From Page to Screen: Gone Girl (2014)

Because of how closely tied both the book and movie are, and because I just found it easier to combine my reviews of both formats, I decided to make this From Page to Screen post different from previous ones by having only two sections: a single review, and then a comparison/contrast section.

One thing I want to note: there will be SPOILERS throughout for both the book and film. You have been warned! 🙂


From Page to Screen Header

Book/Movie Reviews

You lose some of the suspense, however well created or intentioned to be, when you know the ending of a story.

I went into Gone Girl (2014) having already read the book, yet still highly anticipating watching what I had read unravel on screen. I held onto the promise that director David Fincher, actor Ben Affleck, and book author and screenwriter Gillian Flynn lead us all to believe: the movie’s ending would be different than the book’s.

And here’s the biggest spoiler I can write in this post: the difference was so little, the plot still kept all the same major points, that the simple “adjustments” made to the film were overshadowed by the blatant reminder that readers of Flynn’s thriller were watching exactly what we were suspecting to not witness: the same horrible ending that, while it works as a surprise factor, did not benefit the film, or work as well as Fincher or Flynn probably intended.

For those still interested in why I think this, let me break it down for you:

Those who didn’t read the book are going to be asking varying renditions of this question after they watch the ending: Why would Nick stay with this crazy psychopath even if she’s pregnant? 

That question leads to more questions: How do we know she isn’t just making up her pregnancy? Why does Nick not try harder with Boney to prove Amy’s guilt?

No, Nick pastes on his fakest smile, nods, and later proclaims to his twin that he’s going along with it to save the child from his horrible mother. Honorable? Yes. Enough reason to not fight it, research it, try desperately to get out of it, yet somehow help the child in the process? No, and not even close.

This is where the book and movie separates, and while we realize that we aren’t interested in seeing a replica of the book on screen (This is a movie, after all; Entertain us, Mr. Fincher!), that if they’re going to keep a strikingly similar ending to a book, then they needed solid material throughout the film to support that ending, even if they wanted to change parts or leave out characters here and there.

Here are the two major reasons that the ending works well in the book, but not in the film:

  1. The book presents a detailed enough background on Nick, his past home life, and his drunk, cheating father who is known to regularly debase women (especially Nick’s mom) that Nick is faced with an enigma as he grows up: he doesn’t want to become his father, even though he occasionally recognizes little parts of his father in himself. This is critical to the plot because Nick doesn’t want to be his father; he wants to be a good husband (well, so we think?), but even more importantly, he wants to be a good father who wouldn’t abandon his child. This reason significantly alters Nick’s reasoning for staying with a psychopath: his fear of becoming his father outweighs his fear of his murderous, psychotic wife carrying his child.
  2. While it is complicated and somewhat understandably left out of the movie version, the second reason has more to do with why Nick didn’t question the pregnancy. Fincher dropped only one hint in the entire 2 1/2 hour film’s runtime as to why Nick didn’t question Amy when she presented him with the positive pregnancy test. It happened in the middle of the film when Nick and Margo were fighting, and out of the blue, Nick declares that he was the one who wanted children, and that he wanted them so much, he even went to a fertility clinic. What Fincher and Flynn leave out in the film version is that Amy was so meticulous in her scheming, that she stopped by the clinic, picked up Nick’s sperm, and kept it frozen in case she ever needed it to blackmail him. Of course, she does blackmail him at the end of both the book and film to stay with her because she is pregnant – and the child is most definitely his – and he’s fully aware that she had taken his frozen sperm and impregnated herself. But leaving this vital detail out of the film, yet expecting viewers not to wonder why Nick hasn’t questioned Amy more than “there needs to be a paternity test!” is just odd.

Alas, I’ll end my rant with this: I consider this is a major boo-boo in the film, despite how much I enjoyed it and thought it honored the source material while still making it it’s own. But let me get on with what I did enjoy now.

The casting, from what I’ve mentioned in multiple lead-up posts, was not only a sure thing to attract fans of the book, but also a more wide stream audience. After Affleck’s multiple successful directing credits, especially the most recent Academy Award winning-film Argo (2012), Gone Girl was certainly expecting to attract an audience. Attach the incredibly talented directing name “David Fincher” to most of the ads, and you have a double whammy for getting butts into theater seats. What paid off, however, was not just attracting theater goers, but stellar casting that fit the material as well as anyone could have hoped for.

