I feel like I’ve written extensively on the subject of adaptations, covering it in my reviews of Life of Pi and The Great Gatsby for example. Adaptations are a strange and contradictory beast. All adaptations must balance being true to the spirit of the original work with the desire to bring creativity and imagination to their version of the story.
David Fincher is a director well suited to one of these two things. Whether with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo or Fight Club he knows how to successfully bring well-loved books to the big screen. However, I would argue the creativity and vision of a true auteur when doing so. He is the director a writer wants to work with since it will primarily be the writer’s version of events which ends up on the big screen (cf. Aaron Sorkin’s The Social Network).
In the case of Gone Girl, it is difficult to see any changes Fincher requested from Gillian Flynn’s book, since the two are virtually indistinguishable. The film relies entirely on the strength of the plotting, story and characters of the source material. This is by no means a bad thing, since the book is one of the most exhilarating and clever novels I have read in recent years. However, for me the experience does not differ much from merely re-reading the book.
Gone Girl sees Nick Dunne’s (Ben Affleck) wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) going missing. Suspicions grow that Nick might somehow be involved as we realise their marriage was in trouble. The present day narrative is interspersed with extracts from Amy’s diary as we see how Nick and Amy’s relationship started off so brightly before family circumstances moved them from New York to Nick’s hometown in Missouri.
Thematically, the film deals with the ups and downs of marriage, and the evolving relationship between a husband and wife. Is getting to know one another more and more necessarily a good thing as the years go by? What if the person you are deep down isn’t a person you want your other half to see?
There’s also a critique of the media and their obsession with innocent blonde women, the ease with which they throw around accusations of guilt and their attraction the the narrative that is the most appealing, rather than the most true.
Finally, while Fincher’s greatest talent is simply his ability to stand out of the way and let his source material take the weight, Affleck and Pike and well chosen as the leads of this film. Affleck’s always had this sense of trying too hard to be charming which suits the character of Nick perfectly. Amy Dunne will also be remembered as one of the great movie characters of this decade, and Pike manages to play all the sides of her character beautifully.
Gone Girl then is a film which manages to largely match but never surpass the greatness of its source material. Like the book, it’s a dangerous, dark and depraved story that demands your attention.