Tag Archives: Gone Girl

Book v. Big Screen: Gone Girl

10 Oct
David Fincher's adaptation of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl stars Ben Afleck and Rosamund Pike, and was released to theaters October 3, 2014.

David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl stars Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, and was released to theaters October 3, 2014. Flynn wrote the screenplay.

Undoubtedly, this is what we all want to hear: “How does it compare to the book?” Book readers revel in the masochistic practice of scrutinizing the film adaptations of our favorite novels, probably because the pain makes us feel more alive, and despite the fact that I am of the school of thought that forgives films for the heresies they must commit in order to keep the visual media gods happy, no one can escape a straight-up, side-by-side comparison. (Read my book review of Gone Girl here.)

Gone Girl, the movie and the book, unfolds the mystery of the missing woman Amy Elliott Dunne and her husband Nick Dunne. Nick’s story begins on the morning of Amy’s disappearance from the couple’s home in North Carthage, Missouri, while Amy’s story begins years earlier, when the two first meet at a party in New York City. From there, the film alternates between the two voices as viewers learn that the truth is never one-sided.

Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) tells the story of a budding romance through the pages of her diary. Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) begins his story on the morning of Amy's disappearance. Whose story do we believe?

Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) tells the story of a budding romance through the pages of her diary. Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) begins his story on the morning of Amy’s disappearance. Whose story do we believe?

The film, a killer 149 minutes long, maintains an obsessive loyalty to the novel in a way only a loving, infatuated mother could swing, so it’s no wonder that the novel’s author, Gillian Flynn, also wrote the screenplay for its Hollywood adaptation. Flynn lifts quotes straight from the page and sets them to Pike’s silky narration and includes them in screenshots of diary entries. Even the pacing–which switches from Nick’s perspective to Amy’s and back again–mirrors that of the book, and this format is the only thing that doesn’t seem to translate well to the screen. Instead, the pacing leaves  the movie stumbling over itself before it gets the chance to run as the plot escalates toward the last third of the story.

Affleck’s maddening cool guy routine with his punchable face is spot on, and Pike portrayed Amy with breathtaking perfection, but credit is due to the unsung heroes of the movie: the supporting cast playing Margo Dunne (Carrie Coon), Nick Dunne’s twin sister, and the lead detective on Amy’s missing person case Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens). Both women stole scenes with the weight they added to an otherwise insane plot. Nick and Amy are so intense, so lost in each other, and so dysfunctional, that it takes the stellar and understated performances of Dickens and Coon to bring the film back toward a solid reality and away from the precipice of the unbelievable.

Kim Dickens' Detective Rhonda Boney gives the film--and its increasingly chaotic spiral--a realistic foil.

Kim Dickens’ Detective Rhonda Boney gives the film–and its increasingly chaotic spiral–a realistic foil.

In the meantime, the true star of Fincher’s vision is the true star of the movie and provides us something that Flynn couldn’t in her novel: the barren landscape of the Dunne’s massive suburban home; the starkly contrasting image of a search party sweeping their flashlights across the forests of Missouri; flashes of red blood over the beige and grey of the Dunne’s idyllic lives. Coupled with a chilling score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Fincher’s direction takes a thrilling book and translates it into an equally thrilling film.

Book or Big Screen: Is it possible to say that they are equally good? That a book isn’t dishonored by its film adaptation? That the film adaptation doesn’t botch the whole thing? It’s definitely possible to say that Gone Girl won’t need a reboot in ten years because the first didn’t do the job well enough. Thanks to Flynn’s screenplay and Fincher’s vision, the film stay incredibly loyal to the book that should appease everyone but the most zealous readers. Read the book or watch the movie; watch the movie first then the book; it actually shouldn’t make a difference this time around, just make sure you do both.

Readers, beware: While you will hear a lot of familiar lines, and you will see scenes that Flynn painted so vividly in her novel you feel like you’ve seen them before, every adaptation will have its casualties. Lord knows this movie shouldn’t be any longer than it already is, and because of those constraints, a few minor elements get washed out: Boney’s lingering obsession with the case, Shawna Kelly’s development. We can nitpick, but there isn’t much to be wary of.

Viewers, beware: You are in for a long haul. While Gone Girl never feels tedious, it is extremely detailed, and when you read the book you will know why. Get ready for a wild ride of emotion, and make sure you’re prepared to step out of the theaters and straight into the bookstore, because it’s just that good. I will say that the book medium seems to fit the plot’s format a little more snugly, but Fincher manages to capture the true spirit of the novel and the true nature of its horrible characters quite well. You’re not missing out on much for having not read the book.