Neil Patrick Harris, however, felt underused. Despite his creepy, extreme nature that made him a convincing Desi, he just didn’t have enough scenes (which just happens when you’re adapting a book to film) to make us wonder why Amy brutally killed him the way she did. Maybe Amy is just an insane murderer? Perhaps, and no one would be crazy for thinking that. The book, however, gives us more understanding as to why she lashed out: she was feeling trapped and controlled and unable to make decisions for herself, so she took matters into her own hands.

Tyler Perry acted as the comic relief of the film, with some one-liners that were only too true that you knew you were laughing at his sheer honesty instead of a silly joke. The stand-out performance for me came from actress Carrie Coon, who played Nick’s twin sister, Margo. She looked enough like Affleck that someone would have believed they were twins. Her chemistry with Affleck felt genuine, and she felt like one of the few characters you wanted to root for. She acted as Nick’s conscious, yet she stayed completely dedicated to her brother, even as his hidden sins came to light.

Critic Michael Phillips for The Chicago Tribune mentions that Fincher uses a lot of mustard lighting throughout the film, creating a pallet that he didn’t care for. I thought the lighting worked well and aided the suspense of the film. My biggest complaint deals with the raved-about score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. While my seating location in the theater might have had something to do with this, during the opening scene, I was fighting to hear any dialogue over the overpowering and sometimes nonessential score. There were moments when it created or built the suspense, supported the scenes, and gave us a theme when certain characters were on screen. But sometimes it felt completely excessive, taking away from a scene rather than subtly reinforcing it. I was much more impressed with their score for The Social Network (2010).

Overall, I was a big fan of both the book and the movie. Gillian Flynn was successful as both the author and screenwriter for the two formats, bringing her book to life on film in an eerily similar way. Neither are for the faint of heart, both packed with pulpy fiction, dramatic dialogue, and (just in the movie) a murder scene most would die . . . to not see ever again.

I give the book Gone Girl 

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ON PAGE
.

And I give the movie Gone Girl 

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and 1/2 ON SCREEN.


Compare/Contrast Gone Girl‘s Book and Film

Which did you hear of first, the book or the film? I heard about the movie first (when do I not?). I read the book right after I saw the trailer, and that prompted my excitement to see it on screen.

What was your favorite and least favorite parts of the book?

  • Favorite – My favorite part of the book was how Flynn put it together. I loved that one chapter was from Nick’s perspective, and the next was a diary entry from Amy. Getting multiple perspective made it more interesting and suspenseful. The pace was fast, but not rushed.
  • Least favorite – I just didn’t care for the ending, even given it’s surprising nature and “what the heck?” reaction. I’m a bigger fan of books where there’s justice, with evil losing and good winning. And while I appreciate flawed characters in a book, I felt like the two main characters fell short of being even a little redeemable. At times the language was over-the-top and unnecessary.

Do you think it was inspired by any other books? According to an interview Flynn had with The Guardian, she claimed the novel Mystic River to have inspired her to include a mystery in her book.

What was your favorite and least favorite parts of the movie?

  • Favorite – I couldn’t have imagined a different casting holding down this movie. Ben Affleck knows exactly how to play both the guilty and innocent sides of Nick Dunne, and you both abhor and like him. It’s a great film to showcase actors.
  • Least favorite – Without repeating myself too much, I’ll just say the score and the poor choice (in my opinion) of how they wrote the ending.

Do you think the movie was inspired by any other movies? I imagine any mysteries, especially murder mysteries, inspired the plot. David Fincher continues to grow as a director with his unique style of shooting scenes and guiding actors. I could see his latest movies such as The Social Network and his remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) inspiring his work.

Will the book, movie, or both forms, stand the test of time? That’s a tricky question, because both have their setbacks. Ultimately, I think the book will just because (of course) it came first. The film is memorable, yes, particularly due to stellar performances, but I think the book has a slight edge over the film.


It’s your turn now. Have you seen Gone Girl? If not, do you plan to see it? What do you think of the film compared to the book? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

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27 thoughts on “From Page to Screen: Gone Girl (2014)

  1. Hi Kris! This is an excellent breakdown between the film and the novel and I can see why you’re not keen on some points here, esp about the whole pregnancy thing and Amy getting away w/ it all. It seems WAY too easy. I also had issues w/ the score earlier on when Amy & Nick first met, the music was too overpowering. Aside from that, I enjoyed the ride, it’s definitely more entertaining than I ever thought it’d be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Ruth! Thanks . . . I’m sure I was a bit difficult on it, but I felt like they let it slip too easily. It’s also nice to know I wasn’t the only one who felt like it was hard to hear with the overpowering score at times. Yes, the movie is certainly entertaining – I enjoyed it despite my quips! 🙂

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  2. Hmm. . .interesting read! I love hearing different reactions to big titles. For me everything worked. Almost to perfection. I still have this thing about David Fincher’s run times always bordering on the excessive (2.5 hrs is a lot of time to sit and listen to people talk), but here in Gone Girl the time actually just flew by. The characters were just so. . .amazingly conceived, but then again that’s my perception of them having not read the book yet.

    With me not having read the book, I think the ending was powerful for me. Without ruining anything, I felt it was the most logical place to end it since by this point we were looking at a husband and wife trying to essentially one-up one another in terms of who is going to have the ultimate control. And it was a guessing game for me all the way til the bitter end. Loved it. It may be getting a perfect score over at DSB. 😉

    But again, like I said, when someone has something different to say about a movie I’m all ears. Always love it when a healthy discussion takes place. Not everyone can love the same movie. (Okay, well with the exception of The Princess Bride. 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I can understand you feeling like his movies are long. Zodiac is always the first to come to my mind! Wow, perfect score? Can’t wait to read your review, Tom! And don’t get me wrong – there were many things I enjoyed and appreciated in the film. It’s certainly a good one, and I imagine it will be nominated for several awards (and it rightly should!). I just felt like a few things could have been better (that’s what I get for reading the book first, ha!). And I imagine there are several films you and I both probably love – including The Princess Bride 🙂

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  3. You have a great point. The ending of the book demolishes the ending of the film. I haven’t even read the book…but I have done my research to learn about the significant changes that have been made. The transition for the ending from the book to film did not go as smoothly as it could have!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey there! Thanks!! That’s cool that you’ve researched it. The movie was good, and it wasn’t so much that I HATED the ending or thought it was bad as much as I thought it could have been better . . . almost like it felt mediocre because of a few poor choices (IMO). Regardless, I’m happy to hear those who didn’t read the book really enjoyed the film. Thanks for your thoughts!

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  4. Interesting analysis Kristen. The conclusion to the movie did feel a tad unrealistic, and slightly rushed, but I felt it was a compelling place to end and, for me, it didn’t detract from the film’s overall power. Having not read the book I managed to pick up on Amy’s deception with the pregnancy due to the earlier scene you mentioned but it would have been good to see more scenes with Nick’s dad to elaborate further on their relationship. For me this is one of the best films of the year – it’s so much more than its plot twists and I’ll definitely revisit it again in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I couldn’t agree more that the ending had a somewhat unrealistic and rushed feel; however, while the book’s ending did seem somewhat unrealistic as well, it didn’t feel rushed like the movie did. But then again, what can you do when you’re adapting? Understandably so, it’s going to be a little more rushed.

      I imagine you’re not the only one who picked up on Amy’s deception with the pregnancy, although I personally thought they could have made more than one mention of it, almost like it felt like they were erring on the side of “let’s be subtle and then BOOM! surprise positive pregnancy test” vs. a couple of other hints dropped throughout (similarly to the book) that clued readers in a little more while still sneaking up on us at the end.

      Yeah, I almost think the film probably couldn’t have left Nick’s dad out of it, just because we see him only one time, and we never really get much of a background on his character and how deeply he affects Nick.

      I would certainly agree that it’s one of the best films of the year thus far, and I imagine it will require multiple revisits from many films buffs, this one included ;-).

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  5. Very interesting read here. I scanned your comparisons of the ending in the book and film, because I really want to give the book a read soon. But I too enjoyed the mustard pallet of the film, and also thought that the score, while good, wasn’t as accomplished as The Social Network for TGWTDT. And even though I liked Gone Girl more than you, I really appreciated this breakdown.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww, thanks, Alex! I appreciate that. I certainly enjoyed the film, but reading prior (and listening to interviews prior as well) just affected my feelings after seeing the film. Regardless, I thought it was a solid film from Fincher. Thanks for your kind thoughts! I’m glad you think the same of the score too.

