10:30 am EDT, February 14, 2018

‘Gone Girl’ is the movie you need to watch this Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day, steer clear of the romance movies you’ve seen again and again. Don’t pass up this opportunity to watch the perfect Valentine’s Day movie: Gone Girl.

Maybe you’re riding solo this Valentine’s Day, treating yourself to a box of chocolates and take out from your favorite dinner spot. Maybe you’re happily smitten and looking for the perfect flick to pop in after your date to the Cheesecake Factory, but before your visit to funky town. Regardless of your situation, Gone Girl should be this year’s required viewing.

After directing The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, director David Fincher set his sights on adapting Gillian Flynn’s best selling novel Gone Girl. It tells the story of Nick and Amy Dunne, their blossoming relationship, subsequent marriage, and the events following Amy’s sudden disappearance.

As the story unfolds and the past is retold through Amy’s private diaries, the picture of Nick and Amy’s seemingly perfect marriage is revealed to be far darker and more twisted than it originally appears.

Fincher’s Gone Girl succeeds as a kind of chameleon – it’s all at once a twisted love story, an investigative procedural, an overwrought melodrama, and a sardonic satire on modern romance. It’s engrossing from start to finish and, it’s the perfect counter-programming for more classic romance films.

The very best movie romances, from Casablanca to When Harry Met Sally to Titanic, are steeped in a sense of flawless fantasy. They portray love as an indeterminable, yet unstoppable force. Their depictions of romance are intimate and moving, full of desperate yearning, overwhelming affection, and grandiose gestures. They satisfy a certain human craving to see an idealized version of love.

What if that’s not your deal? What if, on Valentine’s Day of all days, you don’t want to see two perfect people falling in perfect love over the perfect sunset? You don’t need to be reminded of the way real life isn’t so much like the movies. Heck, you don’t need to see Rose and Jack pretend like they couldn’t fit two people on that one door in the middle of the freezing ocean. What you need is Gone Girl.

Whereas the most beloved romance films are hyperbolic portrayals of true love, Gone Girl is equally as hyperbolic…just in a much different direction.

Gone Girl masquerades itself as a film about one woman’s disappearance and presumed murder, but later reveals itself to be a complete set up. Amy Dunne, the titular gone girl, made herself disappear. In order to punish her husband for his infidelity and lack of commitment to their marriage, she frames him for her own murder.

Gone Girl replaces the wide-eyed idealism and unadulterated passion that lies at the heart of most romance films with a corrupted morality and perverse desire. As the dark underbelly of Nick and Amy’s picturesque marriage is revealed to the audience, the film begs the audience to question and reevaluate their own understanding of romance and relationships.

Gone Girl balances a wickedly fun line between campy melodrama and social satire, taking every sentiment and trope that Valentine’s Day is built on and tosses them in the trash. There’s scant romance to be found when Amy, in one of the film’s flashbacks, writes in her diary: “For Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d buy a gun.”

In the film’s iconic “Cool Girl” monologue, Amy tears into the way we manipulate one another and change ourselves for our partners. “Nick never loved me. He loved a girl who doesn’t exist. A girl I was pretending to be.” This is directly at odds with the ideology that defines so many romances – Gone Girl contradicts the concept of knowing someone better than you know yourself by positing that we lie about whom we are in order to make relationships work.

It’s tempting to call Gone Girl the antithesis to this hallmark holiday, but to do so would be to ignore the aching romanticism that lies beneath Amy’s motivations. Her actions come as a result of her husband’s betrayal, and while the film certainly takes liberties in dramatizing her reaction, it’s no more hyperbolic than those love stories that end with two strangers meeting on the top of the Empire State Building or a man living in a house he built for a woman he hasn’t seen in years.

All of this is to say that, no, Gone Girl is not a normal depiction of love and marriage, but it’s no less realistic than those romance movies that present to us an idealized version of true love. Gone Girl challenges the way we understand our own relationships by satirizing marriage in a way that epitomizes the phrase “dark and twisted.”

So, this Valentine’s Day, take a break from the usual romantic fodder and treat yourself to something a bit wicked, sexy, murderous, and – like a fine dark chocolate – a little bitter.

If nothing else, it’ll make you feel happy to be single or remind you how much more functional your own relationship is.

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