Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn--This Book-to-Movie Available on Blu-ray & DVD!

Book Review By:
Sharon Powers.

     Do you remember what movie plot that had a husband conspire to get his wife pregnant by Satan? More hints? Well, the husband helps neighbors drug his wife so she can't resist when the demon rapes her. She gets pregnant and in the end she agrees to raise the "demon spawn." The creepy horror movie is none other than Rosemary's Baby. [2]

     No, Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl is not a supernatural thriller with demons, nor does Flynn's story contain fallen angels, like Azazel, in the movie, Fallen. And, it doesn't even have a killer sniper like the movie Phone Booth. Yet, the popular novel is, indeed, a mystery, thriller--just one without a supernatural bent to it...and no snipers.

     I'm very excited to talk to you, today, about Gillian Flynn's popular mystery/thriller, Gone Girl. So, let's get started by taking a look at a short synopsis of her novel.


     It's a beautiful, warm summer morning when Nick gets up and wonders if he's ready; he tiptoes downstairs to find his beautiful wife making crepes for their five-year anniversary breakfast. Nick watches Amy for a few minutes until she spots him in his grubby boxers and unkempt hair. Amy leans against the kitchen counter and says, "Well, hello, handsome." Then, "[b]ile and dread inched up [his] throat. [Nick] thought to [him]self: Okay, go." (7)

    Later when Amy turns up missing, the cops begin focusing on Nick as a suspect. He doesn't seem capable of doing anything right. Nick smiles at a press conference and the picture is widely circulated. Nick hires an attorney who has only repre- sented guilty clients, and to make matters worse, Nick's mistress calls a press conference and lets the world know about Nick's infidelity to Amy. And then, Amy's diary turns up revealing her fear of Nick and that she thought he might kill her.

     Nick's life just keeps unspooling. Pressure from Amy's parents, being labeled as America's Most Hated Man--he can't even get served drinks at a bar, and then, he is arrested for murder and gets out of jail on a bond. Whew! And Nick's lies just don't stop. Nick is a liar, he is unfaithful to his wife, gets drunk when he shouldn't, gives interviews when he knows it is just wrong, fails miserably at breaking up amicably with his oh-so-young mistress, and acts inappropriately wherever he goes. 

   Family, friends, law enforce- ment, and reporters ask Nick if he killed Amy. No other suspects are on the radar, yet, Nick adamantly denies killing her. The only important question is, is he lying, yet, again? Law enforcement believe Nick is guilty. They build a case against Nick, he is arrested and a trial date is set. They will ferret-out the truth. 

     This book is full of great quotes, but I chose one I think really carries the tone of the book as well as revealing what Nick and Amy's relationship is like under the skin. Here it is:
Yes, I am finally a match for Amy. The other morn- ing I woke up next to her, and...tried to read her thoughts. For once I didn't feel like I was staring into the sun. I'm rising to my wife's level of madness. Because I can feel her changing me again: I was a callow boy, and then a man, good and bad. Now at last I'm the hero. I am the one to root for in the never-ending war story of our marriage. It's a story I can live with. Hell, at this point, I can't imagine my story without Amy. She is my forever antagonist. We are one long frightening climax. (413)
     Wow! This is a story he can live with? What? What? What? He is going to bring a baby into the world with a sociopath mother and raise that child in an environment of a "never-ending war story," with his mother as a "forever antagonist"? And what about the fact that he is rising to his "wife's level of madness"? If any two people shouldn't have a child, it is these two--that is a really scary thought.

Some traits of a sociopath. [7]
     This passage is fraught with anxiety due to the cool and dispassionate way Nick delivers the quote.  A child will be born into his parents' psychotic world. The child, undoubtedly, will be the pawn, the tool, of two horrible parents...with the end result, the child will become just like his parents. Gillian Flynn masterfully creates an unsettled feeling of imminent peril for the expected child that that anxiety is transmitted to the reader. I also felt sorry that Nick changed so much that he became part of Amy's sick world. Gillian Flynn's writing is shockingly beautiful and scary, but it is done well. 

