Double Feature

January 2015 - Fun fact: I rarely read a book in hardcover. Which is why I had to wait until this past spring to read Gone Girl, a book that A LOT of people did read in hardcover. Fortunately, it came out in paperback in time for me to read it before the movie hit theaters in the fall. It's no coincidence that the current paperback edition features the star of the movie on the cover. Anyway, here are my thoughts about Gone Girl in print and on film.

In her third novel, author Gillian Flynn takes her signature style of shifting viewpoints to a new level as she spins the tale of a couple whose marriage goes horribly awry. The book tells the story in alternating entries from Amy, the wife, and Nick, the husband. The first entry is from Nick and takes place on their fifth wedding anniversary, which also happens to be the day that Amy disappears. Subsequent entries from Nick move forward in time as investigators come to believe that Amy is dead and that Nick killed her.

Amy's entries start several years earlier and skip ahead in chunks of time. They provide an alternate view of significant events which include the couple moving back to Nick's hometown in Missouri. He uses the last of Amy's savings to buy the local bar. Eventually, the narratives meet on roughly the same timeline, providing more insight into two families, a marriage, and a mind that's as twisted as any you're ever likely to encounter.

Gone Girl is typical Flynn in terms of the economically depressed Midwest landscape that also surfaced in her earlier books, Sharp Objects and Dark Places. Where this book departs from those efforts is in its structure. In my opinion, Flynn takes a big risk with the way she handles a major character. But, if Flynn doesn't do what she does with this character at the outset, then the jarring shift in viewpoint that happens about halfway through the book would lose its element of shock and surprise.

Following the wild success of the novel, Flynn wrote the screenplay for director David Fincher's R-rated movie version. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike play the unhappy couple. The supporting cast includes Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens and David Clennon. And, it's always nice to see Sela Ward, even if her role is very brief.

Overall review: Ehhh, it was OK - if you've read the book; Liked it - if you haven't. Pike is appropriately cold and calculating as Amy; Affleck's Nick has the look of a man who understands what's happening to him but who doesn't know how to stop it. Flynn's script largely follows the plot of the book, but what doesn't come through is the Midwestern rot that permeates her novels. The books use the economically depressed suburbs to add to the suspenseful atmosphere. The movie has snippets of that, but not enough to really have an impact. It's up to the characters to supply all the emotion, and there's not really enough of that, either.