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Top 10 of 2013

31 Dec

Happy New Year’s Eve, world! I won’t be like everyone and say, “I can’t believe how fast this year went by,” so I’ll just say, “I can’t believe how slowly this year went by.” We get 365 days and I only managed to read a handful of books! Here’s to a fuller 2014 with more books and more book reviews! For now, it’s time to wrap up the year by reflecting on the important things. Here is my list of the top ten books I read and reviewed this year with excerpts from and links to my reviews on each of them! Enjoy, and thanks to all my followers, casual readers, friends, and family for helping me enjoy myself with this little, whimsical blog.

The Top Ten of 2013

To Be or Not To Be was a smashing success on Kickstarter. Now Ryan North is working on another Shakespeare-Choosable Adventure mash-up featuring none other than Romeo and Juliet.

To Be or Not To Be was a smashing success on Kickstarter. Now Ryan North is working on another Shakespeare-Choosable Adventure mash-up featuring none other than Romeo and Juliet.

10. To Be or Not To Be  by Ryan North

Welcome to the chooseable-path review of Ryan North’s new chooseable-path adventure, To Be or Not To Be, which hilariously takes one of William Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies and recreates it as a humorous, illustrated, maybe-but-maybe-not tragedy! North joins with dozens of the internet’s best/most popular Web comic artists to gamify Hamlet: “play” as Ophelia, Hamlet, or King Hamlet Sr., make choices throughout the book, and see where your will can take your character! This was originally a Kickstarter project that set the bar at a low $20,000 goal, but its novelty and the inclusion of some heavy-weight names (plus, who isn’t interested in Shakespeare …? No, really, who isn’t? Because I’m going to give you a scolding), catapulted the book to a lofty $580,905. Although it’s too late to donate to the project, you should still check out the site to see what it took to get this thing off the ground. …

My first experience with James Baldwin was filled with sighs and my own broken heart. Giovanni's Room takes the win for saddest book of the year.

My first experience with James Baldwin was filled with sighs and my own broken heart. Giovanni’s Room takes the win for saddest book of the year.

9. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

How does one even begin to talk about Giovanni? I’m so overwhelmed still, and I can confidently say, that Giovanni’s Room is my favorite book of 2013 so far … maybe. This novel speaks to James Baldwin’s ever-present awareness of his foreignness, his separateness, his Otherness. Giovanni’s Room is one of the truest most tragic novels I’ve read in a long time because it speaks to my sense of Otherness, too. …

Neal Stephenson tackled massive multiplayer online role-playing games AND terrorism in Reamde. What more do you want?

Neal Stephenson tackled massive multiplayer online role-playing games AND terrorism in Reamde. What more do you want?

8. Reamde by Neal Stephenson

Richard Forthrast—the billionaire, draft-dodger, former drug-runner, T’Rain founder—and his niece Zula find themselves invited to a figurative party of Chinese hackers, Russian mobsters, ex-military rogues, MI6 agents, and Islamic terrorists (obviously) that even Gatsby would envy, it’s so elaborate and wrought with confusion and angst. The plot that began with relatively simple, moneymaking scheme/computer virus becomes frightening and life threatening. But isn’t that how it always goes? …

Italo Calvino wrote a lot of letters in his relatively short life, and many of them are collected here in Princeton University Press' Letters.

Italo Calvino wrote a lot of letters in his relatively short life, and many of them are collected here in Princeton University Press’ Letters.

7. Italo Calvino: Letters, 1941-1985 by Italo Calvino

The bizarre thing about reading other people’s letters, is you get to thinking that they’re writing letters to you… Then you start developing some kind of strange celebrity obsession with those people, maybe more like an infatuation, or maybe like True Love. Not saying that happened to me or anything! But with Italo Calvino: Letters 1941-1985, it’s hard not to fall in love (or fall in respect, whatever) with this magnificent writer, Italy’s premier postmodern author, and one of my personal favorites. …

Forged in Fire by J.A. Pitts is the third installation of the Sarah Beauhall series, and arguably the best (so far). Make sure you start reading from the beginning.

Forged in Fire by J.A. Pitts is the third installation of the Sarah Beauhall series, and arguably the best (so far). Make sure you start reading from the beginning.

