David Fincher's Gone Girl Adaptation Is Just As Sharp And Sadistic As You Hoped.
Director: David Fincher.
Writer: Gillian Flynn.
Gone Girl: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike.
Play At: Everywhere.
Note: This review is intended for people who've read Gone Girl. Granted, I won't spoil Gillian Flynn's “entirely new third act,” but I will be discussing a few major events that are in her novel.
If you haven't read the book this film is based upon yet, I suggest you do that now. Or see the movie and then revisit this review.
As for me, I remember the night I finished reading Gillian Flynn's addictive and gripping novel about the perfect marriage gone FUBAR. I remember it well because the final chapters of Gone Girl set my emotions on fire. I threw the book out my three-story apartment window, then walked down to pick it up because littering is against the law. No other book I've read has ever engaged me so and then taken such a massive piss on my emotions.
Basically, in my mind, the ending to Gone Girl — the novel — is complete bullshit. It's an abrupt cop-out. Far as I'm concerned, Flynn cheated me there.
Really, anything would have been more rewarding than the ending she wrote. Here's one suggestion off the top of my head: Nick, our lead, is a ghost the entire time! Or how about Amy, the title character, actually Meryl Streep in disguise, preparing for a new role? Or maybe the butler did it in the game room with an ax? Or there was some sort of alien invasion! Honestly, I would have taken just about anything else.
As a result, I was mad as hell and told myself, “Fuck this fucking book. Fuck Gone Girl. I will never so much as think about this book again.”
But then the brilliant David Fincher went and made it into a movie. So here I am, dear reader, telling you that I went back on my word and saw the damn film. And, well, here's what I have to say about that: Gone Girl is a masterwork in book-to-screen adaptation.
OK, here's some plot: Gone Girl is about the perfect marriage gone rotten. Theirs is the American dream, crushed. The wife, Amy Dunne, goes missing on the couple's fifth anniversary. And, in the film and book alike, the story is told from both Nick and Amy's points of view: Half comes from Amy's diary entries from the day she met Nick all the way up to the day she goes missing; Nick's story is fully in the present tense, starting with the day Amy goes missing and going right up until the final moment of the film. I'll stop here with the plot, but know that this Flynn-Fincher joint adaptation keeps most of the juicy, diabolical twists and surprises from the novel.
Also know this: Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck star in these two main roles, and, though Affleck is the bigger name, Pike is this film's true dynamic force. She establishes with such ease Amy's innocent facade — the vulnerable, sweet, loving, Amy — and, when it's time reveal her true colors by smashing her own face with a hammer and slicing a man’s throat only to lay unfazed as the blood sprays on her, she does that with a ferocious, unrestrained intensity. Amy, to be frank, is a psychopath, a sociopath, an insert-anything-here-path. She appears to be a delicate flower on the outside, but, if you cut her open, venom would ooze out. Pike brings her psychotic demeanor to life — and she's just stunning to watch.
Affleck, meanwhile, does a solid job as Nick. But he doesn't have to do a whole lot to play with in this role; all he has to do is pretend to be ignorant and careless and act like one huge fucking pussy until it's time to finally not act like one huge fucking pussy.
Nick's biggest mistake is that he's a juggernaut of self-sabotage. He doesn't make a big stink about his wife's disappearance like a concerned husband should — and that raises suspicions from, well, everybody. Instead, he keeps trivial things from the police that would help prove his innocence. And, really, he's actually kind of glad Amy's gone: He'd even planned on asking for a divorce on the day Amy goes missing. What a coincidence, right? So, of course, as the search for Amy continues, Nick's dirty laundry is revealed. In the eyes of the media and the public eye, he becomes Public Enemy No. 1.
Media manipulation is indeed a big player here, too. When a pro-Amy talk show host — a character clearly meant to resemble Nancy Grace — keeps her show's focus on Nick being the killer and a bastard, everyone wants to burn him at the stake. But, as soon as all these Grace-types discover that he's an innocent man — just a lazy one, and not too caring — the avengers welcome him with open arms.
That's all in the book, of course. But Flynn went on record as saying that she completely changed the third act for the film so as to appease fans who read the novel and maybe threw it out the window in a fit of rage. Y'know, people like me. She said she wanted to treat Gone Girl's readers with something new.
Turns out, that's not entirely true. In the book, Amy outwits Nick to the bitter end and makes him her puppet. He does exactly what she wants. In the film, Nick is still very pissed off until the last frame. And, while the final scene in Fincher's film isn't a complete deviation from the book, fans will still be pleased at the subtle, satisfying changes.
Basically: I didn't throw anything that the screen, and I don't think you will either. Because, built upon the foundation of some fine source material from Flynn, Gone Girl stands as one of Fincher's finest features.
The gifted director presents the most important imagery from the book in the darkest, most compelling way possible. Moreover, he holds you front-and-center as this story unfolds and doesn't let go until the credits roll. This story is one trainwreck you can't take your eyes off.
One element that reinforces this — and one that is sure to be nominated for an Academy Award — is the mesmerizing score, provided here by Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who first worked with Fincher on The Social Network). With heavy use of various strings, synthesizers, bass that hits you right in the chest, piano and vibraphone, this sonic adornment gives the picture a dreamy, Twin Peaks-like feel.
Beyond that, Gone Girl, really, is fairly rudimentary — and probably Fincher's most rudimentary movie yet. But that's no slight; this is his best work since Se7en.
Is it better than the book? That's a question every book-to-screen adaptation faces. With Gone Girl, its tweaked ending aside, the answer is no, probably not.
But Fincher and Flynn's collaborative adaptation still has enough spicy ingredients to stand capably on its own.
As a film, Gone Girl is sharp, sadistic and sensational.