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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Month in Review: September 2014

September was not the biggest month at the movies for me, considering I made it to the theater only twice! (Yeah, that little.) However, I have had a lot of fun on All Eyes On Screen, so here’s the breakdown for the month:

Guest Posts

Trailer Breaks

  • Two Trailer Breaks made it into the month of September, one for upcoming movie You’re Not You (2014).
  • And the other break for the next Hunger Games installment, Mockingjay Part I (2014).

Blogathons

  • Possibly one of my favorite types of posts to participate in, I got to take part in a few blogathons this past month. I got to talk about some of my favorite guilty pleasure films in a blogathon hosted by Jenna and Allie over at their site Chick Flicks.
  • I also made my own version of a summer movie lessons that I file under blogathons, inspired by Ryan at The Matinee.
  • My most recent post, “You Call Yourself a Film Buff? Movies I Still Haven’t Seen I consider a blogathon since I was inspired by Mettel Ray’s version of the post, which you can find here. I’ve been offered several recommendations to add to the list, including Apocalypse Now (1979), The Red Shoes (1948), Solaris (1972), The 400 Blows (1959), Gone with the Wind (1939), 12 Angry Men (1957), and Amadeus (1984).

Reviews

  • I finally got around to reviewing What If (2014), a movie I caught the previous month at the theaters. I’d highly recommend it as it’s a great post-Harry Potter film for star Daniel Radcliffe, and I’d consider it the When Harry Met Sally (1989) for today’s generation.
  • This Is Where I Leave You (2014) was one of only two movies I caught at the theater in September, leaving a rather mediocre taste in my mouth despite some of the nice performances.
  • The latest From Page to Screen post also happened to be a guest post AND a review, this time on the YA adaptation The Maze Runner (2014), which while I found a little disappointing, still was fun enough I’d consider it a success.

Best Movie [I saw in theaters] This Month

The Maze Runner

It’s funny how it’s difficult to decide between only two movies I saw at the theater this month, primarily since they were both so mediocre, in my opinion. If I had to choose one, I’d go with The Maze Runner, even though I considered it only a hair better than This Is Where I Leave You.

Worst Movie [I saw in theaters] This Month

This Is Where I Leave You

Of course, This Is Where I Leave You isn’t a bad movie. It’s not a great movie, but it’s a pretty good movie with some nice moments. I’d definitely re-watch it if there was enough time between then and my latest viewing of it.

Looking Forward to October

I have to say, I’m far more excited for October movies than I was for September, since we’re starting to enter the next big movie push throughout the year. More Oscar-worthy films will probably be showing up closer to November, but it’s never to early to start with a few in October. Here’s what I’m hoping to catch in theaters, or plan to see when released on DVD, next month:

Left Behind (10/3)

I can’t help but be curious about this remake, since Tim LaHaye, author of the book series Left Behind, sued Cloud Ten Pictures since he felt like the Kirk Cameron version didn’t do his series justice. I’m just waiting for Cage to announce that he’s stealing the Declaration of Independence while Jordin Sparks breaks out into a gospel song. I’d love to take this movie seriously since I actually read and enjoyed the book, as well as the first film version, but this just looks sad to me.

The Judge (10/10)

Yes, the trailer looks convincingly good. And so does Robert Downy Jr. Can the man give a great performance outside of his Iron Man suit? I’m sure he can.

One Chance (10/10)

I noticed this movie in the winter of 2013, and I believe it got released in the UK, but I could be wrong. Anyways, this film got put on the back burner, and only until recently did I notice it’s getting a wide US release date. James Corden was in this year’s lovely Begin Again, which was also about music. I’m not sure if it’s the next Billy Elliot (2000), but I’m curious enough to go to the theater and find out.

Men, Women & Children (10/17)

I caught wind of this movie when I found out it was showing at TCFF, athough I unfortunately will not be attending this year. However, the cast looks very interesting, including both Jennifer Garner and Adam Sandler. I like the idea behind this movie, and I think it could be very good.

Laggies (10/24)

I saw a preview of Laggies before I saw Begin Again, another movie that stars Kiera Knightly. Chloe Grace Moretz also stars in this, another film after If I Stay. Both ladies seem to be making a scene in this year’s offerings, and I’m looking forward to seeing both on screen together.

Horns (10/31)

Daniel Radcliffe is 95% of the appeal of this movie. I loved him in Harry Potter and his post-HP films thus far. He was charming in What If, and I imagine he might not be quite so sweet in Horns. The movie appears to be a darker, similar film to Hellboy (2004), but I could be totally off. It’s fitting that it’s getting a Halloween release date.

Most Anticipated Film of October

I couldn’t close out this section by leaving out the movie I anticipate most not only for the month, but it also makes my top list of anticipated films for the year 2014!

