Book v Film: Gone Girl

“The question I’ve asked more often during our marriage, if not out loud, if not to the person who could answer. I supposed these questions storm cloud over every marriage: What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do?”

Book:
Film:
Adaptation:

Based on Gillian Flynn‘s 2012 New York Times Best Seller, with the adaptation directed by David Fincher, Gone Girl is premised around the seemingly happy married couple Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike). Introduced to the readers as your average husband and wife, Nick and Amy are a couple that you quickly warm to. But when Amy mysteriously disappears, the truth of their marriage slowly unravels. Realising that everything wasn’t as perfect as it seemed, the spotlight of Amy’s disappearance soon turns on to Nick, as he becomes the focus of an intense media circus. But is Nick a man capable of killing his wife? Was their marriage really that bad? Or is the truth far from the whole story?

The following post is a review of the film adaptation in comparison to the book. You can read my review of the book on its own here.

Film Review:

The adaptation of Gone Girl was one of my most anticipated films of 2014 after having read the book a couple of months before its release. The novel is an intense mystery thriller hard to put down; every twist poses a new question, and with a somewhat psychotic conclusion the book is one that has your brain ticking at full pace until you reach the very end. It was this intense and never-ending suspense, as well as the idea of never knowing the whole story, that made the Gone Girl novel such a gripping read. Set to be adapted by the great David Fincher, as well, the Gone Girl film was always going to make an impact.

Adaptations of novels that you have such strong feelings for always come with doubts. Fincher had promised that he was going to highlight the dark comedy in Flynn’s novel, but would the story come across on the big screen as well as it does when read? It’s a difficult story to handle, but Fincher couldn’t have worked with it any better. And what a tremendous job he has done.

The dark humour is what makes Gone Girl‘s story stand out. Depending on how you want to read the novel and take the ending, this dark comedy twist had a huge influence on how I read the story. I found myself laughing far too often, and then I very quickly felt awkward afterwards as I had to ask myself if it was genuinely funny or just plain psychotic. This was an aspect that Fincher’s style of film-making complimented really well. The overall theme is very dark but that’s what we usually love about his work, so to have that alongside a story of love and humanity, there was a lot that needed a professional touch.

And that’s because Gone Girl is not only is it a fantastic thriller, it’s also an excellent exploration of relationships. There’s always a side to a couple that you don’t see, but with Gone Girl you get to see how easily happiness can be blurred. Interchanging every other chapter between the present as Nick details his efforts searching for his missing wife with Amy’s past accounts through her diary entries, we also get to see the difference between how men and women think and analyse certain situations. One minute everything appears to be just as it seems with Nick as the bad guy, but the next minute you see everything through a completely different light. This struggle continues through the whole novel, constantly changing your opinions of these characters and therefore putting the blame on a number of people as you try to figure out the truth.

With Flynn penning the script for the adaptation herself, this is explored equally as well in the adaptation, and you never know who to love or hate or who to trust, and with the completely unexpected ending, you can’t help but think that it’s the only way it can end. It’s completely messed up, but that’s what’s so great about this story.

But what also makes the adaptation work so well is the casting. Ben Affleck takes the lead as Nick with the beautiful Rosamund Pike supporting as his wife, Amy. If you’ve read the novel then I’m sure you will agree that they were both perfectly cast in their roles, and I genuinely couldn’t think of anyone better to play the married couple. They’re both excellent actors, and it’s great to see them both take on such huge roles under the helm of one of the best directors around. Affleck has the right amount of arrogance in him to make audiences find his character both lovable and hateable, which is exactly what people think about Nick in the story and when reading it, and Rosamund certainly looks the part as the perfectly amazing Amy, who could have a secret, darker side to her highly maintained image.

Another brilliant bit of casting is for the role of Desi Collings, an ex-boyfriend from Amy’s past who is played by Neil Patrick Harris. When reading the novel I pictured this very face. Harris has his natural quirky but handsome and rich persona already perfected, but it was even more interesting to see the fractured edge to Desi’s character which Harris turns on perfectly.

