’s triumphs as she puts it: With me — regular, flawed, Real Amy. Jealous, as always, of the golden child. Perfect, brilliant Amazing Amy.
In conclusion, we all know Amy Dunne is not a good person, although she’s not entirely “evil” either. The morally gray character introduced to us through Gillian’s Flynn marvelous screenwriting doesn’t fit into a stereotype and that’s what makes her so compelling. Placing Amy into a villain category would be a disservice to her layered mentality and background. We love Amy because of the aforementioned complexity, which does not mean condoning her actions, but simply understanding from a distinct point of view. Do you think we’d be happy with some nice Midwestern girl? No way, baby, she’s it.