The problem with discussing plot holes is that nobody can really agree on what they are and if they matter. Everyone enters a movie with different expectations, and different degrees of tolerance for lapses in a story’s internal logic. A particularly diligent nit-picker can probably find some way to tear apart pretty much any narrative ever committed to film, but most people hand-wave those questions away to preserve their own enjoyment. Why didn’t Character X do Action Y in Situation Z? Because if they did, there wouldn’t be a movie. It’s as simple as that.
That isn’t to say there isn’t such a thing as plot holes though, or that they can’t lead to the collapse of a story and/or the forcible catapulting of the audience out of that story and back into the miserable real world. The definition I like the most is the one put forward by Film Crit Hulk, and that’s the one we’ll be working with going forwards:
A PLOT HOLE IS ACTUALLY A VERY SIMPLE THING AND HERE IS HULK’S PERSONAL DEFINITION: IT’S WHEN THERE IS A CRUCIAL GAP OR INCONSISTENCY IN A STORYLINE (AS PRESENTED) THAT PREVENTS THE PROPER FUNCTIONING OF THE PLOT OR CENTRAL CHARACTERIZATION (AS PRESENTED).
So, Gone Girl. In my review I mentioned that while the story made no sense, it was still a great film with an awful lot to offer. I think in that piece I did a fairly decent job of explaining why. In this one I’d like to qualify my first statement and throw up some examples of why the story itself doesn’t really work.
Note: I’m not trying to discredit Gone Girl here, or even suggest that people should be harsher in their opinions of it. I actually think it’s testament to how cinematically competent the film is that so many people are willing to overlook the narrative flaws because they’re having such a good time.
Another note: some of the points on this list don’t necessarily constitute true plot holes if we’re rigidly adhering to the above definition. But they were all noticeable enough issues for me that I found myself asking awkward questions of the plot and characters which ideally shouldn’t have occurred to me until after I finished watching. That and I couldn’t be bothered coming up with a more accurate title.
Okay, here we go. These points are presented roughly in order of severity (read: how damaging they were to my immersion), but don’t get too hung up on that. They’re mainly just a handful of things I noticed which the film failed to explain.
Oh, needless to say, there are HUGE spoilers ahead.
Why did the cops send Amy home covered in Desi’s blood?
This isn’t actually a plot hole at all, but it’s a weird continuity error which struck me as being very odd. After Amy kills Desi and returns to Nick slick with his blood, the doctors who examine her send her home the next day still covered in it. I can’t imagine a real-world scenario in which that would take place. So yeah, not exactly damaging to the story, but very jarring to see.
Why didn’t the police question Amy’s haircut?
When Amy returns, her story hinges on the fact that she has been a prisoner of Desi for the entire time she has been missing. She stitches him up for kidnapping and rape, and then slashes his throat with a box cutter. Did he take her to get her hair trimmed while he was holding her hostage? Did he chop it himself? This is fairly easily explainable (Desi has a fetish for short hairdos, for example, so he had her styled to his liking) but it’s weird the cops never so much as asked when Amy reappeared with a Victoria Beckham-style barnet.
What happened to the underwear the cops found in Nick’s office?
The sexy red panties planted in Nick’s office by (presumably) his mistress were taken away by the cops to be analysed and then never brought up again. I imagine this was purposely overlooked, as Nick actually coming clean about his affair to the media was a huge component of the story. If that was the case though, they should never have been found. Chekov’s gun isn’t built to fire blanks. This was either deliberately purposeless storytelling or a pretty big oversight, and I’m not particularly thrilled about either of those options.
If Nick’s mistress had indeed planted the underwear, the cops would have been aware of Nick’s infidelity way before he revealed it to the media. His whole angle would have been ruined. If Amy had planted the underwear, surely the cops would have thought it odd that she was leaving such elaborate trails of clues mere hours before her disappearance?
Why wasn’t Amy recognised at the motel?
Amy spent several days at the Ozarks motel. She cut her hair a little shorter and put on some glasses, but she looked almost identical. That in and of itself wouldn’t have been too difficult to overlook (Superman gets away with it, after all), but the fact she spent the majority of her time sitting around with her new friends watching herself on television kind of is. Glasses are favoured in real-life disguises because they break up the shape of the face, but I’m not entirely convinced they’d have quite the same effect if the face beneath them was plastered all over the news.
