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Gone Girl

October 10, 2014

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.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. October 10, 2014 11:49 am

    I loved this book (and her others) and am looking forward to seeing the movie.

    • October 10, 2014 2:29 pm

      Both Ron and I enjoyed the movie, in a horrified way.

  2. October 10, 2014 11:53 am

    I absolutely loved the way Gone Girl built. It felt so crafted — maybe a little bloodless and distant from real life, but in a fun way.

    • October 10, 2014 2:30 pm

      I guess Amy can seem bloodless. I reacted to her more as if she were bloodthirsty…she liked her revenge warm.

  3. October 10, 2014 12:02 pm

    You know, I am embarrassed to say how much Amy’s character distressed me. I feel naive and stupid-innocent saying this, but I reached a point where reading about Amy and weirdly, her parents, actually made me feel slightly nauseated. It’s a clever book and Gillian Flynn is top-notch at making the reader shudder as the spider-web entangles its victims more and more tightly, so yay for that? But for me, it was all sort of unbearably sad and dark.

    • October 10, 2014 2:35 pm

      I agree; that’s what I was getting at when I said I found her character despairing from the start. What happens is all laid out from the moment you learn that “when I finally quit violin at age twelve, Amy was revealed as a prodigy in the next book” and “when I blew off the junior tennis championship at age sixteen to do a beach weekend with friends, Amy recommitted to the game.” Interesting that the movie changes those two examples to cello and volleyball.

      • October 10, 2014 5:04 pm

        Yes! Those things were what I’m talking about! It’s not like I have never met a sociopath, but Flynn doesn’t let you escape from the fact that the inhuman person is still a human…and also, still inhuman.

  4. the other theo permalink
    October 10, 2014 2:01 pm

    Do you feel that Amy is merely afflicted with a detached ennui or is she really a genuine, bona fide sociopath?

    • October 10, 2014 2:36 pm

      Oh, I think she’s a genuine sociopath. She has no empathy at all.

  5. Rita Dailey permalink
    October 10, 2014 3:43 pm

    I was especially pleased that the movie followed the book so closely. I think I read that Gillian Flynn wrote the screen play, which would explain the accurate portrayal of the book. I was glad that I had read the book before seeing the movie. That way I didn’t embarrass myself in the theater by screaming, “NOOOO! This movie cannot end this way!”

    • October 10, 2014 4:01 pm

      Yes, the author got credit for the screenplay at the end of the movie. Ron and I were still sitting there watching the credits, a little stunned, even though I already knew how it would end!

  6. October 10, 2014 4:25 pm

    ::raises her hand:: I am one of the six people.

    • October 10, 2014 4:29 pm

      Well, there’s you and Ron and my friend Hoi Ning. Wonder who the other three are?

      • October 10, 2014 5:43 pm

        Kent is one. We’ve done our (non-reading) part!

  7. October 11, 2014 12:56 pm

    I thought the film did remarkably well at capturing a lot of what made the book so great. I missed Nick’s inner monologue and thought he was generally a more interesting character in the book than in the movie.

    The thought of Amy’s fakery all that time is pretty chilling. The whole idea of a relationship you thought was real being false all along is distressing to anyone, but especially anyone (like me) who tends to worry that their friends and acquaintances don’t really like them but are playing nice.

    • October 12, 2014 2:01 pm

      Yes, Nick is more interesting in the book.
      It would never occur to me to think that anyone didn’t really like me but was playing along for some purpose of his/her own. That thought–and this book–are like the tv show House of Cards in opening my eyes to all kinds of manipulative behaviors.

  8. October 12, 2014 3:09 pm

    Now you’ve made me want to reread this one before we get to see the movie. Maybe I’ll throw it on my Readathon stack for the weekend.

    • October 12, 2014 3:40 pm

      The movie is good either way. Part of my motivation was not wanting to be too absorbed in the story to forget to enjoy the scenes of Cape Girardeau!

  9. October 13, 2014 3:05 pm

    This really was a fascinating character study. I thought it was a tribute to the author’s skill that I was so caught up in the characters’ interaction.

    • October 13, 2014 4:23 pm

      Flynn wrote the screenplay for the movie (as noted above), so a lot of the things you like about the writing are reproduced for the screen.

  10. October 17, 2014 1:11 am

    I’m one to say don’t read the book before you watch the movie. I think I would have enjoyed the movie more if I hadn’t known about the major twist. Anyway, Flynn did alter a bit later but the major twist did not have the full surprise effect on me. As for the accents, lots of work to be done considering Ben Affleck is from Cambridge, Mass. and Rosamund Pike, London, England. 😉

    • October 17, 2014 8:27 am

      Usually I agree with you–I had saved the book to read after watching the movie, but then changed my mind, and I’m happy I did because I could fill in more details as the movie unfolded.
      Ben and Rosamund should have had a bit of NYC accent. It’s the townspeople who sounded like they were from Alabama, when they were supposed to be southeast Missourians.

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