Warning: if you intend to read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn or indeed watch the movie adaptation then back away from this blog post now – do not pass Go, do not collect $200 – cause there are gonna be spoilers ahead!
When you are the owner of a toddler getting out to the cinema to watch a movie is a rare thing. In fact I have not crossed the threshold of a movie theatre since my daughter was born two years ago! Partly the reason it is so hard for us is that we live 700 miles from our nearest family members and so to arrange an adult-only night out really is a special occasion – more special than most movies. And, partly I’ve been so shattered over the last two years that staying awake for two-plus-hours in a dark, cosy cinema was just not a realistic expectation! However, late last year I saw the trailer for Gone Girl and for the first time in a long while I wanted to go to the cinema. The trailer promised a bunch of goodies that made me intrigued: good actors (Ben Affleck, yum!), mystery, director I like, cool looking cinematography, dark story line. And so we made a plan to go catch the movie not long after it was released – we even got as far as setting a date and drafting in a friend to baby sit. But it fell through at the last gasp.
But I consoled myself with the idea that I could now read the book before I saw the movie – something I think about doing a lot but rarely achieve. I had been wary about reading the book due to its overwhelming popularity but I got a deal on the Kindle edition and went for it. I finished reading it last month and was loathed to give it even a one-star review on Goodreads! It was a terrible, terrible book. I am baffled by its popularity. I liked the premise (wife disappears in suspicious circumstances and her husband is left to prove his innocence but surprise, it’s all a big scam by the wife to get revenge on her cheating husband) and I’m ok with the seriously unlikable characters (I mean, seriously unlikeable characters – wifey is a crazy with a capital C and hubby is just kinda pathetic) but I’m not ok with the shockingly bad writing. I plodded though the first half of the book muttering under my breath about the clunky first person narrative and the over-used gimmick of alternating chapters from his & her’s perspective. And then I hit half way and the big reveal happened – dum dum dum – she ain’t dead and she is a horrible person who has completely lied to the reader through a fabricated diary about the behaviour of her beloved.
But from there the book got more and more annoying. Honestly, I think if this story were in the hands of a better author it would have been great. Some aspects of what she weaved into the story were great (the I’m-pretending-I-love-you-but-I’m-really-just-framing-you treasure hunt, for example). The lengths which the wife went to orchestrate her return to her husband but still be ‘loved’ by the populace was scary but her believing that her husband honestly wanted her back rather than him just trying to prove his innocence did not ring true for me. It could be that I’m missing some nuances though – perhaps Flynn wanted to paint the husband as being utterly addicted to his psychopathic wife and his wife knew this even when it wasn’t clear to the reader. And this rational would actually help me buy the ending. But the writing was so poor … yada, yada, you get my gist!
After finishing the book I was disinclined to watch the movie which annoyed me cause, well hello, did I mention Ben Affleck! But both the hubby and I needed a break from our daily sludge this weekend so we snuggled up in bed on Saturday night and rented it on our laptop. My honest opinion of the movie? Man, I wish I hadn’t read the book first!! It had all the elements that I would have enjoyed in a thriller if only I didn’t know everything single thing that was going to transpire before it did – it really kills the mystery! The whole movie just felt pedestrian as it slugged its way through the story. Rosamund Pike was excellent as the craaazzy wife and Ben (yes, as in Affleck) was reasonable although his version of the husband felt too ordinary of a man to want to stay married to a psychopath. The supporting roles were all really good except, in my humble opinion, Neil Patrick Harris who played the lamb-to-the-slaughter old friend of the wife. To me this character read so much more creepy and weird on the page than Harris played him and although the character is fundamental in the story he didn’t get enough screen time for me to care about him. My hubby hadn’t read the book before seeing the movie and it was cool to see his reactions to all the twists and turns but it just rubbed it in how much the film watching experience was spoiled by reading the book – grrrrr.
So, what is my take away? I guess three things: only read a book before seeing the movie if it isn’t a thriller that relies on surprise twists; or only read the book first if you know it is going to be a phenomenal book and you aren’t that fussed about seeing the movie; and listen to your gut that says for, whatever reason, don’t read a book – it’s going to suck no matter how popular it appears to be!