     As I've mentioned in other posts, any author who manages to write a novel that garners the attention of film makers to the point where it comes to the big screen, should be justifiably proud. And so it should be for author, Gillian Flynn, since her book-to-movie comes to the big screen on October 3, 2014. Let's take a quick look at one of the available trailers for this movie:

     Directing Gone Girl is David Fincher, with writing credits going (surprisingly, ha, ha, ha) to Gillian Flynn for her novel, and Gillian Flynn also for the screenplay. Well-known stars have been cast for this movie, including Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne and Rosamund Pike as Amy, Neil Patrick Harris will portray Desi, Tyler Perry will fill the shoes of Tanner Bolt, Nick's attorney, and Sela Ward will portray Sharon Schieber. Rounding out the cast will be Emily Ratajkowski as Andie (Nick's mistress), Carrie Coon as Margo Dunne (Nick's sister), Kim Dickens as Detective Rhonda Boney, and many others. [9]

     The movie run-time is 145 minutes and is listed by IMDb as a "Drama/Mystery and Thriller." The metascore from is 87/100 (from a total of 12 reviewers). The Motion Picture Rating (MPAA) Rating is: "R," for bloody violence, strong sexual content and nudity, and for language (There is a lot of cursing in the book, and I guess, now we know, the movie, too.). [9]

     There has been speculation that the movie ending has been changed from the book's ending scenes. We just won't know what's in store for the viewing audience until the movie opens. What a switcheroo if Gillian Flynn rewrote the ending for the screenplay, basically, rewriting how the story in the book ends, too. What do you think? Just food for thought....!

     Gillian Flynn certainly has the ability to write a novel that can captivate a reader's interest in a manner that leaves the reader pensive and filled with anxiety for the protagonist. This, I believe, is Gillian Flynn's trademark style. She definitely knows how to write in the mystery/suspense genre with success.

     So, let me tell you how the book is organized. Flynn has divided the book into three main sections: Part One: Boy Loses Girl, Part Two: Boy Meets Girl, and Part Three: Boy Gets Girl Back (Or Vice Versa). The novel begins with Nick telling us his story about what's going on in the present; the second chapter is from Amy's point of view (but we only get to see her from the words in her diary starting in 2005). This is the pattern the rest of the book follows, alternating points of view and characters, getting each side of the other's story as we move through time.

     One thing I like about Flynn's writing is that even though her characters may not start fully fleshed-out, as her story develops, the characters also develop. For example, in Gone Girl, Nick starts out looking a bit of the dufus with his "grubby boxers and unkempt hair." But, that's just the beginning.

     Then we see Nick nervous--we don't know why...yet. We gradually get more and more glimpses of Nick and find out he lies, and then he lies through omission, and then he just lies some more. We also get to see him make stupid, bad choices, and struggle to make sense of everything. By the end of the book, Nick has changed, dramatically, and then he gives us the quote I gave you above, as my favorite quote. The same type of fleshing out of character occurs with Amy. The way Flynn uses the couple, each with their own story, as unreliable narrators contributes mightily to the feeling that something is really wrong with this picture.

         While the character development was really very good, it fell apart, somewhat, near the end of the book. Learning that Amy was a sociopath explains her ability to charm others through her beauty and manipulation. It seems, though, that Amy goes against some of her own character traits.

     Remember, Nick was her object of vindictiveness and vengeance. Since Amy had the reputation of holding grudges for years and years, why let Nick off the hook? I expected Amy's retribution to result in scorched fields. Why not just have Nick sent off to prison, or death row?

     The two nefarious creatures, Greta and Jeff, who rob Amy of all her money, was a clumsily done scene. Amy, so careful, organized, thoughtful, and hyperaware would not have let the two get a drop on her. Amy didn't fight, but just lamely surrendered the money. That whole scene seemed contrived, something that wouldn't have happened to Amy. It would have been far better to have Amy robbed at the point of a gun while she was in a convenience store somewhere.

     Also, Desi's murder at Amy's hands. I can actually see that Amy might have been able to kill Desi; the problem I have with the murder is all the loopholes. Earlier in the book, Desi always appeared with his mother close by. She seemed to always interject herself into the scene and take control. So when Amy and Desi get together for the last time--Mama has dropped off the face of the planet. Also, any investigator would check to see if Desi had an alibi for the date of Amy's abduction--he can't be in two places at once. It would likely have been Amy's downfall.

     The ending. What can I say? Well, it just doesn't work well, does it? Again, all this forgiving Nick is so out of character with Amy. Nick says (in my favorite quote, above) he is rising to Amy's level of madness...wouldn't it have been better to have a stalemate between the two spouses? Nick could have held on to the manuscript and given it to his lawyer in the event of his untimely death with the last lines saying, "I catch [her] looking at me with those watchful eyes, the eyes of an insect, pure calculation, and I think: This [wo]man might kill me. So if you find this and I'm dead, well..." (p.205) If he is rising to her level, he shouldn't have burned (deleted) the manuscript but kept it as leverage.

