Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, May 12, 2014

Should the ending of Gone Girl get gone for the movie?

Recently in my reading, I finally caught up with Gone Girl, the hugely popular thriller by Gillian Flynn that's due to hit the big screen this fall with Ben Affleck as the troubled leading man and David Fincher as director.

Without revealing anything too spoilery, the basic plot has seemingly happily married couple Nick and Amy Dunne ready to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary when suddenly, Amy goes missing and Nick is the prime suspect. The story is framed in a "he said/she said" format, with both of them taking turns as the unreliable narrator along the way.

The book is as well written as promised, with a real gotta-stay-up-all-night urgency that keeps those pages turning. Gillian Flynn is on board with the film,adapting her own story for the screen, a very good sign indeed. However, reports are saying that the ending of the book(which some found fault with) is going to be very different for the movie:

With the author being behind this change, this is not another case of Hollywood placating the audience with a rewrite designed mainly to make them happy(and keep buying tickets)...or is it?

This situation reminds me of how the original ending  for Fatal Attraction was trimmed away, due to negative reactions from preview audiences.

Granted, FA was not based on previously published material(although a stage play version of it was recently performed in London) and it is tricky to adapt a book for another medium without making it too predictable, this does feel like a secretly worked out compromise.

I could be wrong,of course and I don't blame the author or the director for wanting to shake things up  a bit here. Yet, I still have a lingering doubt and that is mainly due to the target audience for both the book and film being very similar to Fatal Attraction,people of a certain age who are either married or been through the relationship wringer a few times in their life(not doing the stereotype dance,folks, just thinking like a marketing exec).

We also have sitting in the seats, fans of true crime sagas and the media that crops up around such cases(which are shown with a sarcastic eye in GG), plus those who enjoy police procedural mysteries like Criminal Minds(a show I watch regularly) or CSI and one of the main drawing points of such genre fare is seeing the villain brought to justice, one way or the other.

 When early audiences saw Fatal Attraction, they felt cheated by that first ending and like the crowds that later watched the movie during it's initial release in 1987, cheering by the end for the evil Alex to get hers(I know,since I saw it a couple of times myself back then). That was fine but the tone from the first half of the film was clearly changed by the time this slash happy sequence was added in and many noticed the sizable shift there. The movie made money but some questioned at what cost:

Before you say "Hey, wait-are you saying the Big Bad in Gone Girl gets away with it?"-no, I'm not(exactly), this story is a bit more complicated that Fatal Attraction was but they do share a similar viewpoint on gender roles in relationships and I have noticed that many of the readers either want a follow-up book or some sort of rewrite for the finale.

Part of the dissatisfaction, even with those who are fans of the book, comes from the all-too familiar complaint that none of the main characters are "likable." *sigh* Why is it that fictional people are held to higher standards than real life ones? Being likable is actually a flaw for both of the leads in Gone Girl and at times, used as a weapon against one another which is more interesting than a simple "good guy/bad guy" arrangement. Even comic book characters are given more nuance than that these days!

Of course, this isn't the first time harsh depictions of supposedly everyday folk have been tamed for mass audiences. For example, Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley adaptation in 1999 did offer some sympathy for it's twisted protagonist,unlike the book which had you coldly rooting for him(it helps that his victims are real jerks). However, the film was actually made better for such character enhancement and I do hope that is the case here with GG,which does bear comparison with Highsmith's work:

 We'll know by this fall whether or not Gone Girl will be as successful a story in film as it is in print and I'm firmly keeping my fingers crossed in it's favor. Flynn is a talented writer and her other two novels(one of which is also currently in production for the big screen, Dark Places) are on my Booksfree list for future reading.

With any luck, this altered ending might work out well for all concerned but I just wish that people would be willing to appreciate a finale that doesn't wrap everything up in a neat little bow.

It may not be as exciting or as fulfilling as a drag down knockout fight to the finish but sometimes, it might be more satisfying that you realized at first. Think of it as that vegetable your mom insisted that you at least try once and when you finally do, it turns out to be the best thing you've ever tasted, even if it has a bitter flavor that lingers for days:

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