Gone Girl (10/3)

Will David Fincher’s latest film live up to Gillian Flynn’s bestseller? I hope so. Ben Affleck is back on screen again, and after reading the book, I’m convinced he’s Nick Dunne in the flesh. I’ve already purchased my tickets for this coming Saturday, and I’m already prepping my next From Page to Screen review. I think Gone Girl is likely to create some Oscar buzz after this weekend.

It’s your turn now. What were the best movies you saw this month? What movies are you anticipating most next month? Please join the conversation below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

Oscar Chatter with Matt and Kristin: Best of Writing, Cinematography, and Art

Kristin: I’m still fighting off this unnerved frustration of seeing 50/50‘s Will Reiser being denied a nomination, but here’s what I think considering the nominees: It’s a tough call in this category, because most of the contenders are strong. I have not seen A Separation, so I cannot comment on Asghar Farhadi’s script, but I was very fond of the little Sundance film Margin Call that quietly slipped itself into the running. J. C. Chandor’s script is smart, well-thought out, and brought down to the level of those who don’t speak financial jargon. On the other hand, there’s Woody Allen’s writing for Midnight in Paris, which is witty and light-hearted, much like the film. I would sign off Kristen Wiig and Mumolo for Bridesmaids, although it’s neat to see the a comedy among the dramas in the writing department. Comedy rarely receives credit for how difficult it is to act, much less to write for actors. That leaves Michel Hazanvicius’s original screenplay for The Artist, which could also do something here. My guess is that Allen or Hazanvicius will win the trophy, although Allen certainly won’t be appearing at the ceremony as usual.

MattHow I wish I would have had the pleasure of seeing A Separation; it only recently arrived to a theater near Madison. My favorite for this category is Midnight in Paris; I love the way Allen took larger than life characters and brought them to life. As Gil met these famous artists of the past, I felt I was meeting them too. And who among us hasn’t met an annoying pseudo-intellectual like Paul? Allen writes great characters. I understand he had a lot of historical material to draw upon, but he wrote them in a way in which I understood some of them for the first time.

As far as The Artist is concerned, I felt this was a bit of an interesting nomination for a film that included such a small amount of dialogue. The screenplay is only forty-two pages long and contains mostly directorial notes. They say the screenplay should serve as the blueprint for a film; Hazanavicius’ script takes that approach quite literally. To me, the magic of The Artist lies in the visuals, the acting, the staging, and, quite ironically, the sound. The screenplay seems inconsequential.

Kristin: I’ve seen all of the nominated except for John Logan’s screenplay for Hugo. Although coming up with something wholly original means writers have to start from scratch, I consider the Best Adapted Screenplay category more difficult for two reasons: first, there is a far heavier competition in this category, because more films are based off books, comics, historical events, etc., today; second, there are grievances to deal with considering the author, family involved, and staying true to the original story while still making it workable for film format.

Having read most of Michael Lewis’s Moneyball, I hold a special appreciation for writers Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin as well as Stan Chervin for transforming a baseball statistics book into a an interesting sports story for sports fans and nonfans alike. I felt like parts of Ides of March were cliche, and its script not quite as smart as some of the other competition, such as The Descendants. I believe that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a triumph in converting from book to film at large, possibly could have been brought to an even higher level by making it more understandable for the masses.

MattFirst of all, The Ides of March seems to be a very strange choice for this category. While enjoyable, I didn’t find it anything out of the ordinary. Characters say their lines which move the plot along; in short, there is a lot of plot, but little story. As far as Hugo is concerned, I have not read the book, but I found the film to be a fabulous, mythic retelling of reality.

I have to agree with Kristin about Moneyball; it does take something special to make a movie about sport’s statistics exciting, especially when that sport is one as dull as baseball. (I probably just lost everyone [don’t judge]; I LOVE football.) Moneyball‘s script is a great example of the hard work it takes to bring a film to the screen. The writing of a film is no less a collaborative effort than the actually production of that film. With great characters and fantastic dialogue, Moneyball is my choice for this category.

Kristin: There isn’t a doubt in my mind that the most deserving of the nominated is Emmanuel Lubezki for his gorgeous and harrowing work in The Tree of Life.

Matt: It took cinematographer Wally Pfister four Oscar nominations before finally snatching the award for Inception. Emmanuel Lubezki is on his fifth nomination. Those previous nominations include such films as The New World and my personal favorite of his work, Children of Men. Lubezki’s floating camera in The Tree of Life gives a real immediacy and intimacy to the events we witness. The real and surreal are equally delivered with breathtaking beauty. Lubezki needs to win the award for this category.  

