Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl, has accomplished the impossible: she keeps her readers guessing (not an easy thing to do). Flynn takes your standard “struggling” relationship and utterly rewrites it. You may think at first you’ve heard this one before, but Nick and Amy are no ordinary pair. They might have ordinary problems—infidelity, neglect, dishonesty, dissatisfaction, selfishness and disrespect—problems that plague marriages across America (as well as every single sitcom since the dawn of television). Most of us have had enough, whether it’s actual or fictional, let’s face it: No one wants to see the same repetitive, predictable romantic drama they’re enduring in their withering love lives illuminated on a pixelated screen. Been there, done that. But Flynn takes Nick and Amy Dunne’s dysfunction to a whole new magnitude of marital mayhem. Amy goes missing on the morning of their five-year anniversary. Nick becomes the lead suspect for murdering his wife. No big deal, nothing anybody hasn’t seen before on CSI, but Flynn reminds her readers time and time again that we are not the cunning experts we’ve presumed ourselves to be, and no amount of crime TV can psyche you up for what’s in store.
Who better to adapt Flynn’s masterpiece into a movie than director David Fincher (Fight Club, 1999)? If anyone can fool an audience like Flynn, it’s Fincher, because Fight Club had us wondering until the very end. It’s Fincher’s job to keep the audience uncertain; it’s the actors’ job to keep viewers deceived. So when it comes to Nick and Amy, who will play the happy couple? Drum roll, please… The role of Nick has gone befittingly to Ben Affleck (Argo, 2012). His wife Amy, the leading lady, will be played by Rosamund Pike, officially as of the last week of July. (It’s about time they decided on an Amy, anyway, because they plan to shoot this fall.) It will be interesting to see how Flynn constructs the final screenplay, since originally Nick and Amy alternate narration, and the first half of the novel zigzags back and forth in time. The literary sequence was essential to delivering the punch line in the novel, but I’m guessing that the film will be a little more linear. I’m sure that Fincher will incorporate some character narration since so much of Nick and Amy’s personalities rely on their written interiority (they’re writers, after all.) Fincher is familiar with narrating his films, including Fight Club and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fincher’s lining up a killer cast. Now that he’s got Pike and Affleck reeled in, he’s got his eye on Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris for supporting roles. Although nothing’s set in stone so far, I doubt they’ll turn him down because Gone Girl has potential to make movie history when it hits the big screens in 2015.
Affleck fits Nick Dunne exquisitely—the charming, failed writer forced to leave his fancy life in New York City for his hometown on the Mississippi River, where he teaches journalism (because those who can’t do, teach) and is accused of killing Amy. He’s a quintessentially conflicted man. He teeters right along that line dividing guilt and innocence. We’re all a little bit of both—we’re flawed, we’re human, we’re confused, and none of us know what we’re doing. Dunne is just as lost and clueless as the rest of us. He’s somebody the average guy can easily relate to—imperfect, and overwhelmingly aware of how little control he has over his life. Affleck embodies everything that I imagine Nick to be, namely his serious demeanor. Other candidates included Ryan Reynolds, Bradley Cooper and Jake Gyllenhaal, none of whom would have been suitable as far as I’m concerned. Reynolds and Cooper have a tendency to fall back on their humor, which would cheapen the dynamic between Nick and his wife. Gyllenhaal just seems too young. I do believe that Mad Men’s lead, Jon Hamm, could have been somewhat convincing, but I’m confident Affleck will pull it off just fine.
British actress Pike (Fracture, 2007) has been chosen for the face of Amy Dunne, the famous gone girl in the flesh. Pike has precisely Amy’s eyes, the kind that seem to see through walls—hypnotizing, psychoanalyzing eyes—nothing escapes them. Amy is no average woman; she is bloody brilliant. The missing missus is meticulous, the opposite of Nick. She, like many women, has an image to uphold: Amazing Amy, and the pressure to be perfect pushes her over the edge. Just when you think you’ve got the woman figured out, she peels off another layer, like in those old Pepsi ads. She operates a multidimensional identity. Unlike those who spend their lives in search of their “true selves,” Amy devotes her life entirely to how she is perceived, leaving her true identity uncertain, even to herself. Along the way, Amy discovers some of who she really is. I quote, from page 193:
“I’ll go to the pool. Float a little bit, take a vacation from my harpy brain. My inflatable raft is pink with mermaids on it and too small for me—my calves dangle in the water—but it keeps me floating aimlessly for a good hour, which is something I’ve learned ‘I’ like to do.”
Essentially, the bottom line of Gone Girl isn’t going missing; it’s escaping imperfection, leaving readers wondering how far they’d go to get away from their flaws, and from themselves, easier now than ever since so much of our lives transpire virtually. We’ve all become somewhat accustomed to adjusting, modifying and editing our public image, so much so that we have lost a sense of who we really are. We spend our lives seeking acceptance from the world, but we forget what really matters is that we accept ourselves for who we are, our flaws included. We can only fool the world as well as we can fool ourselves. We either live in an illusion or accept the imperfection of the world. Flynn makes a point of capturing an accurately devastating image of America: “I don’t see paradise, I see overheated hillbillies with sunburns tugging along wailing, clumsy children, smacking them with one hand, with the other clutching giant non-biodegradable Styrofoam cups of warm corn-syrupy drinks” (191). I hope that Fincher doesn’t try to glamorize the visuals for the sake of the big screen. The imperfections Flynn observes function to juxtapose the perfect, polished, fabricated Amy. Human beings have a talent for conceiving an illusion of control, of flawlessness, of only seeing what we want. We mentally remove ourselves from real life in search of comfort, reassurance, satisfaction and control. The same is true of movie making, fabricating an escape—an alternate, idealized reality—but in this case it’s critical that Fincher doesn’t sacrifice that lousy, ugly authenticity, since that is what makes Gone Girl so impactful in the first place—how absurdly and grotesquely true to life it is.