Following the success of Gillian Flynn’s third novel published in 2012, the film adaptation of ‘Gone Girl‘ was released in cinemas this week. Directed by David Fincher with a screenplay written by Flynn, the film has garnered positive reviews in the press and is already being tipped to win Oscars next year. There’s no doubt the film will be talked about as much as the bestselling novel, but is it worth the hype?
‘Gone Girl’ tells the story of Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) who mysteriously disappears from the house she shares with her husband Nick (Ben Affleck) in North Carthage, Missouri on their fifth wedding anniversary. However, Nick expresses rather less concern for his missing wife than one might expect. As evidence of underlying resentment and other difficulties in their marriage begin to emerge, he quickly becomes the prime suspect. But what exactly happened to Amy?
I read the novel about a year ago shortly after it had been announced that Affleck and Pike had been cast as Nick and Amy. They are both stunning as the lead roles with Affleck capturing the right amount of arrogance as Nick, while Pike effortlessly switches between the innocently demure and icily calculated sides of Amy. The supporting cast are excellent too, particularly Carrie Coon as Nick’s twin sister Margo.
The ambient soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross captures the suburban noir atmosphere perfectly. The shifting perspectives are balanced well with Amy’s version of their relationship told through flashbacks based on her diary entries while Nick explains his side of the story to the detectives investigating her disappearance. As regular readers of my blog will know, I enjoy stories with unreliable and/or unlikeable narrators. ‘Gone Girl’ has not one but two of these and it is the complex psychological portraits of these characters which forms the heart of the story. As Nick says just before the “final act”: “They disliked me, then they liked me. They hated me, now they love me”. While most may not necessarily follow this exact pattern of emotions towards Nick, the characters are certainly conflicting and both the book and the film cleverly manipulate the reader or viewer as the intricacies of Nick and Amy’s marriage are slowly revealed and dissected.
Much has been made of the decision to change the ending of the story, particularly as Flynn has written both the novel and the screenplay. I had been expecting something more explosive than the original ending (not necessarily literally, but you never know). However, the main structure remains the same along with the ominous and ironic message that Nick and Amy ultimately deserve each other. The elements of the story which are left out are relatively non-essential ones and in many ways, the film benefits from cutting out some of the padding of the 460+ page novel. Most importantly, at just under two and a half hours long, it never drags despite not being a particularly fast-paced thriller. As Flynn said in an interview with The Guardian this week, “I’ve seen movies that are slavishly devoted to books but don’t work, because they haven’t turned it into a movie; they’ve turned it into a dramatisation of the different scenes.” ‘Gone Girl’ avoids this trap and joins a relatively small collection of highly successful book-to-film adaptations which don’t necessarily stick rigidly to the story but manage to both capture the atmosphere of the book while also making interesting and unexpected interpretations of the original material which work well on screen. Lynne Ramsay’s adaptation of ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ by Lionel Shriver is one example which springs to mind here and I think ‘Gone Girl’ achieves this too.
Stylish with substance, the film adaptation of ‘Gone Girl’ is as sharp and unsettling as the novel with excellent performances all round. A must-see for fans of the book.