Gone Girl Book + Film Review

Photo from gillian-flynn.com

Photo from gillian-flynn.com

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

So I’m a little late to the game, but I saw Gone Girl this weekend and feel compelled to share my thoughts. I’m always pumped to see any film adaptation of a book I’ve enjoyed and this was no exception.

Though I’ve been the person many times in the past who makes comments like, “The book was just so much better than the movie,” I’m always thrilled to see stories that have captivated me play out on a screen. Unlike many hard-core bibliophiles, I’m not one to boycott a film simply because it started as a book (in fact, those cases often make for the best movies).

I read Gone Girl a year and a half ago and absolutely loved it. I started the book while I was in Las Vegas for my senior spring break with my girlfriends (not exactly an environment conducive to reading). I think I picked it up during a few mellow hours of hangover recovery on a lounge chair in the shade. I became engrossed. I snuck in random ten-minute periods of reading between primping sessions to satiate me before I was able to devour the book in one sitting when I returned home.

I remember being captivated by the story and by Gillian Flynn’s writing style. There’s been plenty of controversy over her writing and her plot twists, with some people grouping her novel with the likes of Stephanie Meyer (not that there is anything wrong with that, but people usually intend the comparison to be mean). But I don’t care about the controversy or what the critics say. I think her writing is edgy and descriptive and altogether impactful. To this day I still remember my favorite lines from the book and think she articulated certain universal emotions and common daily moments with such brilliance and accuracy.

So I was excited to see the film and I have to say, it met my high expectations. I thought director David Finch’s reliance on moody, dim lighting and a hair-raising score fit the story well. I was pleased that the movie stayed in alignment with the book’s plot and that the characters were consistent with what I imagined as I was reading.

In the initial sequences of the film, however, I was struck by how fake Amy and Nick seemed to be together. The acting felt forced and staged. It wasn’t until mid-way through the movie that I began to consider the fact that the acting was actually designed to be this way, that Rosamund Pike intended to play Amy in this very poised, slightly robotic way to illustrate the more nuanced aspects of her character.

Toward the end of the film, once we know that Amy is brilliant, manipulative and entirely unhinged, we start to view her poise and rigidity as an indicator of her calculating and controlling nature, of her insistence on maintaining a façade of perfection. The fact that Amy’s character only ever reveals her vulnerability and anger in two instances—when she is robbed by her so-called friends at the motel and when Desi tells her that there are cameras everywhere on his premises—suggests that she is acting in every other area of her life. In that case, then, Rosamund Pike does a brilliant job of showcasing Amy’s duality and relentless drive to be in control of her environment.

My only criticism is that there wasn’t sufficient back-story for my taste on Amy and Nick’s relationship and how it came to be so strained. There were mentions here and there from Amy and Nick about nagging one another and feeling distant, but I didn’t feel that the movie did as great of a job in portraying this as the book. In the book, the audience grows to love and care about the couple despite their flaws. We have specific examples and moments of resentment to reference that make their hatred toward each other seem plausible. The contrast in the book between Amy’s diary entries and the truth of her disappearance is all the more striking because of the detailed background information. But that, of course, is simply the product of a film adaptation. It’s difficult to translate pages upon pages of delicious written detail into several poignant and flowing film scenes.

I also think the book shed more insight on why Nick made the decision to stay with Amy in the end. Though he is obviously trapped by her pregnancy and threats, he still makes the choice to be with her because a part deep within him craves her unpredictability and wants her to need him. I wasn’t sure this came across as well in the film. Throughout the book, Nick references Amy’s intelligence often and cannot help but be impressed by how shrewd she is, despite the ways she uses this skill to hurt him.

Ultimately, I think Nick is inexplicably drawn to Amy’s passion. This is what makes the end of the story so shocking and controversial. He justifies a life with her not only based on his lack of choice in the matter, but also because a part of him actually wants it. Though the ending feels dissatisfying, I think the very fact that Gillian Flynn is capable of making her audience feel so anxious and unsettled is the mark of a well-written and powerful story. 

 

*Here's an interesting interview with Gillian Flynn about her take on the novel's end

For those of you who saw Gone Girl or read the book, what did you think? How did you like the ending? Do you agree or disagree with my assessments?