6. Forged in Fire by J.A. Pitts

I think, at this point, I can officially classify myself as a Sarah Beauhall fangirl. When I saw the series as Powell’s for the first time, I decided I’d read it on a whim, not expecting anything more than brief entertainment or maybe something to write a scathing review on later. Lo and behold! I have to take back those thoughts of an unbeliever! Forged in Fire is J.A. Pitts’s third Sarah Beauhall installation, and I had more fun than ever. Pitts created a cast of full characters and a massive enough world to keep this series going strongly as Sarah Beauhall uncovers more dark magic, learns about a new secret order, and forms some important human bonds that help her understand the meaning of family. …

As troubling as it is genius, A Handmaid's Tale is a cautionary novel written in Margaret Atwood's iconic prose.

As troubling as it is genius, The Handmaid’s Tale is a cautionary novel written in Margaret Atwood’s iconic prose.

5. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

I finally read Margaret Atwood’s dazzling The Handmaid’s Tale and got a bitter taste of how scary religion can be. From my comfy seat in America, looking through my blinders out at the world, I can safely say I feel pretty free in comparison, and that other religions (*ahem* Islam) have gotten a little out of control. But Atwood’s beautiful novel is more like a slap in the face: America, already a so-called Christian nation, is short skip and a hop away from a society mirroring modern-day Iran’s or Afghanistan’s, a society that forbids the interaction between men and women, that “shelters” women with thick cloth and heavy restrictions for their “protection” and “purity,” that uses indoctrination and propaganda to destroy hope, to remove all routes of escape. Atwood’s dystopia is, in the end, much more frightening then the dystopias I grew up with—1984 and Brave New World—because it’s infinitely more possible. …

Do you love mysteries? Do you not love mysteries? Either way, start your 2014 with quality reading and pick up Paul Auster's The New York Trilogy.

Do you love mysteries? Do you not love mysteries? Either way, start your 2014 with quality reading and pick up Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy.

4. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

It’s never more apparent how brilliant Paul Auster is when you start reading him just after you have finished a mediocre novel. The New York Trilogy is one of Auster’s most renowned works of fiction, and–you guessed correctly!–it’s actually three separate novels. In New York, where all magical things happen, several mysteries are being investigated by several characters, some metaphysical shit goes down, people talk a lot about people talking or not talking, excuse me, my name is Peter Stillman. But all that aside, TNYT is a mystery of mysteries. It is the meta-mystery. It transcends. Best to read it while either completely high or sleep deprived.

I don't usually read nonfiction, but when I do, it has to be creepy, like Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City.

I don’t usually read nonfiction, but when I do, it has to be creepy, like Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City.

3. The Devil in the White City by David Larson

This is the story of two architects, tested on the sooty, soiled grounds of late-19th Century Chicago: Daniel Burnham, an architect of buildings in the age of steel and the director of works of the great World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893; and H.H. Holmes, an architect of manipulation, murder, and the macabre who killed dozens of people while staying hidden from the police, just blocks away from the fair’s entrances–both were equally ambitious and worked incessantly toward their respective goals. At the World’s Fair, they represented the city’s two faces: the White City and the hell hole, the symbol of hope and the harbinger of horror. …

John Fowles's first novel The Collector blew everyone out of the water. I myself have been out of the water since I read it in April this year.

John Fowles’s first novel The Collector blew everyone out of the water. I myself have been out of the water since I read it in April this year.

2. The Collector by John Fowles

John Fowles’s debut novel certainly set the bar high. I felt the need to start by reading this book because it seemed to suit me (or suit my obsession with Law & Order: SVUCSI, andCriminal Minds; a girl can’t have too much crime TV), and I stand by my choice. The Collector follows Frederick Clegg in his project to stalk, kidnap, and woo the object of his affections, Miranda Grey, a young art student of the upper middle class. If Clegg were a young gallant knight or the Earl of Rochester, this story could be romantic, or at the very least, kind of kinky. But Clegg is a loner, a man with little to no social graces who happens to really, really like collecting butterflies, so the story has to go the creepy rout. Fine by me, since Fowles can definitely pull off creepy and pull it off well. …

And the winner of the LitBeetle’s Pick of the 2013 is …

Gone Girl is the 2012 thriller by Gillian Flynn and tells the story of Nick Dunne, under suspicion of killing his wife Amy.

Gone Girl is the 2012 thriller by Gillian Flynn and tells the story of Nick Dunne, under suspicion of killing his wife Amy.