The Artist‘s cinematography does what it must do in order for the film to work, in that it emulates what a film of the late 1920s would look like. I appreciated the fact that it does not rely on editing to portray the information necessary to the scene. Guillaume Schiffman packs a lot into the frame, something film critic Jim Emerson explains in greater detail here.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is, without a doubt, beautifully shot. Jeff Cronenweth, like his father, is a good cinematographer. It is difficult, however, to judge how much of his work rests on his own talent and how much is due to frequent collaborator David Fincher. You know a Fincher picture by its visuals from the first shot onward, even though he has used several different DPs throughout his career. For a Fincher picture, the DP doesn’t seem to matter as long as he is good. As for Cronenweth, he shouldn’t despair; Roger Deakins has been nominated nine times without a single win.

Kristin: Each of the nominated films in this category had incredible sets. To pick just one and say that it’s been than the rest is proving difficult for me to do, but I will say that Midnight in Paris served as a favorite of mine in this category because the locations of where it was filmed made me feel like I got to take a trip to Paris with Owen Wilson. Every scene held some kind of beauty and intrigue, taking Wilson to places he read about in books or learned about in a class. My vote is for Midnight in Paris.

Matt: Midnight in Paris really immerses you in the world of 1920s Paris. Nothing about any of the sets felt contrived. The art direction sucked me into that world, and like Gil, I was pretty depressed when I had to leave that world and come back to the 21st century. In Hugo, I especially enjoyed the recreation of Melies’ sets for the film. The automoton was pretty fabulous as well. The Artist had an interesting challenge in that they had to recreate several 1920s film sets. I would be okay with Harry Potter getting some recognition in this category; however, I’d have to go with Kristin on this one.

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Matthew Roth is an aspiring filmmaker from the Madison, WI area. While his passion is narrative film, he currently shoots and edits promotional and event videos at Inframe. In his free time, Matt enjoys researching and discussing film over a cup of coffee or meeting up with fellow film junkies through Craigslist. Be sure to check out his most recent short film Memoria.

Judy Greer: Once a Supporting Actress, Always a Supporting Actress?

After a one-day break from being sick, I’m back (and still sick), but happy to post nonetheless. Today’s post is one I have been thinking about for ages, yet never took the time until now to starting writing about. And yes, of all the posts to be musing about, it is all about Judy Greer, one of today’s biggest supporting actresses.

Have you seen enough movies with a single person in them, that you wonder if that person is capable of playing any other role? Actors that come to my mind are Jennifer Anniston, Mark Ruffalo, or Jason Statham. But all for different reasons. Anniston has always played the same boring, depthless characters on screen. And then this year she came out with Horrible Bosses and started to change what everyone previously thought of her. The girl CAN be funny since Friends.

But take Mark Ruffalo–he’s one of my favorite actors, btw–he’s always not in the spotlight, and no, The Brothers Bloom or Zodiac don’t count. Why? Because the former was unsuccessful and the latter didn’t put Ruffalo to the forefront of your mind. Zodiac is largely credited for its director, David Fincher, similar to the situation of Inception‘s credit going to Christopher Nolan and not Leonardo DiCaprio. Ruffalo has played THE supporting role in the majority of his films. Despite his impressive resume including films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Shutter Island (he barely even makes an appearance in any of the trailers, but holds the second highest amount of screen time to Leo DiCaprio), The Kids Are All Right (he got his first supporting actor nom from this, but wasn’t considered anything special in it), and Collateral, he never even made first billings in mediocre rom coms he starred in, such as Just Like Heaven, 13 Going on 30, and Rumor Has It.

And as for Jason Statham? Well, when was the last time he played any other role that wasn’t hardcore, action superhero, etc. Even if Statham was playing the bad guy, like in Cellular, the “funny” guy in The Italian Job, or the same character he’s played in every other role, like in The Transporter (think 1, 2, and if there’s a third, then yes, that one too!), he’s literally the same dude in every movie.

Which brings me back to Judy Greer. To me, Greer sums up the pigeon-holed, actor stuck-in-a-rut situation that many actors find themselves in today. Perhaps she prefers playing supporting roles because that’s where her strength lies. Some actors were born to be character actors. After all, she’s played every version of the best friend: biatch in 13 Going on 30, slut in 27 Dresses, the indie, quirky person in Love Happens, and the worry wort in The Wedding Planner. She was even in last year’s Love and Other Drugs.

And then she played the crazy freak-out character in The Village, the overdramatic sister in Elizabethtown, the secretary who almost committed suicide in What Women Want (remember that one?), or her most recent role, the woman who got cheated on in The Descendants.

And that’s just the tipping point when it comes to Judy Greer’s career. She’s made a ton of guest appearances on practically every TV show, as well as starred (along with 3 other B and C listers) in the short-lived comedy series Mad Love, which ended up getting canceled before a whole season could air.

Let’s face it–Judy Greer has done it all, but she’s never been the leading lady. Is she that good of a character actor, that she would never fit the bill for a leading role, or has she been shoved into the “supporting actress only” corner and never found someone to take her for more than that just that . . . a supporting actress?