I was going to wait to read Gone Girl until after I saw the movie, but when I read some movie reviews that said I’d like the movie better if I read the book first, I happily succumbed to temptation and ended up being one of three people in two exit rows of a Southwest Airlines flight from Columbus to St. Louis who were reading it on the Friday night the movie opened.
The book is certainly an eye-opener. I saw ahead to very little of what was coming. The movie included enough of the hints and foreshadowing to make the plot comprehensible to someone who hadn’t read the book (Ron, who hadn’t, missed only a little bit of how much of a prisoner Amy was in Desi’s house).
Another reason for reading the book first is so I could enjoy the shots of my home town, Cape Girardeau, when I got to see the movie. And yes, there was the downtown, the floodwall, the new Mississippi river bridge, and the court house. There were the wide, concrete streets. The book describes buildings with “hand-drawn lines from where the river hit during the Flood of ’61, ’75, ’84,’93,’07,’08,’11” whereas in Cape those are mostly on the floodwall, and I missed the shot if they showed it (Imight have to see this movie again).
The most jarring notes in the movie were the accents—most of the Missourians sounded like they were from Arkansas, and no one told the actors that only a few people from north of St. Louis pronounce the name of the state “Missour-ah.” The rest of the population of the state pronounce it correctly, “Missour-ee.”
I particularly admired the way Neil Patrick Harris, who plays Desi, seems so clueless and lost while enforcing his will–bringing Amy the right clothes, the right hair color, and just enough food to get her back to the right weight.
But I am skipping ahead, assuming, as Florinda says, that you are not one of “the six people who haven’t read the novel.” I loved the way it built, starting with Nick’s observation on p. 7 that “there’s something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold.”
Perhaps one of the reasons I saw little of what was coming is because I was so utterly charmed by Nick quoting The Sure Thing about his name (“Nick’s the kind of guy you can drink a beer with, the kind of guy who doesn’t mind if you puke in his car”) that I missed the import of the fact that Amy says she understood only “three-fourths of his movie references. Two-thirds, maybe” but that she intends to study up.
Later, however, I was put off by Amy’s snotty Manhattan rich-girl attitude, especially when she describes the kind of thing she thinks Missourians cook: “a casserole made from canned soup, butter, and a snack chip.” I felt a despairing kind of pity for her when I read that she “never really felt like a person, because [she] was always a product” and her disdain for the role of “cool girl” rang a few bells, but her view of everything as a competition and other people existing only so you can get what you want struck me as despairing right from the start. The way she uses her neighbor Noelle would have been absolutely horrifying if it weren’t for how funny I found her description of the books in Noelle’s house: “The Irish in America. Mizzou Football: A History in Pictures. We Remember 9/11. Something Dumb With Kittens.” The two in the middle are regional—who outside of central Missouri could care about Mizzou football, and how could anyone outside of NYC understand the impact of 9/11? Amy understandably has no interest in genealogy or taking care of anyone except herself—she believes she is fond of her cat, but doesn’t give it a second thought when she leaves her front door open on the day of her disappearance.
The most terrifying point of the story, for me, was seeing what Amy thought about the people she was interacting with:
I waved to neighbors, I ran errands for Mo’s friends, I once brought cola to the ever-soiled Stucks Buckley. I visited Nick’s dad so that all the nurses could testify to how nice I was, so I could whisper over and over into Bill Dunne’s spiderweb brain: I love you , come live with us. I love you, come live with us. Just to see if it would catch. Nick’s dad is what the people of Comfort Hill call a roamer—he is always wandering off. I love the idea of Bill Dunne, the living totem of everything Nick fears he could become, the object of Nick’s most profound despair, showing up over and over and over on our doorstep.”
Amy’s thoughts here so perfectly foreshadow the ending that you hardly need to hear her say that Nick “is learning to love me unconditionally, under all my conditions.” But it does add that extra little thrill of fear.