     The other thing Flynn could have done was to make Nick the killer for a great twist at the end. Have him stage his own frame-up and later, when Amy's body is found floating down the Mississippi, to have other evidence found to exonerate Nick. Of course, it would be Nick leaking evidence to exonerate himself and inculpate (to frame) someone else--perhaps Desi. We find all this out after Nick is released from prison (and it looks like justice has been served and the good guy is out of prison) and he goes to look at his hidey-hole where he has stored his notes and plans for Amy's murder--we realize Nick is the murderer.

     So, while the book has much to recommend it, the latter third of the book falls down with numerous problems. Too many unlikelihoods from the characters find the plot failing at the end, as well as the characters. Flynn's novel is really a good yarn in many ways, but falls short at the finish line.

     Gone Girl, is a book rich with discussion material. I have only scratched the surface, here, in this blog post and book review. For example, I have not covered a number of delicious themes, such as: Is the book misogynistic (against women)--Flynn's novels have been accused of portraying women in a negative light. What do you think? Also, I've covered a bit about Nick's lying ways. What about dishonesty in the marriage, dishonesty by Amy or the media, and even the police?

     The media seemed to have convicted Nick in the court of public opinion. Many attorneys claim they can't get their clients a fair trial because of one-sided media reporting. How do you feel about this? How do you feel about Amy stealing money from Nick's and Amy's joint accounts? Should Nick be forgiven for his infidelity? How much blame does Amy hold for the failed marriage--does the fact that she is a sociopath alter that fact? Can she be excused because of her mental problems? Do you feel like marriage is "a long con job?" (the way Amy seems to feel). Well, I can't cover everything, but I hope these few ideas prompt you to give the book a little additional thought. [18]

     One reason I brought up Rosemary's Baby, Fallen, and Phone Booth, at the top of this post is that none of these movies have happy endings. Does a book have to have a happy ending to be good? Can a book be good if the ending is ambiguous? In Gone Girl, Amy wants to punish Nick for his lies, deceit, and infidelity, yet Amy doesn't consider her lies, deceits, and even murder as wrong or that she should be punished. This seems eerily like the ending in Phone Booth where the sniper has made Colin Ferrell toe the mark and be honest to the people in his life or die. Ironically, the sniper kills people yet doesn't hold himself accountable. Do you like stories where the bad guy or woman gets away? How about Gone Girl?

     Since the MPAA rating for the movie is "R" for bloody violence, strong sexual content and nudity, and for language, I think we can use that as a guide for the book, as well. Anyone who is young should not read this book, nor persons sensitive to violence, rape, or psychological injury. Also, anyone who does not like cursing, then this book may not be for you--there's a quite a lot of cursing and swear words in the novel. But, however, anyone in the intended audience, mature adults, this book should be fine.

     For all the above reasons I have given you about Gillian Flynn's novel, Gone Girl, above, I rate the book at 3.5 stars out of 5.

     Thank you for joining me this week as we got to look at Gillian Flynn's, Gone Girl, coming to the movies on October 3, 2014. And, thank you for taking time to read my post and consider the novel. Please join me again next week as we leave the world of mystery, thriller, and suspense and travel to the genre of science fiction. Take care, my friends and do a little reading every day.

Until next time...
This flower is a double white Rose of Sharon. [21]
...many happy pages of reading!

My best to you all.


[1] "Gone Girl." Retrieved 09-15-14.
[2] "Rosemary's Baby." Retrieved 09-20-14.
[3] "Rosemary's Baby." [graphic image] Retrieved 09-23-14.
[4] "The Most Hated Man in America." [by Sharon Powers] Retrieved 09-23-14.
[5] "Liar Liar Pants on Fire." Retrieved 09-23-14.
[6] "You Don't Really Understand...." Retrieved 09-23-14.
[7] "Sociopath Characteristics." Retrieved 09-23-14.
[8] "Gone Girl Trailer #1." Retrieved 09-24-14.
[9] "Gone Girl (2014)." Retrieved 09-24-14.
[10] "Thrillers: Mystery and Suspense." Retrieved 09-23-14.
[11] "Character Development." Retrieved 09-23-14.
[12] "When it fell apart." Retrieved 09-23-14.
[13] "Gone Girl." Retrieved 09-24-14.
[14] "Gillian Flynn." Retrieved 09-24-14.
[15] "Gillian Flynn." Retrieved 09-24-14.
[16] "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing." Retrieved 09-23-14.
[17] "Since You've Already Been Convicted by the Media...." Retrieved 09-24-14.
[18] "Summer of Monuments: Gone Girl." Retrieved 09-24-14.
[19] "JK's Movie Blog: Rated R." Retrieved 09-24-14.
[20] "3.5 stars (out of 5)." Retrieved 09-24-14.
[21] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 09-24-14.