A note from Lindsey: I have managed (with great effort) to completely avoid spoilers in this comparison/review. Comments on this post may contain spoilers, though, so read there with caution if you have not yet read the book or watched the film!
Though I didn’t even read its source novel until last month, Gone Girl has been one of my most anticipated films of the year.
A fan of Gillian Flynn’s previous novels, Sharp Objects and Dark Places, I knew that I would enjoy Gone Girl when I finally got around to reading it. I gave up waiting for the holds list to die down at the library and just bought a cheap movie tie-in edition at the grocery store in mid-September. This book has been in high demand at my library since before the film was even announced!
With Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike cast in the film (as the smarmy charmer Nick and his missing wife Amy, respectively), I had high hopes that the movie would be just as good. Today on TMP, we’ll be taking a look at the book and the film, answering the question of whether my high hopes were fulfilled!
Gone Girl follows Nick Dunne as the disappearance of his wife, Amy, is investigated. Nick becomes a prime suspect in the case, and since Amy has a minor level of fame due to being the subject of a children’s book series written by her parents, the investigation turns into a media circus.
This is a very simplistic way to describe the premise of Gone Girl, and I don’t think it does the novel justice. What I just described sounds like a standard Lifetime Movie Network release, but Gillian Flynn’s novel spins a captivating web full of doubt and plot twists.
Told in alternating perspectives between husband and wife, the novel doesn’t make either character completely reliable to the reader… and since they’re both narrating the book, the reader has no clue who (or what information) to trust. Nick’s behavior and thoughts are a balance of suspicious and sympathetic. Amy is much easier to sympathize with early on in the novel, but seems very calculated in the way she goes about life, playing the role of the “cool girl” to impress men. Neither character is particularly likable, but they’re fascinating to read.
Things take a crazy turn as the novel progresses, and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read. I was mildly spoiled before reading and still couldn’t put the book down, but I think I would have enjoyed it even more had I gone in without knowing anything about the big twist. Still, it’s a definite page-turner, packed with mystery and suspense in typical Gillian Flynn style.
This novel’s adapation was released on October 3, 2014 and was directed by David Fincher. Rosamund Pike (Pride & Prejudice, Jack Reacher) stars as the “gone girl” herself, Amy Elliott Dunne. Ben Affleck (Argo, Gigli) takes on the role of her smarmy husband, Nick. The large supporting cast includes Neil Patrick Harris as Amy’s old boyfriend Desi, David Clennon and Lisa Banes as Amy’s parents, Tyler Perry as famed defense lawyer Tanner Bolt, Carrie Coon as Nick’s twin sister, and the brilliant Missi Pyle as Nancy Grace-esque TV host Ellen Abbott.
David Fincher is a director I have a love-hate relationship with. I would count Zodiac and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as a couple of my favorites of the 2000s. The Social Network, on the other hand? One of the most insufferable films I’ve ever had the misfortune of sitting through a screening of.
Despite my less-than-perfect track record of Fincher enjoyment, I think he was a great choice for this film. His style of filmmaking matches well with the pace and tone of Flynn’s novel. The film is also a very close adaptation of the book, which is no surprise considering the screenplay was written by Gillian Flynn herself. (One particularly biting line of dialogue was left out that I would have loved to see delivered on screen, but that was the only nit-picky thing that stood out to me as “missing” from the script.)
The cast is full of capable players and they all do very well in their roles, with Missi Pyle and — surprise of the year — Tyler Perry standing out amongst the supports. Affleck and Pike were perfectly cast in the roles of Nick and Amy.
Those are the positives, and this is a good film. That being said, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I enjoyed the novel.
Though a faithful adaptation with a lot of elements working toward its success, there is something off about the emotional impact of the film. I didn’t distrust Nick as much in the film as I did in the novel. There is less of a balance between the two perspectives, with the spotlight on Nick most of the time. This makes Nick easier to sympathize with and Amy more difficult to root for by the film’s end.
That’s not to say that Amy is lovable or easy to root for in the novel, but there is a moment of awe when the reader learns the truth, which is missing from the film. The book delivers an appreciation of the scenario as brilliantly executed, and a certain level of understanding of the motivation behind it, whereas the film goes for a big, shocking, can-only-be-interpreted-as-crazy reveal. Aaaaand, that’s as much as I can say without venturing into direct spoiler territory!
As a reader of Gillian Flynn’s books, Gone Girl was one of my most-anticipated films of the year, and I can’t say that it measured up to my expectations. However, it’s a solid adaptation of an engrossing story. Viewers who go into it without reading the novel first are in for one roller coaster of a film, but I would recommend reading the novel for better insight into and understanding of the two central characters.