Why the Ending to ‘Gone Girl’ is Perfect (Spoilers, obviously)

gone

In my official review of Gone Girl I wanted to say a lot more about the film than I was able to due to spoilers, especially regarding the ending of the film. The ending has become somewhat of a controversy for those who have read the novel. Some people hate it, some people love it. Some don’t know what to think. I fall in the category of loving it, and this post exists to highlight the reasons why. If you have not read the book or seen the movie yet, I will warn you that this post obviously contains massive spoilers. So, if you are a normal human being who doesn’t like wonderful things being ruined for them, I would suggest you instead head on over to my official and spoiler-free review of the film….and then go to the dang movie theater and buy yourself a ticket!

Now, I proceed…

If you have read Gillian Flynn’s novel then you know that the ending of the film is the exact same as that of the book’s. I was actually surprised of this fact, because I believed that Flynn was going to change the ending in order to make it interesting/surprising for those that are fans of the book….or also so the general audience and critics will be satisfied, since it isn’t exactly the most commercial ending to a thriller. Nor is it very satisfying. In fact, the ending leaves you with a sense of “WTF”ness. I will admit that once I was done reading that last page of the novel I thought to myself “Are you freaking serious?” However, after ruminating over the ending since I finished the book about a month ago, and after seeing the ending visually in theaters, I have to say it is the only ending this story can possibly have. Any other type of “satisfying” ending would not have done justice to who the characters are and were built up to be during the length of the story. At first, Gone Girl comes off as a mystery-thriller. Technically, it is. It’s a kidnapping story, turned murder story, turned insane story of framing and deceit. But I believe underneath all of that, this story actually comes off as a character study of two very messed up, although sometimes sympathetic, people: Nick and Amy.

Let’s start with Nick:

nick
Daddy Issues- It becomes fairly obvious in the book that a lot of Nick’s personality as an adult stems from the roles his parents played to him as a kid. The most harmful being the role that his father played. Sadly, they do not include this back story in the movie so it becomes harder to understand but I believe Nick’s “daddy issues” played a vital role in shaping who he is as an adult and also his decision in the end to stay with Amy. It’s blatantly pointed out in the book, and only briefly shown in the movie, that Nick’s dad is seriously misogynistic. He was the type of guy who blamed every single problem he had on a woman and resorted to slurring off insults such as “stupid f*cking bitch” and things of that sort at any small provocation. Since half of the book is told straight from Nick’s point of view, we sometimes see that misogynistic side of him that rubbed off from his dad. However, as soon as it appears, it disappears only instants afterward. What becomes clear to the reader is that Nick doesn’t want to be like his father in any way, and he will do anything to prove that he is a different man than his father turned out to be.

Momma’s Boy- Along with the negative role his father played in Nick’s childhood, his mother also had a pretty big impact on how Nick turned out. In the book, Nick is often shown as a “momma’s boy”. Both Amy and Nick’s sister, Margot, allude to that fact. Amy writes in her diary “His mother had always mothered him.” Although definitely not as damaging as Nick’s father, I believe his mother played a significant role in shaping what becomes Nick’s monstrous ego as an adult.

Mr. Perfect- The roles of both parents together shape a Nick that both the reader/audience and Amy can see as a “Mr. Perfect” type of guy. He is the guy who thirsts to be liked by anybody and everybody. Out of fear of the possibility of ending up as a misogynistic asshole like his dad, and also by having that built up ego from his mom, he turns into someone that will simply do anything to keep up that perfect, likable guy image. When he meets Amy, he becomes attracted and entranced by her because she seems like a flawless human being (we will get to that soon). He soaks up the fact that Amy is also attracted to him, and finds him funny and likable. He seems kind of amazed by this. If he can live up to perfect Amazing Amy’s standards then he’s got to be doing something right, right? Nick and Amy’s relationship turns into what seems to be a vicious circle of ego stroking between him and Amy which ultimately proves to be dangerous.
Now, Amy:

amy
Amazing Amy- It’s got to be hard having an alter ego, created by your very own parents, to live up to your whole life. Amy says herself that Amazing Amy always seems to be one step ahead of her. Amy gives up cello? Amazing Amy becomes a prodigy. Yeahhh, that’s got to be tough on a kid and it obviously followed her into her adult life. Amy as an adult is described as somewhat of a busy-body, constantly learning new hobbies, languages, etc. Nick even says “She needed to be Amazing Amy all the time”. As we know, however, nobody can be perfect and it probably took a huge toll on Amy keeping up that performance of “amazing”ness.

