So today I have an excessively important Skype conversation which I’ve spent the entire last week studying for, despite feeling so ill that I wondered if Ebola had become airborne. This call will test a whole bunch of skills that I have acquired in (no joke) the past 10 years. A nagging part of me keeps saying that I haven’t hone thosed skills into anywhere within the vicinity of sharp enough, so last night to calm down I went to see Gone Girl.
I was disappointed.
Now take note: the movie was outstanding. My only real complaint about the film (from a purely production angle) was that Trent Reznor’s soundtrack seemed hardly there most of the time, and when it was there, it felt as bland as the Amazing Amy books were supposed to be. Unlike in The Social Network and the Girl w/the Dragon Tattoo, that grumpy Nine Inch Nails sound stayed so far from “in your face” that it might as well have been playing softly in a Yankee Candle shop.
But besides that, the movie was also disappointing, and I think it’s because it was too faithful to the book. Books are slower mediums, so I can accept the fact that Nick Dunn does LITERALLY NOTHING to influence the book’s outcome. Wait- ok, he said “woodshed” on tv, after pretty much stumbling into the earth-shaking discovery that his sister’s woodshed is full of toys. That’s it.
At every turn, Nick does nothing to legitimately strike back at Amy. He barely even solves her riddles. It takes him nearly the entire movie to do stuff that most movie characters would do within the first act. He holds his head in his hands a lot, and we’re supposed to see him as a challenging character because he does bad stuff. But it’s not a challenge, really, because he never does anything good, or even that bad! He just mopes around like Harry Potter on summer break.
Somehow I didn’t notice in the book that Nick was entirely pointless, but in the book this was ok. Trying to watch Ben Affleck do absolutely nothing but get frustrated for nearly 3 hours was not. In the movie it was more painful than getting your throat slit with a box cutter. Even at the end, when Amy reveals her final cinematic master plan, he doesn’t do much of anything except get mad. That’s a natural response, and Nick could be forgiven for being useless if he was a human, but he’s the lead character in a thriller.
If you completely remove Nick from the movie, you have a story about a woman who runs away, gets robbed almost immediately, cries to her ex-boyfriend, murders said boyfriend, and then comes home. If you remove Amy, you have a movie about a man who is briefly harassed by Nancy Grace. If you remove both of them, you have an independent story about a woman coping with her brother’s trial. NONE of these stories intertwine at any point. I can’t even remember a single scene with more than two of Margot, Amy, Desi or Nick in the same shot.
Oh, and another thing: if you’re going to make a movie *painfully* faithful to the source material, why only mention Amy’s quizzes once? That was the whole spin of her character in the novel. She couldn’t get through a single journal entry without some sort of passive-aggressive quiz.
On the plus side, Gone Girl did a fair job of making me angry at America’s knee-jerk jump to judgement, and the industry of spectacle vs justice. And I guess being too true to the book is better than just stealing the name and writing a new story. But after waiting more than a year to see my favorite book of 2013 turned into film (and then being stoked at the mastermind behind the soundtrack), I felt like I could have gotten more enjoyment just re-reading the novel.