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Gone Girl (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Running Time 149 minutes.

Not for children.

I’m glad that I did not read James Jones’ “From Here to Eternity” before I saw the Oscar®-winning 1953 movie. When I saw the movie, I thought it was terrific. But when I finally read the book I discovered that they had omitted large portions of the book from the movie. Had I read the book first, I would probably have been disappointed in the movie.

And that’s the problem with Gone Girl. I read the book before I saw the movie. It’s not that the movie is not an accurate reflection of the book. And it’s not that Ben Affleck and Rosamond Pike are not wonderful incarnations of Nick and Amy Dunne or that the rest of the fine cast, Kim Dickens as Detective Rhonda Boney, Tyler Perry as attorney Tanner Bolt, Sela Ward as Sharon Schreiber, Missi Pyle as Ellen Abbot, in a bang-up impersonation of a Nancy Grace-type TV commentator, and Carrie Coon who plays the pivotal role of Margo, Nick’s sister, and who provides a little comic relief, are not equally wonderful.

What I found disappointing is that in the first half of the movie Nick is not nearly as unsympathetic and Amy is not nearly as sympathetic as I found them to be in the book. Worse, although the movie pretty much follows the trail of the book, Gillian Flynn, who wrote both the book and the screenplay, changed the ending so that readers of the book “would not lose interest.” That makes no sense at all, and given the gender point they’re trying to make, it’s disingenuous. If the audience is going to lose interest it will lose interest long before the ending.

Another problem is that the movie is far too long. I got antsy sitting for almost two and half hours but I attributed that to the fact that I had read the book, knew the story, and knew what was going to happen. But after the film, my friend who accompanied me, who had not read the book, told me that although she thought the film excellent and that she enjoyed it, she felt it was too long to sit through. The story is a good one and it was extremely well told in the book and well told in the film, but it’s not a story that can justify a running time of almost 2 ½ hours.

All that said, director David Fincher has done a relatively good job of converting the book to a film and it is unquestionable that this will be one of the top films of the year. Both Affleck and Pike give almost perfect performances, and they are immensely aided by a good score (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who worked with Fincher on The Social Network and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). Because of the length of the film and its dark tone, without the score complementing what’s on the screen this could have been deadly.

Totally ineffective, however, is Neil Patrick Harris as Desi Collings, who is one of Amy’s old boyfriends. He has a key role and his performance bombs because he is just not believable. Why he was cast in this role is perplexing.

As stated above, there’s an underlying gender theme and point that Flynn and Fincher are trying to make here, which seems to me to be the real reason for the changed ending. Viewers can draw their own conclusions about what point they’re trying to make. But this is a movie, an entertainment; that’s enough.