1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I came to this book without expectations. It seems everyone but I had heard of it and already added it to their Goodreads “Want to Read” bookshelf, but it’s all in character for me, so I shouldn’t be surprised. That being said, I only got to page 16 before I decided I loved this book. Gillian (like my name, so we’re practically twins!) Flynn’s Gone Girl is a perfect specimen for a morbid curiosity. The girl in question is Amy Elliott Dunne, the supposed victim in a missing person’s case. Her husband Lance Nicholas “Nick” Dunne is the supposed perpetrator (because it’s always the husband, right?). Amy and Nick are beautiful, successful, clever, and bursting with love for each other, but when both are laid off, the initial spark of their marriage dies out, and a family crisis uproots them from their beloved Manhattan and lands them in Nick’s rural Missouri hometown of North Carthage, the two are embroiled in a battle of wit, sadism, and manipulation. You won’t be able to tear your eyes away from this train wreck, and you may think you can predict the outcome (and maybe you’re better at that than I am), but you will enjoy the unfolding of this disastrous relationship the whole time. …

A special runner up mention goes to …

A Memory of Light is the final installation of Robert Jordan's beloved fantasy series Wheel of Time.

A Memory of Light is the final installation of Robert Jordan’s beloved fantasy series Wheel of Time.

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

So I didn’t technically review this book, but I spent the better part of the first quarter of 2013 rereading Robert Jordan’s modern classic fantasy series The Wheel of Time, which culminated in this joint effort with author Brandon Sanderson. A Memory of Light ended a fourteen-book series and what was, for a lot of fantasy readers, an era of genre bliss. The Wheel of Time was my escapism from the minor horrors of high school, and A Memory of Light was a fitting end.

It would be a mistake to say I’m not obsessed with morbid mystery novels. I am. Just going to come right out and say it. Gillian Flynn’s novel goes above and beyond, taking morbidity to high entertainment. I won’t say Gone Girl is great “Literature,” but I enjoyed it the most out of all the books I read this year, and I think it will stand up to the test of time.

I can’t wait to read another several dozen books next year! Thanks, again, to all my followers who tagged along with me on my silly adventures through literature (and not-literature)! Send me book recommendations and help me make 2014 a more exciting year for books than 2013!

The Complete List

The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan

Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan

A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan

The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan

Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan

Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan

Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan

Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan

Hikikomori and the Rental Sister by Jeff Backhaus

A Spy in the Ruins by Christopher Bernard

The Collector by John Fowles

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Reamde by Neal Stephenson

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

The Hours by Michael Cunningham

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Ganymede by Cherie Priest

The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony Berkeley

The Inspector and Silence by Hakan Nesser

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud

Black Blade Blues by J.A. Pitts

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

To Be or Not To Be by Ryan North (and Shakespeare)

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Vurt by Jeff Noon

Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn

Italo Calvino: Letters 1941-1985 by Italo Calvino

The Lifted Veil by George Eliot

The Stranger by Albert Camus

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Honeyed Words by J.A. Pitts

A Lifetime by Morris Fenris

Underground by Haruki Murakami

The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy

Nightlight by The Harvard Lampoon

Forged in Fire by J.A. Pitts

Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon

The Wrecking Yard by Pinckney Benedict

A Sudden Wild Magic by Diana Wynne Jones

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro

A Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

The Fall of the Stone City by Ismail Kadare

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Paprika by Yasutaka Tsutsui

City of Glass by Paul Auster

Ghosts by Paul Auster

The Locked Room by Paul Auster

Suicide Game by Haidji

Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein

On Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl”

29 Oct
Gone Girl is the 2012 thriller by Gillian Flynn and tells the story of Nick Dunne, under suspicion of killing his wife Amy.

Gone Girl is the 2012 thriller by Gillian Flynn and tells the story of Nick Dunne, under suspicion of killing his wife Amy.

I came to this book without expectations. It seems everyone but I had heard of it and already added it to their Goodreads “Want to Read” bookshelf, but it’s all in character for me, so I shouldn’t be surprised. That being said, I only got to page 16 before I decided I loved this book. Gillian (like my name, so we’re practically twins!) Flynn’s Gone Girl is a perfect specimen for a morbid curiosity. The girl in question is Amy Elliott Dunne, the supposed victim in a missing person’s case. Her husband Lance Nicholas “Nick” Dunne is the supposed perpetrator (because it’s always the husband, right?). Amy and Nick are beautiful, successful, clever, and bursting with love for each other, but when both are laid off, the initial spark of their marriage dies out, and a family crisis uproots them from their beloved Manhattan and lands them in Nick’s rural Missouri hometown of North Carthage, the two are embroiled in a battle of wit, sadism, and manipulation. You won’t be able to tear your eyes away from this train wreck, and you may think you can predict the outcome (and maybe you’re better at that than I am), but you will enjoy the unfolding of this disastrous relationship the whole time.

