When it comes to big screen literary adaptations, having read the book first is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can mean you’re already fully immersed in the world of the movie, you know the characters already, maybe you’re even able to quote lines from the dialogue. On the other hand, that familiarity can mean that there is no sense of discovery for you, no surprises. Worse, it can mean that you’re only too aware of what wasn’t included in the film, all the details and texture that may be missing.
With David Fincher movies alone, I’ve now had the two kinds of experiences. In 1999, I read and loved the hell out of Chuck Palahniuk’s “Fight Club” first, then when I saw it, I was thrilled to see its most memorable scenes transposed into live action, I adored what Edward Norton, Brad Pitt and the rest of the cast brought to the characters and it was a joy to hear all of the novel’s great lines performed aloud.
Earlier this year, in anticipation of Fincher’s cinematic adaptation of it, I read and loved the hell out of Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl”. Then today, I finally saw the movie and… Well, I liked it, liked it a lot really, but I have this nagging feeling that I may have liked it a whole lot more if I hadn’t read the book. There are some major twists in “Gone Girl”, but their impact was lessened by the fact that I already knew about them.
Of course, there is at least one major twist in “Fight Club” too, but maybe because it happens very near the end, it didn’t really matter to me that it wasn’t a surprise to me when I saw the film. Or maybe “Fight Club” just has juicier scenes, characters and dialogue that are more enjoyable to watch being brought to life. “Gone Girl” just might be more plot driven, more of a page-turner where the twists are in great part what keeps you hooked.
That being said, I still liked Fincher’s movie a lot. Like everything he’s ever made, it’s brilliantly crafted, from the shadowy cinematography by Jeff Cronenweth to the unsettling score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. And as the two leads, Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike both deliver wonderfully multilayered performances. The supporting cast is great as well: Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry and many others, including my personal favorite, Emily Ratajkowski, whose role is a spoiler in itself, so I’ll just mention that it’s just perfect how ridiculously young and hot she looks.
As for the plot, it remains relatively engaging even if you’re familiar with the beats: guy’s wife goes missing on their five-year anniversary, media circus ensues, the guy quickly becomes a suspect, then… Oh, I’m definitely going to stop now in case you’re lucky enough not to know about anything but the basic premise I just summed up!
Beyond the plot mechanics, there are interesting things that are said or that we can observe about the way relationships sometimes evolve, how cuteness, romance and sexiness can be replaced by complacency, tension and resentment. Thankfully, things hardly ever become as dark and twisted in real life as they do in “Gone Girl”!
For all these reasons, I liked “Gone Girl” quite a lot, I really did… But maybe because I read it first, I loved the book more.