Gone Girl is a great movie. Actually, it’s probably one of my top twenty favorite movies. This isn’t because of any David Fincher fandom but because the story is so juicy and gross and beautiful: it is the kind of movie that makes you want to scream, punch, laugh, and love it. It’s a story so insane that you can’t help but zoom your eyes in on it, to try to figure out what the fuck you just experienced.
To do a little research for a writing project I’m in the throes of, I wanted to read Gone Girl to see how Gillian Flynn structures her cat eat mouse, mouse eats cat, cat and mouse eat and hate fuck each other, etc. story. How true is the movie to the tale? Did it require a lot of research? How does dialogue work here? How does she organize so many different storytelling devices within the structure of diaries and not-diaries? I was curious about her craft.
Turns out, the book was fairly simplistic: it’s a fascinating call and response duel of inner monologues and supposed motivations. It’s an intellectual jousting and the most intense battle of the sexes ever crafted. It never goes how you want it to go but it can’t go any other way. Flynn demands bittersweetness because nothing is ever actually sweet. Justice is never served. Everything is fucked up. That is the moral of Gone Girl.
Dividing the book from the movie, there is obviously more detail in the book. From the Blue Book Boys to the role of “Hillary Handy” and “Able Andy,” Flynn is able to develop both Amy and Nick as more sympathetic and caring and ugly and fucked up people. You feel more emotion toward them. While Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck are terrific in the film, there is a missing compassion from the viewer: you are always at arms distance. The movie feels voyeuristic while the book feels intimately intimated. Flynn gets everything dirtier in that you can actually inspect the stains while the movie zooms in, keeping a barrier between you and what’s actually happening. This is simply a fault of the mediums, though.
A key flaw between the two—and an example of how full Flynn devises the world—is in how the death of Desi was handled, particularly in relationship to his mother. That entire subplot in addition to that of Hillary Handy and Nick’s book are necessary for seeing how fully formed the comeback, the assumed “Gotcha!” moment for Nick, is. Amy’s biting pregnancy is all the more shocking and frustrating because she was almost had. You feel like Amy bit you on the cheek.
This is also the source of my only complaint with Flynn, too: a heteronormative item like the upcoming birth of a child was enough to sway Nick to the light (or dark) side? Come on. That’s so boring. And patriarchal. Then again, that is probably the point.
Also, I listened to this book on tape and—Fuck.—the readers are god awful. It’s like a bad, bad, bad, bad, bad theatre class reading of a book. You want it to stop. But then they do accents. And then you really want them to stop. It makes me wish that I could get into producing books on tape because this was so overdone. Instead of you, as a reader, projecting meaning and imagining presentation of lines you get them literally interpreted for you, mostly in ways that take you out of the book. This is the failing of books on tape.
Gone Girl is fantastic, though. It’s a necessary study for wannabe writers and certainly comes from someone who has mastered the craft. The book is a triumph—but I wouldn’t read it again, whereas I’ve already seen the movie at least three times. What does that say about me, especially since I know the film is flawed? No idea.