Wednesday, February 04, 2015

The Meddler: Gone Girl (Book and Movie), Part 3: The Three Big Pregnancy Problems

So let’s talk about three more big things that make no sense about “Gone Girl”, on either the page and the screen:
  1. Stealing a pregnant woman’s pee is fine if you want to fake a home-pregnancy test and fool your husband, but it would never fool an actual doctor. This is the 21st century and they no longer kill a rabbit. Your doctor instantly gives you a full physical, including a blood test that tell them a lot more than pee ever could.
  2. Likewise, you can’t secretly impregnate yourself with one specimen of frozen sperm. You’d have two options: Either do IVF, which is a long complicated surgical procedure with a high fail rate (but at least you get several shots off one sample) or you can attempt to self-thaw and then use the turkey baster method, which would have an astronomically high fail rate, and you’d only get one chance. Getting pregnant even with a fully-participating man is already quite unlikely on one try.
  3. Why does Nick stay with her for five weeks (it was longer in the book, iirc) after she comes home and before he finds out she’s pregnant? In the movie, she says that otherwise the press will turn on him, so he has to stay, but so what? Before, he was trying to win the press over to avoid being arrested, but why would he care now? It makes no sense. Of course, the real reason that he has to stay so long without a good motivation is to allow time for the impregnation storyline.
The most annoying thing about these three story-killers is that they could so easily be fixed with one solution: Have her actually get pregnant.

If she’s so dedicated to her long-term revenge plan, then secretly going off the pill for a few months would not be so much of a stretch. This would give her enough chances to actually get pregnant, and allow her to actually prove her pregnancy to a doctor.

In this version, she would enact her revenge long before her pregnancy showed, planning to abort the baby sometime later (or not, if we’re going with the kill herself version, which would also require an actual pregnancy). She could leave a clue for Nick in the woodshed that implies she aborted the baby, then reveal to Nick at the end that she never got around to it, which still allows you to have the shock-ending. This would also help explain Amy’s sudden change-of-heart and desire to return to Nick: Pregnancy is a hormonal roller-coaster, after all, and it tends to reset your priorities.

And, most importantly, in this version, she could confront him the night of her return, or at least that week, rather than forcing him to stay in the house with a psychopath for no reason whatsoever.

Why didn’t they do this simple fix? Because murder and rape are sexy and fun, but pregnancy is a turn-off and abortion is beyond the pale? Ugh. If Flynn was going to go there, she should have went there, and solved three huge problems with one quick fix.


j.s. said...

These are your purest fixes to GONE GIRL. It really would work better your way and it's a pretty simple cut and paste job -- it's still otherwise the same story. As to your lament: "Because murder and rape are sexy and fun, but pregnancy is a turn-off and abortion is beyond the pale?" I'd say, it's possible that your way didn't occur to Flynn at all and equally possible that she chickened out for exactly that reason. Although the excessive overcomplication of the way it is now is not out of line with the rest of Flynn's plotting.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

My guess as to why it was written the way it was: because Amy is A Dastardly Yet Charming Villain. Doing it the way you suggest would be too pedestrian.

Her planning is so bizarre and psychologically improbable because she's not a woman in a domestic drama. She's the Magnificent Bastard of a crazed pulp adventure.

Amy's a wish fulfillment figure that blends together a lot of nasty urges with the satisfaction of Disproportionate Yet Poetic Vengeance on Those What Done Us Wrong. We're supposed to admire her intellect and skill at so fucking over her husband while we also feel for her and also feel that she's going too far.

If it were too realistically done, the story would take on a tone I think neither Flynn nor Fincher wanted. Too much emotional accuracy would interfere with the fun. We're supposed to enjoy the story, not be repelled by it. Tell this story with honesty and you would have a horrifying ordeal. I'd bet good money that "horrifying ordeal" is not what GONE GIRL was intended to be.

j.s. said...

Harvey's right that Amy's a wish fulfillment figure -- in at least half a dozen distinct registers -- and that's where I think GONE GIRL deserves the most credit for connecting with its large audience. Amy gets to be the very good wife and the very bad femme fatale, the entitled trust fund socialite (and secretly "poor" little rich girl), the downsized employee, the cool girl (while very self-consciously resenting it), the squeezed middle class matron, the midwestern homemaker, the most wanted woman in the country, etc., etc. She gets just about every identity the female target audience of the book ever felt stuck in, jealous of or appalled by. Amy also gets to indulge in all the fantasy fruits of a big city (or even it seems at times a SEX IN THE CITY) lifestyle -- cocktail parties, romantic kisses in edgy yet gentrified alleyways (where nameless faceless others do actual manual labor), bookstore quickies (in bookstores that mostly don't exist in Manhattan anymore -- but this is a fantasy for middle America)... She even gets to cheat on her diet and eat as much junkfood as she wants (even Desi's ice cream!)... At least until she plans not to kill herself.

But the idea that somehow a heaping portion of genre fun excuses a story from telling the truth about its characters and our world is just wrong. For me, BOYHOOD aside, most of the better American Independent films of 2014 were genre films, chiefly horror films and thrillers. Films like BLUE RUIN, THE GUEST, CHEAP THRILLS and THE SACRAMENT seemed to have far more fidelity and veracity to their characters, locations and themes than most of the more standard Indie dramedies I saw.

MCP said...

What amazing fixes, the Meddler posts are always my favorite. Gone Girl is a book I enjoyed a great deal and these would have taken it to a way higher level of quality.

I wonder if these solutions can be tied to your overall checklist. It might make for a compelling second book once your first one is out. Which will hopefully be soon!