It’s been awhile, I know. Therefore, if I seem rusty or if my writing comes off as too academic or dull, I apologize. I blame graduate school and the stress put on formal writing (i.e. avoiding contractions and generally being boring). What has brought me out of this hiatus despite the loads of other work on my table? The release of Gone Girl, of course.
A follower of Saying Something will remember my article from February (yes, February!), which explored the brilliant works of author Gillian Flynn. The piece explored Flynn’s three novels and encouraged readers to get excited about the film adaptations of two of her books this year. The adaptation of Dark Places has since been pushed until next year, and probably with good reason. Though the film offers a great cast and phenomenal source material, it would surely be buried underneath the spotlight of Gone Girl, which hit wide release today.
I’ll skip summarizing the plot. If you’re looking for something like that, take a look at my article from February or check out one of the other countless summaries available on the web. What I will do, however, is explain why Gone Girl was a terrific adaptation.
It’s always tough adapting a cult novel such as Gone Girl. What made it such a compelling story was the masterful and unique storytelling that Flynn employed through the use of diary entries and first-person narrative. Revealing the relevant information at the perfect moments, Flynn created a suspenseful story that made the book difficult to put down; a quality most fiction writers strive for. The major concern when adapting the movie, then, is how to match the perfectly orchestrated suspense.
This will seem obvious, but the first step to creating a successful adaptation is recruiting a director who can handle the task. The director doesn’t necessarily have to be a big name like Scorsese or Soderbergh, but it won’t hurt. Obviously, Gone Girl found a more-than-capable director in David Fincher; a man whose mastery of complex storytelling has been on full display before. Think Fight Club. Obviously, not every adaptation will be able to capture such a luminary, but there is plenty of talent out there. A film can have most of the right pieces in place, but without someone to effectively execute the pieces, it could fall flat. Fincher did not let that happen.
Secondly, Gone Girl made a smart move in recruiting Gillian Flynn to adapt her own novel. While not all authors have found success when transitioning into screenwriting – such as Cormac McCarthy – it is much easier when they are “simply” adapting their own work, not creating an entirely new piece. In Gone Girl this was especially important, because creating suspense was paramount, and well-done suspense does not come around all that often in Hollywood anymore. After seeing the film, I can confirm that Gillian Flynn also has a talent for screen writing. She successfully captured the suspense found within the pages in Gone Girl and managed to create a veil between the storylines of the Amy and Nick Dunne, slowly lifting said veil to reveal crucial components at just the right time, always raising the anxiety level and creating plenty of “Oh, s**t!” moments.
Thirdly, a successful adaptation must have an appropriate sound track. Considering Gone Girl is really a suspense-thriller/ murder mystery, the soundtrack was even more imperative than usual. In a suspense film, the idea is to create a soundtrack that bolsters the desired ethos while not distracting from the developments of the film; there is a balance an organic nature required of it. This was accomplished in Gone Girl through the efforts of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – David Fincher’s go to guys (he partnered with them in both The Social Network and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). Trent and Atticus won an Oscar in 2010 and a Grammy in 2013, and their work has not waned.
Naturally, a strong cast will help any film. The cast can’t always save a film, but it can certainly propel it to the “next level.” While I had some apprehensions going into the film (namely Tyler Perry as the ruthless lawyer, Tanner Bolt), I now think that David Fincher found the best possible cast for his latest work. Ben Affleck effectively captured the detached Nick Dunne, Rosamund Pike offered an absolutely dazzling performance as Amy Dunne, and even Tyler Perry brought his character to life in an organic way. The standout, in my opinion, was Rosamund Pike, who so convincingly played the part of Amy Dunne, a viciously cold and controlling individual who has the charisma of Ronald Reagan (in other words, a sociopath).
Another key factor in Gone Girl’s success was that it didn’t try to change up the source material too much. Of course, it helped that the original author was the adapter, but often times there are substantial changes made to a storyline or character for one reason another. The Gone Girl refused to adhere to such oft-made mistakes, but fought to pull all of the very best aspects from the book. When the source material reaches a certain height, there is no need to make such substantive changes.
Overall, Gone Girl was another notch in the “win” column for David Fincher. He took a wildly successful novel and so perfectly put a face on every character and captured the zeitgeist of the novel through his hauntingly beautiful camera work and attention to detail. You’ll want to see this one. People will be talking about it in their considerations for March.
Brent Glass is a Michigander who graduated from Eureka College in May of 2013. He spent time at the Sagamore Institute in Indianapolis, IN (a non-partisan think tank) where he worked on political economy pieces for Detroit, MI and Elkhart, IN. Additionally, he spent the summer of 2012 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA, working on social media management. Currently he is working as a freelance writer for Sagamore Institute, a teacher of government at Wayne State University, and a Ph.D. student in Urban Politics at Wayne State University.