(Not Really) Gone Girl

I read Gone Girl a year ago this month and saw the film last week, but it was last night, while brushing my teeth, that I realized exactly why I didn’t like the adaptation.

It’s because crazy don’t need a reason.

That’s it. Real crazy doesn’t need a reason, much less something as painfully cliché as an affair.

The adaptation makes the affair a focal point, not least of all in the scene where Amy watches Nick kiss that girl in the snow. This infidelity becomes the foundation upon which all her subsequent psychoses is built. And what a shoddy foundation it is. It’s an easy excuse for reasoning that is much more complex and stupefying.

It’s no secret that I prefer books to movies.

Me and book T


My reasons for this are obvious.

courtesy of the metapicture
courtesy of the metapicture

Consequently, I tend to approach adaptations with my opinion half-formed. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that they’ll be unsatisfactory. It’s just a matter of where on the spectrum they fall.

I was cautiously optimistic about Gone Girl though, mainly since I knew Flynn was involved and such involvement can go very well (see The Perks of Being a Wallflower.) I was also hopeful because I didn’t like the book and felt I wouldn’t be defensive about it.

This is not Flynn-bashing. I LOVED her first two books (Dark Places and Sharp Objects), and read them back-to-back. In any case, my reasons for not liking this book are beyond the scope of this post.


Let’s get back to the crazy…

There can be little doubt that Amy is bat-shit crazy. She’s manipulative and utterly devoid of emotion. You can see this almost from her first appearance. She’s not so much cool-girl as she is cold-stare-girl. And lest you think my opinion is colored by my foreknowledge of the story, I polled friends who hadn’t read it and quite a few of them had a WTF-is-wrong-with-her reaction to Amy. Regardless, it becomes quite clear early on that she’s the villain in a way that isn’t plain in the book. The narrative style in the novel (third-person on Nick interspersed with Amy’s diary entries) ensures that the reader is kept in the dark for as long as possible–that’s why the damn thing’s such a page-turner. You get a creepy-crawly sensation, due to the changing tone of her diary and the mercurial mood swings there, that there’s something wrong with Amy, but you’re never really sure. This creeping awareness is sorely lacking in the film, where the revelation is almost thrown away.

That’s easy enough to overlook. What bothers me is Hollywood’s penchant for hammering home points that don’t need to be made. Amy didn’t do what she did because Nick cheated on her. She did what she did because she’s a psychopath. The cheating is a safe and lazy excuse for something that is so frightening because it defies reason.

I read a lot of True Crime books, books about serial killers, cult leaders, and the deranged. Anyone who reads such books or has studied such pathologies will tell you that a psychopath does what he/she does for reasons that defy logic. They are brilliant, cold, and calculating creatures who show a marked apathy and a shocking lack of remorse. They are histrionic, narcissistic and care very little for anything beyond their own satisfaction.

Amy is a megalomaniac with a severe personality disorder–no doubt aided by her egregiously insensitive parents. All her life she’s been one-upped by a piece of fiction, a creation of her parents that compensates for Amy’s “faults”. Is it any wonder that she would go on to create her own fiction, a fiction that would also dangerously blur the lines with reality?

… That kind of crazy don’t need a reason.


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