Tuesday, October 14, 2014

gone girl

I recently finished reading Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. I wanted to read it before I saw the David Fincher film. In a way, I wish I had seen the film first, as the book was so fresh in my mind, and so riveting a read, that I may not have been as blown away by the movie as I could have been.

Gone Girl is structured as a "he said," "she said" novel. It would not be giving too much away to say that both the he and she in the book, husband Nick Dunne and his wife Amy Elliott-Dunne, are unreliable narrators. The fun and the dread of the experience of reading their story is guessing just how unreliable they are. Even when one has finished the book, and ostensibly all the secrets have been revealed, the reader may not be entirely sure just how much of what they have read really happened. That is what takes Gone Girl from just being a thriller or police procedural to a twisted look at modern life.

Rosamund Pike is stunning — and stuns — as Amy in Gone Girl

A lot of people who have read the book and have watched the film view Gone Girl as the ultimate take-down of marriage. It is true that Flynn, in the voice of both her narrators, shows how difficult it can be to sustain a relationship. There are passages when Amy especially voices a female frustration with what men want, and her needing to play a role, the "cool girl," to keep her husband happy, that should resonate with many women. But the sorts of lies and deceptions and masks that we wear are not just found in marriage, but in all aspects of our lives. Flynn and her characters just take things to extremes.

I expect that I will have to watch the film again, at a later date, when I have a bit more distance from the book, to truly appreciate what Fincher and Co. have done. But I will say that Rosamund Pike was sensational as Amy. She was as compelling as her alter-ego Amy and Amazing Amy (wink). Ben Affleck was good as Nick, although I found him to be a bit too world-weary all the way through, without the All-American naiveté that I might have expected, at least at the start of the story. Especially good was Kim Dickens as Detective Rhonda Boney and Carrie Coon as Nick's twin sister Go (short for Margo). Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris were also good in smaller but pivotal roles. The only bum note was Emily Ratajkowski as Andie. Fincher and Flynn (who wrote the screenplay) chose to beef up the role of Boney, and play down the role of Andie, which both turned out to be excellent choices.

The women of Gone Girl, L-R: Kim Dickens, Rosamund Pike, Gillian Flynn, Carrie Coon, by Carolyn Cole, Los Angeles Times

Gone Girl the novel was also about writing — truth vs. fiction. We live in a world where that line is consistently blurred, from reality television to anything and everything we read online. Being writers, authors, is the meat and potatoes of the novel. Amy's parents are (once) successful authors of a children's book series, Amazing Amy, where they plundered their daughter's life for "teachable" content. Nick and Amy have both lost their jobs at New York magazines — Nick as a popular culture writer for a men's magazine, and Amy as a quiz writer for women's magazines. These authors have become obsolete, the content they used to provide easily available via the internet. Flynn would know all about this, as she was former television critic for Entertainment Weekly whose job was downsized in 2008. As their narratives unfold, Nick's seemingly in the present and Amy's in the past, via her diary, the reader can judge for themselves who is the better writer. And yes, it is a competition. And yes, it is Amy. Gone Girl is also a book, a mystery, that may benefit from a re-read, to see all the clues and signs one missed the first time around. I am definitely interested in reading whatever Flynn comes up with next.


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