I'm veering from my normal subject matter (Disney/Animation) today to talk about Gone Girl, because man, I really want to review it.
So I read the book at the insistence of a friend, and I was kind of leery about it—it’s a very popular book right now (the list of holds at my library goes on forever), so, you know, you have to be weary of the Twilight effect. But man, was I surprised. The plot itself, sort of a psychological crime thriller, is intriguing and intricate enough: Man’s wife goes missing, let’s find out what happened to her. But the writing level was way beyond what I expected. It helps that both main characters, both of our narrators, are writers--really, read it. It's a great book.
Now, general storyline info, the events are twisty and turny—which you probably already knew from the trailer. But it's also unnerving (in a good way, the way I want to be unnerved), and intriguing, and I could not get the book out of my head. So for those of you who have read the book and felt the same sort of deep mental fascination, and possibly any physical responses, you know that just reading it is an experience. Seeing it? Whoa.
First of all, movie is great. Gillian Flynn, the author, wrote the screenplay herself, so that’s a plus. As happens with film adaptations, a lot of nice details from the book are missing, but there are also new details I really enjoyed (which I can't mention because spoilers). Some things are in a slightly different order, or different characters say them, for the sake of needing spoken exposition, but the ending is the same—so generally, for anyone who was wondering, it follows the book very closely.
For those of you who haven't read the book, the story follows the mysterious disappearance of Amy Elliott Dunne, and her husband’s journey to find her, as long as their general quest for a happy and loving marriage. My earlier mentions/mini-reviews of the book and of how Gillian Flynn adapted it are relevant here; because the story is just really good, so naturally the film’s got a solid base. The actors are all wonderful embodiments of the characters that I at least imagined, and in general just act well. Ben Affleck is a great frustrated/frustrating protagonist; he pulls off Nick Dunne’s general douchiness and strange emotional state very well. Rosamund Pike is beautiful and her voice is really amazing, she’s got this heavy, calm, powerful lilt that made for wonderful narration when it came to Amy’s diary (narration alternates from Nick to Amy in both the book and the film). I loved both detectives—Patrick Fugit as Officer Jim Gilpin was given some great dialogue-commentary on Nick, which I loved, and Kim Dickens was an officious, skeptical, strong Detective Rhonda Boney. Neil Patrick Harris, to my knowledge, has never played a character quite like Desi Collings but he was fantastically creepy, and Tyler Perry was great too. The Elliotts (David Clennon and Lisa Banes) had less prominent roles, and they were significantly more uppity than I had imagined, but I have no complaints towards their acting.
The tone of the movie is the same as the book, which is most likely thanks to Gillian Flynn adapting it—and I, for one, love how she chose to begin and end the movie. But the music—Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross—was a big factor too. I’d describe the music as half-horror and half-elevator music. Do with that what you will.
Plus, I had to throw this in there, I really loved the design of the Amazing Amy book series.
So yeah, basically, great movie, and so far it’s gotten really positive reviews—average score on IMDB is 8.8/10, score on Rotten Tomatoes is currently 87%. But be prepared. First, the movie is two and a half hours long, and I do think it takes longer to pick up than the book does. Going back to what I said earlier about how the book made me feel, but how seeing it was different: it's a strange experience, actually seeing everything that happens. It felt a lot...worse, what happens became realer. There was at least one scene that was far more graphic than I ever thought it would be, but it’s not just that it’s graphic. The film handles the adult content in the book supremely well in that you see just enough to understand and just enough is hidden that it drives you crazy—the film gives it an incredibly visceral effect, something that only seeing it and not just reading about it could do. I was flinching and squirming in my seat. And I loved it. I’m not usually too into stuff like this. But it’s so…balanced? Let’s go with balanced.
That being said, I think the choices the movie made gave the story just a slightly different theme—here I go without trying to give away spoilers. For instance, I felt much sadder for Nick and Amy in the movie than I did in the book—there’s a memory about bed sheets that really got me (“Cuz, you know, we have that joke, that—“).
I think the movie Nick is a lot more sympathetic (MILD SPOILER), because he doesn’t seem to lie as often. And there’s a great detail, sort of motif, in the book, where Nick will flip-flop between calling Detective Boney by her first and last name—which has certain implications about gender, since he never calls Office Gilpin by his first name—which was removed, and Nick’s father’s role was very much cut, since the man only appears once. Generally, I think cutting these kinds of details shifted the focus away from something broader about Nick and Amy's relationship, and relationships in general, and into something more specific, which affected some motives and objectives, and, at least, how I felt about the whole thing. Is this bad? I don't know.
What does everyone else think? It’s hard to review a movie based off a book without comparing it to the book, and it’s even harder to review a movie like this without spoilers, so hopefully I’ve established a general idea of the tone and what it’s about, and hopefully the quality.
So guys, the Question: Book or Movie?