David Fincher swoops down to explore his next potential directing assignment. So I decided to check out the book.
Premise: Told from two different points of view, a man’s wife goes missing and he becomes the prime suspect.
About: 41 year old Gillian Flynn is a former Entertainment Weekly TV critic. She’s written three novels, with “Gone Girl” being her most recent. The bestseller got a bump a few months back when David Fincher expressed interest in adapting the book into a film. It’s unclear if he was just circling it or is now officially developing the screenplay.
Writer: Gillian Flynn
Details: Way more than 120 pages long
Why the hell am I reviewing a book? Well, first of all, to prove that I can read books! There’s this rumor going around that I can only read text in courier 12 point font, and that said font can never eclipse 4 lines of continuous text at a time. There have been stretches in my life where this is true. But when someone like David Fincher comes along and says he likes something, my book-reading juices start flowing. And this juice is not made from concentrate.
I can’t remember a single project Fincher’s been attached to that has been bad. Most of the time the script for the project is at least a [xx] worth the read and usually an [x] impressive. What I love about Fincher is that he’s one of the few guys out there willing to take chances. While directors like Jon Favreau and Ridley Scott are pretty much playing it safe, Fincher always wants to push the envelope. Gone Girl is no different. This book is a freaking wild ride. It does stuff I’ve never seen in a novel before.
However, let me warn you, this book is one giant spoiler. There’s a shit load going on and it has one of the best twists I’ve ever seen in a novel or movie. If you have any interest in reading this book or seeing this movie, do not read this review, because I’m going to get into all the spoilers. You’ve been warned.
The first 40 or so pages of Gone Girl are pretty boring. In them, we meet Nick and Amy Dunne, former Manhattanites who have to relocate to Nick’s home town in Missouri when he loses his job. Nick has since used Amy’s money (that comes from her wealthy parents, authors who made a fortune writing books about her childhood) to open a bar that only barely breaks even, and is one of several factors that have driven these two lovebirds apart.
You see, Nick and Amy used to really love each other. Like “love has no boundaries” love. The kind of love Double Rainbow guy would have for a Triple Rainbow. We know this because interspersed between Nick’s present, is Amy’s past, told in firsthand through her journal entries. It’s a devastating dichotomy as we cut back and forth between the wonderful love story Amy offers up and the cold clinical realization of their relationship now, told through Nick’s POV.
Just as we’re getting to know these two, something unthinkable happens. Someone breaks into Nick’s house while he’s away and takes Amy. The crime scene is violent and bloody and while there’s certainly a chance Amy’s still alive, it doesn’t look good. What also isn’t looking good is Nick. You see, Nick fell out of love with his wife a long time ago. And even though she’s been taken, there’s something deep inside of him that doesn’t really care. And therein lies the problem. When Nick goes on national TV to ask for his wife back, there isn’t a shred of emotion in his voice. To any and everyone who watches Nick, they have no doubt that he killed her.
Nick looks for solace from his twin sister, Go. She’s the only one who believes him. But even that’s looking shaky as Nick can’t give the cops an alibi for the time his wife was taken. The book then keeps cutting back and forth between Nick’s worsening nightmare and Amy’s love-sick journal. However, as the story continues, and the journal’s timeline catches up to the present day, we see that Nick has been hiding some secrets. He’s got some demons. And those demons are so bad that as early as last week, Amy went to buy a gun to protect herself from him. It’s looking really bad for Nick. Even we’re wondering if he did it.
And then comes the twist of all twists.
It was a lie. Every word we heard in Amy’s diary was a lie, right down to the personality we thought we knew for the last 250 pages. Amy isn’t bubbly and sweet and good and caring. She’s evil. She’s the definition of hate and bitterness. The diary was a plant, something she’d been working on for a year to lead up to this moment to work as the smoking gun that would send her husband to the chair for her murder. Why would anybody do something like this? For that you’ll have to read the novel. But let’s just say that Amy is the single most vindictive person on the planet.
