Yes, I did. Two summers ago I read THE hot summer novel–Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Just like everyone else. And just like everyone else, I devoured it in almost one sitting. Afterwards, I felt like I had binged on a hot fudge sundae. Ugh.
My memory of the book is that it was a page-turner that dragged on a bit too long and had somewhat of a surprising ending. Oh, I should probably mention here that this blog post has spoilers. So, if you haven’t read the book or watched the movie and you don’t want to find out what happens, don’t read this post. Lots of people didn’t like the ending because the two main characters–Nick and Amy–end up staying together. After all they have been through! I remember thinking, “Good. They deserve each other.”
Even though I have an appalling memory, I do recall that the book’s first plot twist is done really well. That’s when the reader finds out that Amy has not died at the hands of Nick; indeed, Amy has not died at all. She is alive and well and taking out a terrible revenge on Nick, setting him up to take the fall for her meticulously (and admirably) planned (faux) murder.
The book gets a bit loopy toward the end, but at that point I just wanted to finish it and see how everything would be resolved. And as I said, Nick and Amy stay.together. Done. I shut the book and promptly forgot about it.
Until I saw it had been turned into a movie. With Ben Affleck! I gathered four friends and we went to the matinee yesterday.
Three out of five of us had read the book. I sat next to a woman who hadn’t–Kim. And all during the first part of the film, when we meet angelic Amy and the philandering and potentially murdering/murderous husband Nick, I kept wondering if Kim and I were having completely different reactions to the story. I kept wondering if Kim would suspect Nick at all.
Because here’s the thing–in the book, Nick is not a sympathetic character. Nor is Amy. Like I said, they deserve each other. And I have to hand it to Gillian Flynn for writing a book where the characters are so unlikable. You may recall from other posts that I get really annoyed if someone tells me that they didn’t like a book because they didn’t like the characters. Claire Messud, who wrote The Woman Upstairs, has quite a lot to say about this subject. She expressed herself much more eloquently than I ever could; click here to read her opinion.
So, what’s up, then, with casting Ben Affleck as Nick? Ben Affleck? Probably one of the least unlikable stars one could cast. Everyone loves him! He saved all the hostages who were hiding in the Canadian Embassy during the Iranian Revolution. And he did it practically single-handedly. He’s married to that fresh faced beauty who never stops smiling. And we know why. It’s because she’s married to Ben Affleck!
Ben Affleck? Come on.
This totally affected the movie–and not in a good way. Instead of watching the (admittedly sick) dynamics of an equally matched dysfunctional marriage, the viewer can’t help but side with Ben, I mean Nick, as he becomes a victim of his psychopathic wife. And it’s not even done very well. Kim, who hadn’t read the book, thought it was one of the most preposterous movies she had ever seen. She couldn’t understand why Nick would ever stay with his homicidal wife (yes, she is a true murderer). And I struggled to explain that, in the book, the two characters are in a very sick relationship that they both thrive upon. If there is ever a victim, they each takes turns being it. Very fair.
Also, in the recesses of my mind, I think there’s something from the book about his relationship with his dad–and possibly not wanting to turn into his dad? Isn’t that a motivating factor for staying with Amy? I can’t remember.
As Amy toys with Nick and Nick toys with Amy in the never ending “game” that goes on in the book, we readers realize how much fun Gillian Flynn must be having with us. And we play along, enjoying the twists and turns of plot, as loopy (as I said) that they get. And the movie is kind of camp in this way–it seems to bring attention to its ridiculousness–starting with the silly music and Amy’s melodramatic voice.
Kim couldn’t appreciate any of this, and instead just saw the flaws and gaping plot holes. Well, even I had to wonder how anyone could green light the scene where Amy staggers home, then is questioned by the authorities at the hospital and finally allowed to return to her house covered in the blood of her alleged kidnapper whom she has killed. Oh, yes, thanks for showing up after all these months and filling us in on what’s been happening–why don’t you go home and clean yourself up now–take a shower and rinse off all that nasty blood and evidence and stuff.
Bottom line: to really enjoy the movie, read the book first. Then you know what kind of ride you’re about to take. Kim was unable to suspend disbelief because she was expecting something more clever than fun. She may have been looking forward to a good murder mystery when we readers knew that Gone Girl isn’t about the mystery of murder so much as it is about the mystery of marriage. It’s just a shame that the marriage in the movie isn’t the fair match that it is in the book.