Gone Girl the movie was a very different experience from Gone Girl the novel
Gillian Flynn’s novel dives deep down into the fears — both rational and irrational — that come with a significant romantic relationship. The primary fear, in short, is that the person on the other side of the bed could be someone entirely different from who you’ve come to love and know. Or, just as scary, that your significant other could turn into someone entirely different than he or she is today.
It’s a frightening thought, and it’s what drives the novel forward as the we parse character-revealing entries from Amy’s diary and keep tabs on Nick’s investigation. It is only through Flynn’s intricate weaving of the Amy-Nick relationship that we are lulled into a bubble of belief. We come to trust the Nick’s narration and Amy’s diary so much that their big reveals (spoiler: Amy’s faked death and Nick’s affair) are so surprising that they pop our belief bubble suddenly and viciously.
It is this moment of discovery, of figuring out that the narrators are not to be trusted, that makes the novel a complete thrill and makes Gone Girl the movie a letdown by comparison. Sure, the film still delivers most of the plot intact. It even gives us much of the novel’s dialogue quote for quote. But the impact of these quotes is so different because we aren’t given the same backstory that Flynn provides in her novel.
Amy’s fake diary reveal is a real “wow” moment in the novel but David Fincher’s film treats it instead as one of many pieces of a puzzle that Amy has devised for her grand plan. It still comes off as impressive in the film, but it doesn’t have nearly the same impact. Even Amy’s famous “cool girl” rant has a different, and somewhat less satisfying appeal in the film than in the novel. Whereas the novel offers that speech as an intriguing and impressive critique against unrealistic relationship expectations, the movie delivers it less as a societal critique and more as a feminist rant against “stupid” women.
Yes, Gone Girl the film still gives a fascinating depiction of the engaging Flynn tale. It still builds the fake storyline and gives gives the same (or similar) plot twists. It still makes us ask how much we know about our partners. But it doesn’t feel real and it certainly doesn’t give us the same satisfaction or jaw-dropping delivery that Flynn’s novel does. If you read the novel, you’ll still enjoy the film, but you’ll be left with an empty hole of disappointment that only Flynn’s writing can fill. 3/5 Stars