Once we realize we’ve been scammed, we realign ourselves with Nick, hoping against hope that he can find Amy to prove he didn’t kill her. This task is getting harder by the second as Amy leaks sordid details of Nick’s past anonymously to the press, which means that the cops are probably going to pounce and arrest him soon. Only time will tell how or if Nick will get out of this. If he doesn’t find out how his girl got gone, he’s going to be gone himself.
Okay, I just have to say it. The twist here fucking ROCKED. I mean I was blown away. For 250 pages, we’re given a person, a backstory, a personality, someone we like and trust. We love Amy. To see the “mid-point twist,” then, where we realize it was all a setup? That she made up this version of herself and was really the complete opposite? It’d be like if your best friend of 20 years showed up one day and revealed that he was a completely different person. The way that twisted the story, realigned our sympathy, reversed the polarity of who we were rooting for? It was nothing short of genius.
And really, that’s where a lot of the genius occurs here – the way Flynn frustrates us with who we’re supposed to root for. She makes us hate Nick and love Amy at the outset. Then she shows us Nick’s point of view, and we like Nick and hate Amy. Then we find out something about Nick, and we hate him again, falling back in love with Amy. This constant “switching of allegiances” was masterful, and something we just don’t see in movies, probably because we don’t have enough time. Being yanked back and forth between these two is a big reason this book was able to stay so interesting for so long.
Also, Flynn does an amazing job keeping you guessing who the killer may be. At different points we wonder if Nick himself did it. If an old friend of Amy’s did it. If someone from town did it. At one point we even wonder if Nick’s twin sister is secretly in love with him and killed Amy to get her out of the picture. Flynn is really good at making you think you have things figured out, only to pull the rug out from under you.
What makes Gone Girl so difficult to read though, is that it destroys all hope you have in humanity and relationships. Amy is a vindictive bitch who will go so far as to stage her own murder to take down her husband. And Nick just doesn’t care about Amy anymore. These were two people who were madly in love. So to watch them become these hateful human beings, to see the severity of their relationship’s collapse, kind of makes you want to slit your wrists. It’s really depressing!
But despite snagging an elusive [xx] genius rating through the first half of the story, Gone Girl completely falls apart in its final act. Embarrassingly so. Running out of money and options to survive, Amy comes back to Nick. Amidst all the news coverage and the circus surrounding her disappearance, she just starts living with him again. Amy points out that because they’ve gone through what they’ve gone through, they can’t possibly be with anyone else. They may be miserable, but they’re stuck with each other. And that’s how the book ends, with both of these miserable people deciding to stay together and hate each other til the day they die.
I was so upset with this ending that I went online and researched Flynn to figure out why she would do such a thing. What I found made everything clear. Flynn, it turns out, doesn’t outline. She just writes whatever comes to her. WELL JESUS! NOW IT MAKES SENSE! She wrote a bunch of crazy shit then had no idea how to pay it off. This is EXACTLY how the last act felt. Like someone who had no idea how to end their story.
Which begs the question: How the hell does Fincher plan to adapt this? Why would you adapt something if the greatest thing about it is un-adaptable? We’re fooled by a journal, by a character writing directly to us, who it turns out is lying to us. How does one pull that off in a movie? We have to see Amy. We must show her writing these entries. And since her writing is a façade, something she’s making up, one would presume we’d pick up on her deception as it’s happening.
I suppose you could tell the first half in Amy’s voice over, with her journal entries read out loud over the life she’s describing, but I’m just not sure that would be as convincing (or even make sense). If they do decide to make this, though, I’d look into making the genius twist the ending, as opposed to the mid-point. You don’t really have time to go through an entire relationship and then an entire aftermath of the twist anyway, in a film. This way you’d also eliminate that dreadful ending. That would be really cool if they figured it out, but it will be a challenge.
What an unforgettable reading experience “Gone Girl” was. It has amazing highs and devastating lows. It has “holy shit” twists and an indefensible climax. It’s such an imperfect piece of art, it’s hard to categorize. But I’m not surprised Fincher became interested. It’s so dark and different. If there’s anyone who can figure it out, it’s probably him.
[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Know your ending before you start your story, if possible. You can come up with all the cool twists and turns in the world, but if you can’t bring everything together in the end, it won’t matter.