7- 13 November 2014 #731

Gone Girl

Gillian Flynn adapts her ‘Gone Girl’ for the screen to unveil a film that strikes into the heart of the problems that eat at modern marriages.
Sophia Pande

In 2012 Gillian Flynn wrote a thriller named Gone Girl that pretty much became the book equivalent of a blockbuster. As things go in these days of extreme commercialisation, Gone Girl was picked up by 20th Century Fox and made into a film with backing from heavy weight producers like Reese Witherspoon, and directed by none other than David Fincher who made, among many other Hollywood successes, The Social Network (2010) – that unlikely hit about the founding of Facebook.

With all of these things working in its favour, Gone Girl really should have been better than it actually is. The book, which starts out with incredible promise, has alternating narratives by Amy and Nick Dunne, a writer-couple who meet in New York and have been married for 5 years. Both lose their jobs when recession strikes, and they decide to move back to Nick’s hometown in Missouri in order to save money and take care of Nick’s ailing mother.

As we hear of the Dunnes’ slowly disintegrating marriage from each side, it is hard to tell who is the good guy, or if indeed there even is a better half, in this once golden but now embittered couple. So when Amy goes missing one day from their McMansion in the heartland of American suburbia, Nick is immediately suspected, especially as various seeming transgressions on his part come to light.

The film version has astutely cast the blonde, patrician Rosamund Pike as Amy, a Harvard scholar, and the daughter of two children’s book authors. Their best-selling series titled ‘Amazing Amy’ is actually modelled after their own flawless daughter.

The always slightly wooden Ben Affleck plays the unfortunate Nick Dunne in a lack luster performance that picks up a little into the film but never enough to save his acting credentials. The man has always been a much better director than actor.

Just as the book veers into melodrama and extreme violence, so too does the film, which was adapted for the screen by the author herself. And as with her mistakes on the page, when the book starts to trade suspense for horror and farce, so too does the film, which is a mere, tedious, blow by blow adaptation of the novel.

Gone Girl would have benefitted from an entirely new writer, and one wishes the makers might have had the courage, as with most successful adaptations, to make the film their own, turning away from the problematic ending and perhaps making up something slightly more believable.

This is a film that really strikes into the heart of the problems that eat at modern marriages, even just for this, it is essential viewing.

Watch Trailer: