Here’s a bold claim for you – Gone Girl is one of the two best film adaptations of a book I have ever seen. The other is The Godfather. That’s how good I think David Fincher’s film of Gillian Flynn’s hit novel is.
Partially, that’s because Flynn herself wrote the screenplay, which remains as taut, twisted and terrifying as the book (more on the book later). And partly it’s because everything about the film, from the acting to the settings to the music, are utterly en pointe while being unsettling at the same time.
Ben Affleck is a revelation as Nick Dunne, whose wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) goes missing on their fifth anniversary. Faced with no body but a whole heap of evidence, Nick soon finds himself going from pitied husband to perceived murderer, especially once Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) finds Amy’s diary, which shows a woman in fear of her husband. Every action Nick takes, every word he says, and every look he gives are put under a microscope and Nick comes out of it looking like bacterium. This is the best I’ve ever seen Affleck (Gigli what?), who creates a Nick who is more pitiable than he is unlikeable.
And Pike, wow. From the moment she appears onscreen – an opening shot of her guileless, perfect face, huge eyes staring straight at you – she’s utterly captivating. As Nick falls in love with her, so do we. There is something just perfect about Amy, who lives up to the Amazing Amy moniker from the books her mother and father created. To say anymore would be a spoiler for those who know nothing about the plot, but goodness, someone give Pike a shiny statuette of some sort.
And now to the book. Flynn’s Gone Girl has a narrative structure that is split between the present and the past, and the film sticks to that and it works. For the present, we have Nick and a host of other characters, for the past we have Amy and her diary entries. Amy’s diary entries could have been awkward translated into the screen, but instead they work as a seamless bridge into learning about the couple’s past, and the intimate insight the diary entries offer leaves you feeling distinctly uneasy.
In fact, everything about Gone Girl makes you feel slightly uneasy. In the present, Amy and Nick’s house is too perfect and devoid of all feeling, and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score underlines the spookiness in some of the films most important scenes. Fincher’s direction is spot on – the distance shots reflect the slightly off nature of the whole plot, the beats of silence heighten tension, the violence is, well, violent yet restrained.
Gone Girl is very, very faithful to the book. Of course things had to be changed and some aspects left out, but what I loved best about the book is right there on the screen, as is the stuff that made me frustrated (yet made me love the book all the more). Book lovers will be stunned at how accurate the film is, those who haven’t read the book will want to do so afterwards.
Some general observations:
–Gone Girl is funny. The comic timing of every one of the actors is spot on, and even in the midst of the darkest scenes there were lines and facial expressions that had the audience I saw the film with laughing out loud. Proper belly laughs.
-This is not a film for the squeamish. There was one moment that reminded me of THAT scene in Stephen King’s Misery, and I had to cover my eyes, and while I made it through the most gruesome scene in the film just fine, my neighbour had her head down and eyes shut in order to survive.
–Gone Girl‘s supporting cast is brilliant. Pike and Affleck are the stars, but Neil Patrick Harris as Amy’s creepy ex is good at making the audience uncomfortable without saying a word; Tyler Perry’s flashy lawyer Tanner Bolt adds a sense of glamour and likeability to the film (and provides the biggest laugh for the most honest observation of the film); Carrie Coon as Nick’s sister Margo is loyal and lovely and oh so tragic; and Dickens’ detective is just awesome and no nonsense.
-Ben Affleck is huge in this film. Apparently he was in the midst of training for his role as Batman while this was being filmed, and it shows. His shoulders are distracting, but his sheer size really works for this role.
I could go on and on, but I’ll end with this. My viewing of Gone Girl was informed by the book, and I wasn’t disappointed for even a second – this is the best film I’ve seen this year and I know when I reread the book I’ll picture Affleck and Pike in the lead roles, because they’re perfect. But I do envy anyone who is going in to Gone Girl with no knowledge of how it is all supposed to pan out – to see it without expectations and be blown away regardless would be a treat.