Do you ever leave books on your to-read list for so long that they make a movie out of it before you read the book? That’s what happened with Gone Girl. When I was scoping out movies to see, I saw the trailer:
I wanted to see the movie, so I had to hurry up and read the book.
Bottom line up front: the movie is better. I realize how that sounds. Bear with me, here.
First off, both are disappointing. I’d tell you why, but… spoilers. So here’s the gist, without the spoil.
Gillian Flynn is more of a TV/movie person than a book person. She refers to herself as a “movie geek with a journalism degree.” Her writing style is very tabloid readable, and clearly shaped by her time at Entertainment Weekly. (Check out this TV-style promo site.) She acknowledges that her characters are generally “difficult to like,” and she refers to Gone Girl as a “twisty, noirish thriller.”
There’s nothing wrong with her writing itself, but there is something drastically wrong with her content.
You probably already know the basis of the plot, but just in case, here’s a brief synopsis: Amy Dunne goes missing on her 5th wedding anniversary, and her husband Nick is the primary suspect in her disappearance, not only because the husband is always a suspect, but because she left behind a journal detailing their ‘Amazing Amy’ relationship, her devotion to him, and finally her fear of him.
SPOILER ALERT: The first part of the book is Amy’s journal. The second part of the book is a first-person narrative from the POV of the agonized husband, worried about his wife, stunned that the general public seems to think that he has killed her, and then finally realizing the truth of the situation he is in. Finally, it shifts back to Amy herself… Yes, that’s right. Amy. The POV goes back to first person AMY. Who’s biding her time doing useful things like telling us “One should never marry a man who doesn’t own a decent set of scissors. That would be my advice. It leads to bad things.” Who’s framed her innocent husband for her murder to punish him for not understanding/fulfilling her enough (and for having an affair after she’s pushed him away), taken off with a wad of cash and an intent to kill herself only the better to frame him, gets robbed of her cash and calls up an obsessed but equally innocent ex-lover to help her out, and frames and kills him when she decides that she misses her husband and that “My greedy, stupid, irresponsible parents can finally pay back my trust fund. With interest,” so it’s time to go home. In the end of both versions of the story, her actions are rewarded – in the movie, her husband’s attorney finally tells him to thank her for the increase in business he’ll get when Lifetime picks up her story. In both accounts, she has managed a pregnancy with a frozen sperm sample he’d long forgotten about, and though he despises her, between the media attention and the soon-to-be-baby, he can’t leave. They’re back to being the perfect couple. Except… she’s completely psycho. In real life, he should have been able to prove her crimes and prosecute her, escape to seek treatment for the abuse she inflicted on him, and moved on happily in life with someone else if he so chose. This book is beyond an homage to dysfunction: it’s an endorsement of gender-specific abuse.
Why is the movie better than the book? Gillian Flynn’s ideas lend themselves better to film than print. And at the end of the day, it moves faster, so it’s less of a waste of time. I’m sure that the reason both book and movie are so popular is their shock value, but Gillian Flynn – talented author – has given wings to the “psycho bitch” phrase that angry men utter at women around the world. For that alone, I can’t like either book or movie regardless of their entertainment value.
“No one wants to think that they’ve raised anything but the perfect child.” – Gillian Flynn