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  6. Hi Kristin, great post! Saw this one on the weeknd and loved it! I actually didn’t mind the ending (though still prefer the book version just beacuse it’s more detailed). Rosamund was amazing and I was sooooo tense during the whole film, even though I knew everything that was going to happen, haha! I can only imagine just how suspenseful it might’ve been for people who didn’t read the book.

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  7. So, I’ve finally seen it now.

    On the whole, I enjoyed the film and thought it was pretty good although I feel the 2nd half was much better than the 1st and the book was, of course, better than the movie, overall.

    Regarding the ending, I too was disappointed as, if I remember correctly, in the book, Nick kind of plans “revenge” on Amy by letting her know that she has to live with all she’s done and that is a punishment in and of itself. In the movie, Nick just says, “Ah, I’m getting a kid. Let’s stay together.” The end!

    I mean, I do understand from Nick’s perspective. If he ever left her, NOBODY would ever like him again! The whole society and media would be on his back and give him a life worse than what living with Amy would’ve been like.

    And also, Amy Dunne is the most terrifying and hated character to me in film, ever!!! I’d never want to meet a woman like her, lol!

    Ok, so fave part of the movie: umm…I dunno about “favorite”, but Rosamund Pike played the psychotic Amy Dunne really well…even though we could all tell that she was faking her American accent, lol.

    Least fave part of the movie: umm…the ending.

    Fave part of book: I love the different, alternating perspectives as well as the part where we find out Amy’s true story.

    Least fave part of book: Umm…not sure.

    When I read books, I usually cast actors/actresses in my mind and let the book play as a movie in my mind. So when I was reading ‘Gone Girl’, I had Nick Dunne played by a Matt Damon/Mark Wahlberg-type character (I always mix those two up) and Amy Dunne played by Olivia Wilde.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, thanks for the long, thoughtful comment, Mark! Love getting your thoughts. I agree that the second part of the film was better than the first. It felt like it was taking the movie a while to get going (for me). Then again, I’m impatient ;).

      Wow, good point about the end of the book – he really gets her with his biting words right at the very end. I forgot about that difference. It’s such a good sharp ending – I’m really surprised Flynn and Fincher left that out of the film!

      Lol, Pike was great in her role. I didn’t notice her accent being as obvious, but I’m guessing it’s well known that she’s a Brit.

      Hmm . . . what did you think of Ben Affleck as Nick then? Olivia Wilde would have made a great Amy Dunne too! Nice casting!

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        • Really? Wow, yeah, I could totally have seen her in that role. But I was happy with how Pike did.

          I was actually a big fan of Affleck’s performance in it. He seemed like the type who could play a very unlikable character, lol!

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  8. Thank you for such the kind words on my blog! I really appreciate it! (I don’t mean for this comment to be a novel – sorry!)
    I agree scenes from the book were underused and miraculously despite the repetitive media speculation, the movie really does follow the novel – even if the script could’ve been better polished. Like the ending and the lack of Nick’s father. I personally would’ve like to have seen more of the moving debacle, Nick’s mom or Amy’s parents. Any little small scene that would’ve made Amy seem less like a psycho bitch and Nick the Hero would’ve been more satisfying. Neil Patrick Harris was creepy in some scenes, but I felt like scenes with multiple characters was somewhat wooden. I don’t know if it was a conscience choice by Fincher but it seemed like some actors didn’t know how to work off of each other. Interesting that you didn’t like the score because I felt it carried the first half of the movie. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, no prob! I actually welcome long comments because I love the discussion (and am usually not one for short comments – so feel free to write as long a comment as you desire!).

      That’s a great way to put it. The script definitely could have been polished, but I agree: the movie certainly follows the book.

      Yeah, I think the film might have benefited from including more scenes with Amy’s parents or even Desi, much less Nick’s mom, like you mentioned.

      It seemed like one of the goals of the film was to paint Amy as the ultimate villain, despite the fact that even though she probably is, that Nick isn’t worth rooting for either (although he didn’t deserve the horrible situation she put him in).

      Haha, yeah, the score wasn’t my favorite. It might have been where I was sitting in the theater, near the speakers, but I actually couldn’t hear any of the opening scene’s dialogue because of the score (and the three people with me echoed the same thing). So it just kind of took away from the experience from me (oh well, right?).

      Thanks for the great comment, Katy! Always enjoy chatting with a fellow reader/film watcher/writer 🙂

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