Film Review: Gone Girl

Gone Girl film

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.

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13 Comments

Filed under Books, Other Stuff

13 responses to “Film Review: Gone Girl

  1. Great review. I completely agree with you that Gone Girl falls into the camp of successful book to film transitions (along with We Need to Talk About Kevin which – in my humble opinion was robbed at the awards season a few years back). I think the decision to change the ending was the correct one too. It’s far more cinematic but isn’t so different as to upset fans of the the book.

    I think Fincher is one of the best in the business at converting novel to movie so I was fairly confident that he would do a decent job.

    I put up my own review of the movie here if you’d like to hear more of my thoughts on the subject. http://thenovelprojectchronicles.com/books-on-film-gone-girl-review/

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  2. Reblogged this on For My Love of Books and commented:
    I’m hoping to see this next week!

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  3. I didn’t know the movie was alredy in cinemas. Can’t wait to see it. I hope it’s as good as the book 🙂

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  4. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie and I’m enjoying the novel. Yes, it is dark, and sometimes a bit weird (Go’s strange affection towards her brother Nick) but the story-telling is awesome and witty. Fresh and honest.

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  5. infinityreads

    I was expecting another ending because of rumours but I’ve always been quite satisfied with the original ending so it didn’t bother me much. Do you not like the original ending?

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  6. Read the book and had mixed feelings. I’m not sure if I want to watch the film, though. I hear that it’s pretty violent. (I’m a faint-hearted)

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  7. I must be one of the few who did not like the book, but thanks for the movie review.

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  8. I read the book and liked it but didn’t love it. However, I liked it enough to want to watch the movie adaptation when it is released in Indonesia (whenever that is).

    Thanks for the movie review. I’m glad to hear that it’s a good book-to-movie adaptation. I had doubts about Ben Affleck’s casting so it’s nice to know that he did a good job.

    How did Neil Patrick Harris do as Desi? I thought that was excellent casting when I read the news…

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  9. I’ll probably watch this when it comes to streaming. By then I’ll have no memory of the ending at all so whatever it is will be a complete surprise.

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  10. Liked the film too. Nice write up. The book was fab too.

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