Differences From The Book:

  • The film doesn’t mention Nick’s real name, Lance.
  • The film doesn’t include Nick and Amy’s argument the night before her disappearance.
  • The film doesn’t mention that Nick had an anniversary dinner reservation booked for him and Amy, on that night of her disappearance.
  • In the book, Nick visits Andie on the morning of Amy’s disappearance and then reads back-copies of his magazine in his garage. In the film, he sits by the lake on his own and doesn’t visit Andie.
  • The film doesn’t mention that Nick’s search engine history shows a search for “body float Mississippi River”, something we later realise Amy had done as part of her set up.
  • In the book, it is Nick, a couple of his friends, and Amy’s father who investigate the mall. In the film, it is the detectives.
  • The film doesn’t detail Amy’s second clue, which leads Nick to Hannibal, Missouri, the boyhood home of Mark Twain where Nick used to work, and where he took both Amy and Andie to visit.
  • In the book, there’s a character called Rebecca who works for a Whodunnit website. She videos Nick gushing about Amy whilst drunk in his bar, which is what sways the public’s opinion of him.
  • In the film, Nick proposes at Amy’s parents’ book launch party. In the book, there is no details about Nick’s proposal.
  • There is no Missouri housewarming party in the film.
  • There are no scenes around Nick’s dying mother in the film.
  • The film doesn’t have any focus on how Amy manipulated Nick’s dad. There are a few hints to it, but the book details how she often visited him.
  • There’s no mention of Amy’s school friend Hilary Handy in the film. In the book, Hilary had to move schools because she was accused of pushing Amy down the stairs and of stalking her. It would have been good to include Hilary as another example of Amy’s work in the film, to show that it wasn’t only males that she ruined the lives of.
  • In the film, Amy’s ex-boyfriend says that Amy dropped the charges of rape against him. In the book, he has to register as a sex offender.
  • The film also doesn’t include a story about how Amy plotted, for a year, to get a truck driver fired for cutting her off in a traffic jam.
  • The film also doesn’t include Desi’s mother, who is certain Desi wasn’t involved in Amy’s murder, or Tanner Bolt’s wife, who helps to media-train Nick.
  • There is no mention of “The Hopes” in the film. In the book, Amy’s mum had a number of miscarriages who she all named Hope. Amy comments that she will never live up to them or her mother’s expectations.
  • The film doesn’t explain that Amy invented her fear of blood so that Nick wouldn’t believe that she had the ability to frame him. In the book, she spends years pretending she doesn’t like blood, just to be ready for this moment.
  • The film doesn’t detail Nick’s “box of hate”, which includes secret papers: their prenup, the letter from the fertility clinic – anything that he wanted to hide from the police.
  • The film doesn’t explain Nick’s break-up with Andie. In the book, Bolt persuades him to do so, and she reacts by biting him on the cheek.
  • There’s a scene in the book where, whilst hiding out, Amy helps Jeff catch catfish to sell on the black market.
  • Desi is a lot more stalker-ish in the book. In the film, it doesn’t come across that he has made his house with Amy in mind, using her favourite colours and having her favourite flowers in vases.
  • In the book, Amy kills Desi with a butcher’s knife, and sedates him with a sleeping pill martini.
  • At the end of the book, Amy has a backup plan to prevent Nick from going to the place. In her diary, she writes about Nick poisoning her with Anti-freeze. From this, she has saved her some of her vomit and has hidden it in the freezer, saving it to frame Nick if he doesn’t co-operate.
  • At the end of the book, Nick and Amy are both writing separate memoirs. Nick is secretly writing his version of events to reveal the truth to the public. In the film, Nick is planning to out Amy live on air during their interview with Ellen Abbott. In both cases, Amy prevents Nick from revealing the truth by telling him that she is pregnant. In the film, they publicly announce this, but they do not hold an interview in the book.
  • At the end of the book, Amy is a day away from her due date but, in the film, Amy has only just confirmed that she is pregnant.

Overall Verdict:

Whilst there is a huge list of changes to the film from the book, above, the Gone Girl adaptation includes most of the important scenes and details from the novel. The novel is certainly more in-depth, which is why I would recommend that you read it before watching the film, but it all depends on whether you want to read the twists in the book or see them unravel on-screen first. Either way, Gone Girl has an ending that you will want to stick around for, and they are both five-star pieces of work in my eyes.

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