My husband and I took a rare date night to see Gone Girl, against the advice of some people who said it would make us doubt our marriage and look at each other differently. Spoilers ahead.
The movie is a very faithful adaptation of the book, so I largely had the same reactions to it that I had to my original reading of the book. There were two changes I noted. The context for the amazing ‘cool girl’ speech was changed. In the book, it’s part of Amy’s diary, presented to the reader before we know that Amy has faked her disappearance. So readers are primed to sympathize with it, and it is very sympathetic indeed. But in the movie, it’s a voiceover while Amy drives away from her life with Nick. Knowing that the woman saying these things is twisted enough to frame her husband for her murder changes our view of them entirely and takes away the ring of truth I found in them originally.
The other change is that I thought the ending of the book was somewhat happier in that it presented an upside of Nick being trapped in his marriage with Amy. It showed how Nick was given the chance to redeem himself through devotion to a loveless marriage and his child. Finally he has a chance to be the good guy, and it really seems like he’s going to live up to it. This interpretation of the ending seemed missing in the movie.
I had the same problem with the movie that I had with the book: no one ever voices the idea of how rare it is for women to lie about rape, or says how reasonable it is for cops to suspect the husband of murder because that’s so frequently who it is. I guess just showing the incredibly intricate plotting Amy has to do to overcome the inherent doubt people have of rape victims’ stories is supposed to make this message clear, but again, if that’s the point, ideally I’d like it made explicit.
I will say that I thought the casting was absolutely perfect. In the book Nick Dunne describes himself as looking like a total tool, like a douchebag ex-frat guy, looking smarmy when he doesn’t mean to. Ben Affleck and the awkward handsomeness of his inappropriate smile: inspired.
Some reviews of the movie I read said some smart things I thought worth sharing. Megan Garber in The Atlantic says it’s a horror story about the known unknown of marriage. Since we can never predict how our partners will change as life unfolds, we never know if we’ll be stuck with someone who will turn us into our worst selves, and that is a really really scary idea. Alyssa Rosenberg says, “part of the fascination of “Gone Girl” is that Amy Elliot Dunne is the only fictional character I can think of who might be accurately described as simultaneously misogynist and misandrist.” On Vox, Todd Van Der Werff calls the movie feminist because of a painstaking analysis of shot composition and the way Amy takes control of the narrative and ‘wins.’
Vulture’s Amanda Dobbins says the movie adaptation makes the story more misogynistic than the book because it takes away most of the focus from Amy and gives it to Nick. She also includes a quote from Gillian Flynn that puts her writing in the context of the debate about female characters and likeability: “I’ve grown quite weary of the spunky heroines, brave rape victims, soul-searching fashionistas that stock so many books. I particularly mourn the lack of female villains — good, potent female villains. Not ill-tempered women who scheme about landing good men and better shoes … not chilly WASP mothers … not soapy vixens (merely bitchy doesn’t qualify either). I’m talking violent, wicked women. Scary women. Don’t tell me you don’t know some.” This review includes a great summary of the ways this book/movie can be interpreted: “Depending on your reading of Gone Girl, the book — to borrow some of its language — is either (a) a gothic portrait of marriage; (b) a confession of a mythically unstable woman; (c) a misandrist revenge fantasy; or (d) a misogynistic summary of all the ways that a woman can falsely accuse a man.” I think that’s the reason I’ve been fascinated by the story, there’s so many ways to look at it and see something new. Like a car accident, I can’t look away.