WRITTEN BY ARSH VOHRA
Symposia : 4.8/10
Goodreads : 4.1/5
Symposia : 7.5/10
IMDb : 8.7/10
Metacritic : 79%
Rotten tomatoes : 87%
‘Gone Girl’ is a domestic and psychological thriller novel which was published in 2012 by Gillian Flynn. It soon became a massive success, peaking the NYT Bestseller’s list for weeks on end. In the year 2014, it was adapted into a film, directed by the infamous David Fincher. The film starred Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike (who picked up an Oscar nod for her performance) in their respective leading roles as Nick and Amy Dunne. The basic premise of this story is that on Nick and Amy’s 5th wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne mysteriously disappears. Nick has to deal with the sudden media attention, the cops, his and Amy’s family etc. during this turbulent time in his life and also solve the case of his missing wife. Who, why, how; and a lot more questions arise as the story unfolds. As this is a combined review of both the book and the film, I’m going to break down how the story is translated on screen, the portrayal of characters, the writing and a lot more.
First, let’s discuss the novel. The story is told from both the protagonists’ perspectives. We get Amy’s side of the story via a series of letters which span all the way from her first meeting Nick to the day of her disappearance whereas Nick’s story begins on the day of Amy’s disappearance and him dealing with the aftermath of this unexpected event. Both the characters’ perspectives help heighten the sense of suspense and leave it up to the reader’s discretion on whose side they’re on. As both of these characters are deeply flawed, getting to see their contradictory account of events in their married life is extremely interesting. I commend Flynn for the brilliant character work and her ability to display mentally unstable characters in an effective manner. That being said, Flynn’s writing style was below average at best. The writing did not hold any particular literary merit, and at times pulled me out of the story because of its bleakness.
As ‘Gone Girl’ is a thriller, the big question is whether the plot twists were shocking and made my jaw drop. The answer is a resounding no. When I read the big reveal, I was unfazed and was hoping that the build-up would lead to some Earth-shattering revelation. However, all I was left with was a disappointing twist which did not work for me. Unfortunately, disappointment is what I felt at the ending as well. The plot was meandering, making for an immensely underwhelming read. In an interview with Flynn, she mentioned that she did not have an ending when she started writing the novel, and that shows. The conclusion felt as if it was a cop-out; as if Flynn had written herself into a deep hole and she was unable to make her way out. She opted to use a plot device which, I have heard some people say, is fitting for the characters and themes explored in the novel, but I felt that it was a colossal disappointment.
On the other hand, the film is a major improvement on the novel. Fincher is one of the best directors of our time and while this might not be his most impressive work, it is still a masterful example of a well-executed thriller. The performances were great but were not the highlight of this film. Apart from a few outliers, most of the moments in the book translate brilliantly on screen. The script for this film was also written by Flynn so my critique on her writing style still stands true for the adaptation. While the dialogue was weak, the actors did their best with the mediocre script they were handed. I was concerned about how they would be able to capture the essence of the book in this adaptation because it has a lot of internal dialogue which is incredibly tough to mimic in audio-visual media. I was proven wrong by David Fincher and I was incredibly pleased to see compact and well-edited montage sequences that were presented impeccably. As I was not the biggest fan of the plot and the twists in the novel, it’s no surprise that I was not a big fan of the film’s structure. Nonetheless, it is still a faithful adaptation to the novel. So if you enjoyed the book, Fincher’s adaptation won’t disappoint.
In conclusion, I would advocate for you to just watch the film because I truly believe that the story was told better through the film when compared to the book. Reading the novel will take 7 times longer than watching the movie. I can’t believe that I am saying this but this is a rare occasion where the film is better than the book.
Trigger Warnings: Brief nudity, self-harm, violence, language, implicit presentation of mental disorders