Will Gillian Flynn Ruin Gone Girl?

Gone Girl, the adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s third book, comes out October 3, 2014. I’ve been waiting for a Flynn movie since her first novel debuted, and Gone Girl—a super-hit mystery about a warped marriage—was a clear choice for another dark Hollywood thriller for David Fincher to put in his pocket.

The story might as well have been written for Fincher, who draws unsettling characters out of fresh-faced actors as well as anyone. His victims this time: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. I trust Nick and Amy’s own special Punch and Judy cocktail will be handled well enough in Fincher’s hands.

Gone Girl will likely be a success at the box-office. Gillian Flynn’s an exceptional writer who tends to trek into murky waters with her content, but Gone Girl is surely the most palatable book she’s written. Flynn fans will remember her debut novel, Sharp Objects as a grotesque exploration into the most depraved Law and Order: SVU plot-lines you can think of. Stephen King went as far to call it an “admirably nasty piece of work.”  Her second book, Dark Places, evoked a similar ooey-gooey feeling, leaving me to conclude, humanity is a gross and terrible beast, and I need a shower.

Gone Girl is different. While the content is certainly disturbing and the writing is as sharp as ever, Flynn veers away from total degeneracy. It’s a highbrow thriller that you won’t feel utterly disgusted by (only a little bit disgusted!) and that’s likely why the novel has done so well. I’m not complaining—it’s nice to see Flynn do something different before she gets locked into a schtick.

Even with her recent shift in style, Flynn has never been one to give her audience an ending to feel righteous about. Gone Girl, like its predecessors, serves no justice to the characters you come to despise. The last page has you tempted to throw the book out an open window in utter frustration.

It’s been confirmed that Flynn, who adapted her own work for the screen, has rewritten the ending. Sadly, I haven’t been consulted on the matter, so I’m not keyed in to what changes she’s made. But, as Vanity Fair’s speculation put it, “unless Fincher & Co. wants audience members to burn down the multiplexes,” the conclusion may be adjusted to one that’s easier for audiences to swallow.

It’s not the first Fincher film adaptation to undergo an ending makeover. Fight Club’s last scene sees Norton and Bonham Carter watching Project Mayhem’s destruction peacefully while an airy Pixies song plays; the book’s narrator suffers a much darker fate. The difference doesn’t make the film bad, but it certainly conveys an optimistic feeling that feels slightly false atop the original story.    

Recently Flynn has urged fans not to worry about the new conclusion, saying that, “the mood, tone and spirit of the book are very much intact.” Considering Affleck called the ending a “whole new third act,” I’m left to wonder how those two statements match up.

I’m not one to quibble when film adaptations don’t match up to the original texts—or maybe I am, I don’t know. Bottom line is, though, if you’ve made a good movie, it should hold up on its own. But Flynn is a good storyteller. Her depictions of the irredeemable darkness of human nature aren’t feel-good stuff—but there’s something almost comforting in her realistically bleak look at the world. A more popular movie ending likely won’t pack the same punch to the gut, and the story will suffer.

There’s an old adage that says people go to the movies to escape. I’m not a fan of that perspective. I hope Gillian Flynn isn’t either.

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Claire is coming to terms with the fact that she may enjoy watching television more than movies. The ultimate goal is to get paid to tweet.

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  • Charles

    I’m hoping Fincher’s adaptation ‘ending’ will be similar to his “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” adaptation ‘ending’. There were small changes in the outcome of that story, but the overall ending remained in tact. I grew to like Gone Girl’s book ending, and I would be a little bummed if they scraped it in the film.