Gone Girl – David Fincher’s most recent endeavor into the beautifully disturbing world of the human psyche – is definitely one of my favourite films of the last year, along with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s eerie, sometimes bone chilling score and Jeff Cronenweth’s pale, melancholic pallet as the films Cinematographer, there is Rosamund Pike’s quite frankly startling performance as the terrifyingly smart anti-heroine Amy Dunne.
I could go on and on about why I love this film, the seamless adaptation from Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name, the truly, at times, palpable sense of anticipation and dreadful excitement, but what I am still left with, months after seeing it at the City Screen Picture House here in York, UK (a cinema I would most definitely recommend) is Rosamund Pike’s depiction of ‘that cunt’, Amy Dunne. I honestly believe that Rosamund’s performance in this film is 100% worth an award, some kind of acknowledgement from the academy and those political minded so called film buffs who run and decide on the outcomes of these award ceremonies.
‘Well, why?’ You ask, ‘What makes her performance so important and impressive?’ Well my fellow film lovers, let me tell you why…
Firstly, Lets have a look back over the last few decades of thrillers/psychological thrillers (in both films and TV) and said films and TV’s main antagonists, who they are, what they did and who they were played by. Excluding Kathy Bates’ outstanding performance as Annie Wilkes in Rob Reiner’s Misery, this list, as you can imagine, is going to be pretty short of women.
As Hitchcock famously said, ‘I think everyone enjoys a nice murder, provided he is not the victim’, I agree with this entirely, so lets just get that out of the way. We, as modern intrigued humans who search the internet nearly non stop, are interested in murder, in brutality, in psychopaths. In January 2014 Science News published an article about Samuel Leistedt (a forensic psychiatrist) and his project to try and find the most and least realistic representations of psychopaths in film. In this article it is stated that out of 126 films involving characters with psychopathic tropes/characteristics there were only 21 eligible female representations opposed to 105 male ones (starting to see where I’m going here?).
From the start of the Hannibal franchise we were fascinated with a character that can be cold, calculating, violent, smart, cruel, manipulative and yet still retain charm, politeness (to a certain twisted extent), and most importantly not feel any remorse for the abhorrent things they have done. Skip forward a few years to 2007’s reincarnation of No Country for Old Men, Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh, the assassin, has all the staples of a psychopath, lack of empathy, a clear disregard for other peoples lives, tossing a coin to decide on their conclusion, a kind of ‘agent of chaos’ similar to the Joker in Nolan’s The Dark Knight. This role garnered Bardem awards in the Oscars, BAFTAs and the Golden Globes. Rewind a little to 2000 we have a perfect example of Christian Bale’s versatility. Patrick Bateman in American Psycho is a gruesome product of his environment; arrogant, vain, self indulgent (seriously though, the lists), a perfect modern psychopath in the fast paced Yuppie culture of New York in the 90’s…But, another man. Surely it isn’t only men that can be psychopathic?
Even more recently we’ve had Kevin Spacey in Fincher’s rendition of House of Cards a political thriller/drama (originated in the UK), as Frank Underwood, and even Andrew Scott’s played to perfection Moriarty in BBC’s Sherlock. Unfortunately, despite the fact that all these productions, whether film or TV, are all utterly brilliant and the mentioned actors are also brilliant and I (along with many others) have truly enjoyed being excited and disturbed by all of these performances, there has, in the last decade been a real lack of depicting women as being allowed to have any kind of mental health issues that don’t make them weak, damaged, unstable and some kind of victim. Cut to Fincher’s Gone Girl, 2014, here we have this character who along with everyone in the film itself manages to convince the audience also, that she is a victim – she [Amy Dunne] actually manipulates us through the very conventions that we have gotten used to in this psychological thriller genre. She is cold, calculated and cruel, she shows no empathy and displays next to no conscience. So as she sits in her car, wind riding through her hair, stretching it back and she tells us about how she created this ‘cool girl’ and then surrounded by drab water stained motel walls, sitting on an equally drab bed, she asks us ‘You think I’d let him destroy me and end up happier than ever?’, and her reply? ‘No fucking way. He doesn’t get to win,’ You believe her, and you’re scared, but excited because good lord this might actually, finally be a female protagonist/antagonist who can easily rival the Hannibal Lecter’s of the film world.
From the moment in the car and onwards, I had high hopes for her character and for Rosamund’s performance; it was at the point where she wraps that bath robe tie around her ankle however, and drags herself down the glass surface of one of the many windows in the light prison that is Desi Collings’ house (played with brilliant intrigue by Neil Patrick Harris) that I knew something special was happening, and I couldn’t help a little smile from sneaking out the corner of my mouth and onto my face.
And there you have it. A game changer if I ever saw one.
The second reason Rosamund Pike deserves an accolade for her role in this film is much more simple… Looking back at her portfolio of work she really hasn’t had the chance to prove what she’s made of, acting skills wise. I have seen 4 of her previous films and know of around 8 and wasn’t interested in seeing most of them. If anything deserves acknowledgement in terms of an actor/actress’s achievement, it’s when they come out and completely stop you in your tracks, put a spotlight over themselves for all of the right reasons by landing and smashing an entirely unpredictable role; Rosamund Pike did all of this in bucket loads in Fincher’s Gone Girl.
We have a general issue in most awards for films and literature too, due to what is deemed ‘acceptable’ to award, who is an acceptable choice, what is an acceptable film. Where people, both men and women seem to, a lot of the time be given awards for acting in ways that are seen to be ‘important’ because the person they’re portraying is an important person, I personally think any actor or actress should simply be awarded when they deliver a career defining performance. Whilst watching Amy Dunne’s whiplash inducing transformation over the events in the film we see a strong actress becoming even stronger and giving us something that for all the reasons I have spoken about, I actually think is pretty damn important.