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A potential adaptation that misses the mark

BySophie Whitehead

Mar 18, 2015

Inherently, the differences between novels and film mean that the translation will never be literal. Though positive changes are possible, I feel that the film adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling thriller novel Gone Girl largely misses the mark and fails to capture the essence of the novel which make it,  in my opinion, a unique and exciting text and set it apart from other thrillers.

One of the most enjoyable features of the novel is the extent to which Flynn develops her characters. There was indeed an attempt to replicate this in the film, however it seemed that characters were developed in a way that did not do justice to their complexities as they were portrayed in the novel – in particular the main character Amy. One of the ways in which the novel moved beyond the boundaries of a thriller and became a more intricate, considered text was the use of form; using the diary sequence, Flynn was able to manipulate the presentation of Amy to the reader; her ability to change personality is thrilling in itself.

The director’s attempt to do the same is obvious in the film, yet sadly it does not manage to have the same impact. Even initially, Amy is not able to inspire the same amount of sympathy from the audience – instead, an underlying tension is created from the outset. Although Amy is an inherently bad character in the book, the reader is presented with a more three dimensional version of her, making a degree of empathy possible. Whilst Rosamund Pike does a commendable  job of portraying such an intricately complex character, I feel that she misses the mark ever so slightly. As a result of this, the film becomes more about the tension created rather than the complex characters who are, in my opinion, the most interesting components of Flynn’s novel.

Another reason I feel that Gone Girl is more compelling in novel form than as a film is a by-product of the limitations of a film more generally.

I found that the screenplay was strangely selective in the events from the novel it chose to translate for film. As the film has plentiful amounts of suspense, this may have been appropriate; however, I did become bored with the film as it developed. In the film, it felt that too much attention was paid to Amy after she has run away and is in hiding. In the book, this is important as it shows Amy’s continuing obsession with Nick – even after her extreme hatred for him is revealed. However, in the film, these ideas were not developed as thoroughly as they could have been (linking back to the lack of development of Amy’s character); consequently, this extended period seemed to drag. It seemed a little absurd that, as Flynn wrote both the book and the screenplay, she would want to make what seem to be drastic changes to the texts – I struggle to see the benefit of this. However, in my opinion this merely contributes to the fact that, whilst the film had some positives, it was overall unsuitable to be adapted for film.

Although the film has potential and some positive aspects, it failed to compel me in the same way that the book did. Even though I saw the film before I read the novel, I was still more interested in the characters and storyline as they were portrayed in the novel, which is rather telling. Rather than adding anything new to the story, the film adaptation made some aspects of the novel appear mundane and rather dull.

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