Cool Girl- Speaking of performances, the role of “Cool Girl” nicely ties in with Amazing Amy. Cool Girl is a role that Amy explains to the reader/audience as that girl who tries so hard to be everything her man wants her to be. If this means pretending to like football, pretending not to care when he ditches date night for guys’ night, or pretending to enjoy giving oral sex, then so be it. Along with putting on the facade of Amazing Amy, Amy also puts on this facade of “Cool Girl” for Nick. She is aware of that facade, though, and I believe that she actually enjoys putting on that performance of Cool Amy because she likes being Cool Amy with Likable Nick. As their relationship progresses, Real Amy comes out and that is when things start to get bumpy.

Psychopath Amy- These two “performances” lead up to the Amy we see in the final act of Gone Girl…Psychopath Amy. Once Real Amy begins to show, Nick and Amy’s marriage begins to crumble. Nick doesn’t like going home anymore. He begins an affair with Cool Girl Student. He is no longer entranced by Amazing Amy….and this drives Amy literally insane. She enacts vengeance by scheming an elaborate plan to frame Nick for her own murder. And she really goes all the way. She studies up and makes sure that her plan is flawless and there is nothing that can go wrong. And it is. It’s totally flawless and once Nick realizes she is framing him, even he acknowledges that. The only way he can be saved is if Amy saves him. I think it’s important to acknowledge that Amy is actually a psychopath. Yes, there are aspects of her that are sympathetic. We can kind of understand how she got to the point that she did by always feeling like she had to put on a certain performance in order to be liked. But ultimately, Amy is crazy. She will do absolutely anything, even kill or secretly make herself pregnant, in order to be with Nick.

Nick and Amy:

nickandamy
Hopefully if you didn’t see before you can now see that there are more to these two characters than just the “psycho bitch” and the “douchebag guy”. They are actually very multifaceted characters and that is the brilliance of Flynn’s novel. They are two forces that together create the perfect storm. Nick ultimately stays with Amy because she is pregnant with his baby. But what about before that? And why doesn’t he just leave her and raise the kid while separated from each other? People do that all the time. Well, the answer is: they are both too selfish to not be together.

They know each other better than anyone ever could. That’s why Amy was able to manipulate Nick through a treasure hunt and why she knew getting pregnant would ultimately solidify his decision to stay. That’s why Nick knew exactly what to do in order to convince Amy to come home. They know each other, and they know each other’s weaknesses. They also know that they can’t be with anyone else that would make them feel the same way about themselves. I’m not talking about love. I’m talking about ego. Nick is (in his own words) “the ultimate Nick” with Amy. Amy is perfect, amazing, cool Amy when she is with Nick. They can’t be the people they like to see themselves be without each other. And that, my friends, is the ultimate scary ending to this story.

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5 thoughts on “Why the Ending to ‘Gone Girl’ is Perfect (Spoilers, obviously)

  1. Fantastic analysis. Yeah, these are definitely multifaceted characters, and I think many people don’t realize that the oversimplification of the characters by the media in the film is intentional. We see that there are many layers to them, but the entire story surrounding her disappearance develops as a result of everyone’s desire for the black and white, for the easy answer.

    • Exactly! It’s kind of ironic that people will be lost on the ending considering that’s one of the most prominent themes of the film. Nothing in this story is black and white!

  2. I really like this breakdown. I can’t wait to read the novel after completely loving the movie. I wanted to go in cold but I already like Flynn’s other two novels so I’m excited to dig into this one. The characters are so complex. I think that a lot of people will boil them down and that’s doing a huge disservice to the writing and acting.

    • Yep, my thoughts exactly. I’ve read more than a few reviews of the movie of people believing the ending to be anti-climatic. It’s actually the exact opposite of that if you take into account who the characters are.
      And the novel is great! I don’t know if it’s possible to say whether the movie or novel or better, but the book does go into greater detail and back story of a few characters.

  3. Its like a card game and she now has all the cards. She owns him. But the question is, will it be worth it if he becomes a total waste of a human being? I guess thats not a fair assumption though, I mean Nick never gave up in the movie, he always kept fighting and thinking of ways to overcome the obstacles.

    This game between them is always being played so there is still a chance for Nick in the future. I’m not saying I want to see a sequel to this story, but I do think thats part of the brilliance of the ending and the stellar character development. I can imagine an entire new scenario where Nick is planning his escape.
    That’s what good endings do; they leave us pondering about the future of the characters.

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