Preparing for David Fincher's Gone Girl... by struggling through Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl

(The below does not feature any discussion of anything that happens in the final two thirds of Gone Girl, but there is discussion of casting and character names, as well as a look at the setup of the narrative as it appears in the novel. There's nothing that will ruin the film for you here but, as ever, if you want to head in completely cold, this is the point to turnaround.)

Judging by the film's trailer, Gone Girl looks very much like a David Fincher film. The frames on show ooze a moody darkness of content - an abandoned shopping mall, boarded up houses - and the visuals have the washed-out-yet-digitally-clear look of regular Fincher cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth. The story, involving a man accused of murder and lots about how men and women treat the opposite sex, is so centrally in Fincher's wheelhouse that it almost feels like author and screenwriter Gillian Flynn wrote the novel for him. But I think Fincher has a challenge with Gone Girl. David Fincer needs to convince the world that Gone Girl is a story worthy of being a David Fincher film.

For a book that is so blatantly readable, Flynn's novel doesn't half prove to be a chore to get through. Cliché after cliché rolls by (at one point someone mentions feeling as though they are in a movie, a point at which my Kindle came very close to meeting the wall), as character after character acts irrationally, dangerously or psychotically in order for the plot to keep moving. Amy and Nick Dunne (Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck in the film) are both unlikeable terrors in their own ways, leaving you grasping for someone to identify with. Perhaps in the book it's meant to be Rhonda (Kim Dickens), or Tanner (Tyler Perry) or more likely Margo (Carrie Coon), but each gets smothered under the layers of awfulness elsewhere. Flynn really makes you work to find out just what happened.

The setup, at least, shouldn't be a problem for Fincher, who will surely dispense with much of Flynn's opening in flashback or exposition. No such luck in the novel. Much of the first third of Gone Girl is page after page of New York socialite garbage, from the pen of Amy, stuck in a privileged life before moving to be stuck in Missouri, from where she will disappear and become the titular Gone Girl. There is, eventually, a point to Flynn including all of this, but it remains open to debate whether the end justifies the means of torture. The mundane details of Amy's life-before-the-narrative do not make compelling reading.

The next challenge comes from the first person narration. Like a found footage film, this is lazily handled by Flynn; sometimes we have a diary or other written content, other times we can just hear a character's thoughts. Fincher, surely, has neither option. I just can't imagine him making a film consisting of voiceover from one of the main players, even if I can readily conceive that Flynn would write one. The early stuff is fine but the challenge will come later on; we stay a step ahead of the police investigation because we see character's thoughts and I'm not sure a change of locale for one character works if we don't have the inner monologue to explain it to us.

To that end, there has already been talk about how much the film will differ from the novel, with Flynn and Affleck both having commented on changes to the conclusion. Clearly at this stage it's a guess but I wonder if the casting of Neil Patrick Harris doesn't reveal a little bit in the characterisation of Desi and with the cast list having a Jeff (Boyd Holbrook) and a Greta (Lola Kirke), it looks as though that section - which surely had the potential to be cut - is there to stay. I'd like to see Rhonda and Tanner get an increased role, if only because they're the people who make the most sense. When Tanner enters the book he behaves like a walking pile of common sense, telling characters what they should have been doing all along, a walking critique of Flynn.

Whatever the changes though, I think Fincher has a battle on his hands with this. Gone Girl isn't just unlikeable, it's nasty (as Trent Reznor has recently said), and its blunt edges are somewhat dulled by the softer confines of paper. On screen you can't hide some of the actions that happen during the course of the narrative and it's going to be interesting to see how audiences react to that. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo came with a reputation of being bleak, which I don't think is something that surrounds Gone Girl. It might do by the time Fincher has finished.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.


  1. Great post! I like how you said "Is Gone Girl a story worthy of being a Fincher film" That's very true, I'm interested in seeing how this all plays out.

    1. Thanks Brittani and same here: I hope he proves that it is, but we'll see.

  2. Can't see this working as a film. Whilst a readable book much of the second half was totally unbelievable, with, as you say, wholly unlikeable characters.

    1. Really interested to see what he does with that second half, if he has kept it pretty much intact. If nothing else it will be very interesting to see how a master film-make approaches something so unbelievable.