Adaptations & Remakes is an ongoing feature where I take a movie or a book and compare it to its remake and/or adaptation. Each post follows the same basic format:
- General plot overview/source material
- Original movie/first adaptation
- How I would adapt and/or remake it.
- How they adapted/remade it
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Source Material: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I was hooked from the beginning by Gillian Flynn’s twisty, split-narrative missing person thriller. The novel begins with Nick Dunne discovering his wife is missing. Flynn deftly juxtaposes the beginning of the investigation with diary entries written by Amy charting her relationship with Nick from the beginning right up to the disappearance.
The story of Amy’s disappearance quickly becomes a study into the psychology behind those who are self-obsessed with their public perception. Flynn, a former television critic for Entertainment Weekly, uses her journalism experience to create an authentic and calculated backdrop in the story that showcases how much public opinion and news coverage influence investigations of this nature.
I had some initial issues with the last third of the book. Flynn takes the story in more of a character-driven direction rather than resolving the plot in tandem with the story’s escalating tension. The book’s closing chapters (which seem a bit rushed) provide an overall look at key characters in the story and hints at what will become of them. The more I thought about it, the more I enjoyed the way it wrapped up. The end of the book is very introspective and it puts a bow on the end of a very strong narrative and leaves the reader with a lot to consider.
Gone Girl is still satisfying despite its somewhat anticlimactic ending. The third act didn’t harm the overall reading experience and certainly doesn’t dissuade me from wanting to read Flynn’s previous novels Dark Places and Sharp Objects.
Click the image below to read my full review of the book on ObsessiveBookNerd.com.
How I’d Adapt It
The novel is 432 pages long, so it’s obvious that a healthy bit will need to be cut to fit the story into a movie. There’s a part early in the book where Nick and some friends break into a closed mall to search for evidence of Amy’s whereabouts. It yields interesting and important information for the case, but could ultimately be explained with a line or two from the police in the movie.
The dual-narrative structure of the novel makes an adaptation somewhat tricky. Intercutting flashbacks into the timeline of the investigation could drag out the pacing of the first act, yet there are important bits of information within the diary. I would include flashbacks when necessary but relegate most of the diary to voice-over narration.
The most difficult part of the adaptation would be the last act of the book. It’s slow on action and quickly advances the timeline as a platform for wrapping up character arcs. It’s not conducive to the visual medium of filmmaking. I’ve heard Gillian Flynn rewrote a new third act for the movie, which I think is definitely necessary.
I would rework the third act to make it more intense and mysterious. Instead of a character study, I would utilize a more cat and mouse dynamic that would play up the well-established tension in the story.
How David Fincher Adapted it: Gone Girl (2014)
David Fincher‘s adaptation of Gone Girl benefits from having Gillian Flynn on board to write the script. The script takes some slight deviations from the book but, as a whole, it’s a more streamlined and visual form of the story in the novel. There are certain things omitted that I have no problem with (a couple of the anniversary treasure hunt clues, for example) and certain characters are not quite as prominent as they are in the book.
The performances in Gone Girl are all driven by Rosamund Pike‘s incredible turn as Amy Elliot Dunne. Through flashbacks, we see how her relationship with Nick (Ben Affleck) unfolds prior to her disappearance. As the tension in the marriage intensifies, Pike’s performance evolves with her character.
Ben Affleck, on the other hand, plays the character of Nick as a slightly oblivious character with a loose relationship with the truth. In the early hours of the disappearance, Affleck is in a daze and doesn’t have a handle on how he is (or should be) answering questions. This feels slightly different from the novel, where his ambiguity and aloofness is better defined and his motives are better hidden. There is ambiguity in Affleck’s performance; it’s just not as much of a focal point in the movie.
As the story progresses, there’s a noticeable lack of anger in Nick. There’s bewilderment and some anger, but it’s not to the level of the book, which gripped me so much. Throughout the novel, Nick gets angrier as events unravel. It’s absent (to an extent) in the movie and I don’t understand why.
The supporting cast is terrific. Carrie Coon takes on the role of Margo Dunne, Nick’s twin sister and closest confidant, with a strong performance as her character’s allegiance to her brother is tested. Tyler Perry plays attorney Tanner Bolt (one of my favorite characters from the book) and surprisingly does a good job with the role. The character isn’t quite the affable, comic relief character he is in the book, however. Perry plays the character as more reactionary and at times a little bland. It doesn’t detract too much from the movie, though and he is good in scenes where it counts.
Neil Patrick Harris plays Desi Collings, a former flame of Amy’s who arises the suspicion of Nick. NPH trades in his charm for a somewhat eerie performance with dialogue steeped in ambiguous monotone with a veil of pity. Kim Dickens plays Boney, the detective assigned to the case who has conflicting feelings about whether or not Nick is guilty. She’s really engaging as the small town investigator with conflicting intuition.
David Fincher is in top form behind the camera of Gone Girl. The way the movie transitions between the investigation and the flashbacks from Amy’s diary is really smooth and distinctive. He plays up the visual storytelling like the seasoned pro that he is. Accompanied by another phenomenal score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the movie glides through its 2.5-hour runtime without any real hiccups in pacing.
There is a particular scene in the movie where the movie jumps into high gear. The score is subtle throughout the movie, but in this one, violent scene, Reznor ratchets up the score to give the audience a jarring experience. Following that, the audio story the score tells through the rest of the movie gives Gone Girl a unique, surreal tint that is incredibly memorable.
Gone Girl is really impressive for a multitude of reasons. However, the third act of the movie really hampered my enjoyment and left me disappointed. Gillian Flynn did a great job streamlining her story and bringing it to the screen. There are a couple hiccups along the way that are minor (Nick telling his sister that she’s his “voice of reason” felt a little on the nose to me), but the overall experience is satisfying. That is, until the last handful of scenes.
It was rumored that Flynn was rewriting the ending for the movie, so I expected something different but in the same vein. I was left really disappointed when the credits rolled. I’ll be coy and won’t say to what degree (if any) the movie deviates from the novel, but I was left wanting more. I wanted a more concrete ending to pin down the story Flynn wanted to tell.
Despite that, Gone Girl was a very strong movie with surprisingly excellent performances. But, ultimately, it did not stick the landing and won’t leave you contemplating over the ending as much as the novel does.
Obsessive Grade: Buy it Full Price
Worthy of purchase regardless of price. But you’ll want to see it first, just to make sure you want it in your collection.