GONE GIRL – When movies make you fall in love with books

“There’s something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold.”

I will be frank. I rarely admire movies based on books. In my opinion, they never do justice to good writing. I find myself bitterly antagonistic towards them. If a movie is unable to match the image I have conjured up in my mind after reading a book, it disappoints me beyond measure. I am biased towards books and even more so towards good writers.

“There’s a difference between really loving someone and loving the idea of her.”

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is a delightful book. Delightful. Ha! What a strange word choice. It is anything but that. It is dark, very much so, it is creepy and it will rock your faith time and again. Gone Girl by David Fincher is an even more delightful movie. You might not have heard about Gillian Flynn, but you do know David Fincher, don’t you? Seven, Fight Club, Panic Room, Lords of Dogtown, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network,…..phew, the list is endless. Imagine a dark and thoughtful author like Flynn teaming up with a brooding and twisted director like Fincher and KABOOM. Have I got your attention yet?

“Love makes you want to be a better man. But maybe love, real love, also gives you permission to just be the man you are.”

The premise of the story is simple – a seemingly normal guy arrives home to find the house in slight disarray, suspects a bit of trouble and immediately calls the cops to report his missing wife. Once the cops come into the picture and the more you hear Nick Dunne (the male protagonist) speak, the story spirals into confusion and mayhem.

“It’s a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person, instead of a collection of personality traits selected from an endless Automat of characters.”

There is one thing that unfailingly draws me towards a book. For most people it would be the ‘unusual plot’ but I prefer ‘good writing’ 10 out of 10 times. A book may tell me a story that has been repeated over generations but good writing will bring in a perspective unexplored by anyone else. Does that make sense? Some people just have a way with words. They could tell you something that you already know but in a manner that completely outfoxes you. How I love writers!

“Sleep is like a cat: It only comes to you if you ignore it.”

Flynn combines good writing with an unusual plot. What makes it even more mesmerizing is that the plot is presented in guise of an uncomplicated beginning. The more you read the book, the more you keep on changing your mind about it. Your thoughts regarding each and every character will keep evolving. They will keep shuttling between two extremes. You will start with liking someone only to end up hating them moments later or start with despising someone, only to sympathize with their plight after a a couple of chapters. And then, you will finally come to terms with the fact that right-wrong, good-bad, happy-sad, perfect-imperfect; are such flawed concepts afterall.

“My mother had always told her kids: if you’re about to do something, and you want to know if it’s a bad idea, imagine seeing it printed in the paper for all the world to see.”

Nick. Dear old Nick Dunne is the most honestly dishonest character I have ever come across (honestly dishonest…yeah well, this will make sense to some). I hate compulsive liars yet I can’t help but like him. One would think a person whose wife has gone missing might show a bit of emotion but Nick remains completely impassive for most part. And he lies about a lot of things, some completely unnecessary lies and some so blatant, that you start disliking the man with each passing second. In the first half of the book, Nick is painted as a lying insensitive cheat, who probably murdered his wife to get out of a troubled and boring marriage. In Fincher’s Gone Girl, Nick is played by Ben Affleck. I have never considered Affleck as a great actor. He is a gorgeous hunk, no doubt and has acted in some truly wonderful movies but none of his roles have ever appealed to me. Yes, he was good in Pearl Harbor and Argo but take any decent actor and he would have done the same in these movies. Perhaps, someone like Christian Bale might have done the roles even more justice. But as Nick Dunne, Affleck gets as close to perfection as he can ever get. I can, never ever never ever imagine anyone else in the role except him. For most of my life, I have always thought Affleck to be an actor with an indifferent air to him. He has fewer facial expressions than the fingers on E.T’s hand (go figure that one). But this same indifference is his biggest strength while portraying Nick. A silent brooding face, a smug smile, puppy dog intense eyes – that’s a charmer over there! For the same reason, I now feel he will be a decent Batman when Zack Snyder/Christopher Nolan’s next releases.

“And if all of us are play-acting, there can be no such thing as a soul mate, because we don’t have genuine souls.”

And then there is Amy Elliot-Dunne a.k.a Amazing Amy. If you despised Amy Elliot Dunne after finishing the book, you would probably want to slit her throat by the time you are done with the movie. That’s how good Rosamund Pike is. She is one beautiful woman. I first saw her in the Bond movie Die Another Day alongside Pierce Brosnan, later as the mellow and sweet Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. She has done a few fine roles here and there but none as challenging as this one. Amy is a complex character. She is a complete bitch and a very worst one at that. She is pretentious and evil. She one of those people who spend their entire lives living a lie, pretending to be what they are not. But she is so good at it. Not many can boast about that. Amy wants to be perfect, that is how she is raised. That’s how her parents disciplined her. You feel sorry for her initially. She seems so fragile, so sweet, so pretty and so vulnerable. Until you realize it was just a mask. The things she does in the story are unbelievable. One would wonder about the limits of insanity a person may touch. And when you take someone as beautiful as Pike to play Amy, she becomes even more enchanting and tempting. She will shock you so many times in the book. She will make you hate her with so much passion that you will end up admiring her. Amy’s character is very devious, very unusual, very manipulative and very likable. Yes, likable just like Nick’s. They make an odd couple. Together they make Gone Girl work, both as a book and as a movie.

“It had gotten to the point where it seemed like nothing matters, because I’m not a real person and neither is anyone else.”

Marriage is a tricky business. Flynn exposes the dynamics of a failed marriage ruthlessly. She paints the imperfect picture with alarming conviction, exposing the stark reality of unstable relationships. Her characters are flawed and loathsome yet so openly endearing. Amy and Nick’s behavior might appear far-fetched at times, but their rocky relationship forms the base of a captivating morose tale.

“Friends see most of each other’s flaws. Spouses see every awful last bit.”

The book as well as the movie has a few good-natured light moments. The minor characters are elegantly etched and they provide some comic relief when you least expect it. The humor is subtle and candid, something which will bring a cute smile on your face or leave you chuckling knowingly. And it works. It works so very well for a serious book like this. The movie is near perfect. It has been adapted as it is with very minor changes. Even if you haven’t read the book, you will enjoy it just the same. But if you have indeed read the it, trust me, the movie will make you fall in love with the book once again. Gone Girl is an example of some exceptional writing skills that Flynn possesses. What amazing people writers can be and Flynn’s words weave a web of magic around you. The book is peppered with many short yet profound sentences and you can only savor them if you read it.

“I often don’t say things out loud, even when I should. I contain and compartmentalize to a disturbing degree: In my belly-basement are hundreds of bottles of rage, despair, fear, but you’d never guess from looking at me.”

Truth is so over-rated. Each person giving his own version of events ends up twisting the story so much that one cannot differentiate between facts and fiction. If each of us are right in our own way and each of us has an unique perspective, how can anything we say or do be entirely true or completely false, for that matter. Gone Girl settles comfortably in the in-between grey area, questioning our very basic definitions of good and bad. 

“My gosh, Nick, why are you so wonderful to me?’

He was supposed to say: You deserve it. I love you.

But he said,’Because I feel sorry for you.’

‘Why?’

‘Because every morning you have to wake up and be you.”

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One thought on “GONE GIRL – When movies make you fall in love with books

  1. There’s something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold.~ one sentence to summarize gone girl

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