When the young couple Amy befriends end up robbing her at the motel, the woman drops a line about being aware that Amy is on the run from something. She doesn’t specify what, and I don’t think she actually knows who Amy is outside of simply not being who she says. Is there a reward for Amy’s return or information about her disappearance? Her parents are pretty wealthy. That would be the avenue the couple at the motel would have taken had they been sitting on a gold mine like that.
Why wasn’t the woodshed dusted for prints?
By this point the cops were already fairly convinced of Nick’s guilt, but as far as I know it’s still standard police procedure to process all crime scenes for evidence, regardless of your personal judgement.
(Note: the cops are totally inconsistent in how they perceive Nick. When they find the partially-charred journal in the fire, they’re immediately convinced he left it there to burn and didn’t bother to check it was properly destroyed. Yet apparently he’s smart enough to plan and execute this whole thing? Either this is a guy who is so dumb that he can’t properly dispose of incredibly damning evidence, or he’s a guy so smart that he managed to pull this whole thing off. He can’t be both).
Why didn’t the police check out Amy’s ex-boyfriends?
When Nick went to speak with the ex whom Amy had framed for rape, he needed only five minutes to uncover a plan remarkably similar to the one with which she had ensnared him. Why didn’t the police question this guy? Why didn’t they put a couple of patrolmen on Desi, as Amy had reported him stalking her in the past and actually had creepy letters from him to prove it? Why did it never leap out at anyone that all of this woman’s previous relationships had in some way involved allegations of violent crime?
What happened to the rest of the CCTV footage?
Amy engineered a dramatic little scene to be caught on Desi’s CCTV cameras. What happened to the rest of the footage? Where were the shots of the pair entering the house happily together? Where were the shots of her living there as a free woman, rather than a sex slave? If she managed to wipe that footage, wouldn’t there be a huge time lapse in the tapes? Shouldn’t the cops be checking that stuff out? Imagine the conversation:
Her: Check the tapes at the house.
Police: We did. Why is there days’ worth of footage missing?
Her: Desi did that. He deleted absolutely all of the footage except the stuff that really incriminates him, which he kept.
Police: Why would anyone do that?
Her: Clearly he was insane. So it’s just as well he had that box cutter in his bed.
Why didn’t the cops check Amy for head wounds?
There was evidence in Nick and Amy’s kitchen that a huge amount of blood had been spilled there – probably from a wound which was consistent with massive head trauma. The police even recovered the potential weapon later on – a club which for some reason wasn’t burnt despite having been in a fire. In order to stage this scene, Amy withdrew pints of her own blood with a syringe. Somehow the doctors who checked her over upon her return didn’t manage to find any head wounds at all, and the police didn’t even bother to ask about it.
Now, “consistent with a head wound” doesn’t necessarily mean that there had to be a head wound, but they didn’t seem to check her for any wounds – certainly none which could have caused such a huge amount of blood to be spilled. They managed to conclude she had been raped (she hadn’t) but nobody even considered where all that blood in the kitchen had come from.
How did Amy get pregnant?
Nick makes it very clear that he has a letter from the fertility clinic claiming his sample has been destroyed. Even though Amy later suggests that wasn’t the case, how did she manage to infiltrate the clinic, steal the sperm, and then still get the clinic to mail Nick the letter? Furthermore, how did she actually carry out the insemination procedure? Did she do it herself? Did she get a doctor to do it? If so, who? What kind of medical professional would do that for a woman that has quite clearly stolen a man’s sperm from a fertility clinic? It doesn’t make any sense, and considering that the big twist ending hinges entirely on her actually being pregnant with Nick’s baby, this is a huge deal.
There’s a possibility the baby could be Desi’s. That’s sort-of plausible, but it doesn’t fit into the kind of long-term plan which Amy seems to like and relies far too heavily on factors outside of her control. Perhaps it was a fortunate accident, and the stuff about the fertility clinic was clever misdirection to make Nick believe the baby was his? I have no idea. I’m still tempted to believe it just wasn’t properly thought through though.
Anyway. Have I covered everything? Is there anything else you noticed that I didn’t? Let me know in the comments.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.