Here's my one photo of the Mississippi as I passed through St. Paul on a train across country. I imagined the setting of Gone Girl to be similar to this: covered in ominous, morning fog, and full of ancient foreboding.

Here’s my one photo of the Mississippi as I passed through St. Paul on a cross-country train ride. Nick’s hometown of North Carthage sits on the banks of the Mississippi, so I imagined the setting of Gone Girl to be similar to this: covered in an ominous, morning fog. I wonder if you could float a body down the Mississippi all the way to the Ocean …

My one serious query to Flynn is whether or not she made the  neuroses of these characters too typical, too gendered, too easy. She’s created a modern day “hysterical woman,” another Madame Bovary, another madwoman who needs to be locked in an attic. While, with Nick, Flynn transported a needy man-child straight out of a Philip Roth or Jonathan Franzen novel. But in the end, the author shows her skill as a writer in alternating chapters of Amy’s and Nick’s points of view, and keeps them human (not stereotypes or shadows of humans) by staying in their respective crazy heads. Nick’s narrative remains in the “present,” beginning with the day of Amy’s mysterious disappearance. The door to their North Carthage McMansion is left open, the living room is in foreboding disarray, and Amy is gone. Amy’s narrative follows her diaries, beginning with the day she “met a boy.” Even though Amy is gone from the present story line, we still hear her smart-talking, giddy voice through these entries. Too often does an author try to achieve multiple points of view, but ends up creating a schizophrenic break of the one character (or themselves). Flynn, though, switches between the cynical, self-pitying, tortured voice of Nick and the enraged, entitled, embittered voice of Amy with surprising credibility and ease. The beauty of Flynn’s writing is the slow easing into an understanding of the characters’ psychoses. The reader is like a frog in slowly boiling water. The next thing you know, you’ve been cooked by all the crazy.

Gone Girl is all about identities: Internal Nick versus Public Nick, Diary Amy versus Real Amy. Apparently, Christian Bale is the very definition of Schizophrenia (because his image was the first in a Google image search), and I think he would have been a fantastic Nick in the film adaptation. Alas.

Gone Girl is all about identities: Internal Nick versus Public Nick, Diary Amy versus Real Amy. Apparently, Christian Bale is the very definition of schizophrenia because his image was the first in a Google image search. I think he would have been a fantastic Nick in the film adaptation. This photo is extra relevant since my next read is American Psycho. (Pic from Science News to You)

Flynn’s host of side characters set the scene of North Carthage perfectly: Nick’s twin sister Margo and Alzheimer’s-afflicted father paint the perfect picture of our male protagonist: the baby of the family, the man whose brief interaction with his father was to glimpse misogyny at its worst; Detectives Boney and Gilpin, whose calm, small-town demeanor mask two sharp minds that don’t miss a beat; Rand and Marybeth Elliott, Amy’s lovey dovey, child psychologist parents and best-selling co-authors of the children’s book series Amazing Amy; and a whole host of townspeople and neighbors, all ready to claim Amy as the their best friend, and all ready to pick up pitchforks and torches. Despite the fact that we’re stuck in Amy’s and Nick’s heads, these side characters don’t disappoint in their fullness and distinctness.

Gone Girl isn’t just a story of a couple with couple-y problems. It’s the story of two people with serious, psychological issues, including the intensity of their gender stereotypes. I don’t want any potential readers to be deterred from this novel because it’s about a marriage. Nick’s and Amy’s relationship make the story that much more frighteningly good, because it’s fraught with all the sexual, gender, and marital tension you can imagine. Flynn’s understanding of psychology and obvious skill at mystery narratives make Gone Girl an intense and constantly entertaining read, with a (no spoilers!) killer ending that will leave you 100% satisfied.  In fact, I’m not sure any book I’ve read this year can quite match the ending I just read, but that may be because I’m still coming off of a Gillian-Flynn high. Make sure you read this book, preferably before you get married and/or move to rural Missouri, and preferably before the David Fincher film adaptation comes out next year.

The film adaptation of Gone Girl has already been cast: Ben Affleck takes the lead with Rosamund Pike--a big transition for Pike from cutesie roles like Jane Bennett to cold, calculating Amy Dunne.

The film adaptation of Gone Girl has already been cast: Ben Affleck takes the lead with Rosamund Pike–a big transition for Pike from cutie roles like Jane Bennet to cold, calculating Amy Dunne. Who would you have cast? (Pic from BuzzSugar)

Update: I recently watched the movie, which was released on October 3, 2014. Check out how the film chalks up to the novel here!