Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

 

Gone Girl
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn Published May 2012 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson 395 Pages (Hardcover)

The Quick Non-Spoilery Bit

Gone Girl is part crime-drama, part psychological thriller that follows the aftermath of the disappearance of Amy Elliot Dunne, who has vanished from her home in a whirlwind of glass and overturned furniture on the morning of her fifth wedding anniversary. Nick Dunne, her husband, becomes the prime suspect after calling it in, when his whereabouts that morning cannot be corroborated. His narrative and Amy’s diary entries provide a slowly more intimate peak into their unstable life together as the hunt for Amy and her kidnapper and/or killer heats up.

I picked this up finally because it’s becoming a movie this October. I’d heard about it before, it’s relatively popular, and I knew it was considered a dark and intense twist on a murder mystery. It certainly was dark and twisted, and it was reasonably well composed and plotted. I just could not connect to it. A lot of people really love Gone Girl with good reason, but I personally found it did not meet my expectations. Mystery fans might like it. Crime drama or true crime fans even more so. I’m not crowing from rooftops over it, and I think those that do are overstating its genius, but if it sounds at all interesting to you, it might be worth the read. I didn’t love it, but I can’t say I don’t recommend it. It just wasn’t for me. Thus, I give it 3 stars: nothing was objectively horrible about it, it just did not succeed as a mystery/thriller for me. I will probably wind up going to see the movie though. I really love the trailer:

I think it sets a good atmosphere, with the music all creepy playing over top for most of it, yet it explains the plot pretty well. The casting looks great too.

 

Now I’ll talk about the book a little more, but it’s hard to without getting more into the plot and getting more into the plot of a mystery novel inevitably leads to spoilers. So if you haven’t read Gone Girl and would like to, I suggest you click away now.

 

 

 

Ok? Here we go.

 

 

Here be Spoilers

Like I said, I didn’t hate it. I was just not into it. I started out thinking Nick had killed Amy. Then quickly shifted to think he didn’t, because I could tell I was supposed to be thinking he did. Then I was bored and flipped ahead to see if I was right and got a bit more interested when I read briefly that Amy was alive and had left under her own power.  Part 2 was then much more interesting  as everything up to and including Amy’s psychosis is revealed.  I thought that this was a good twist, I just didn’t have the patience to wait for it. My own fault, I suppose, but I was about ready to put this book down around page 120, tired of waiting around for Nick and everyone else to figure out that Amy was alive somewhere.

I’m too used to the crime drama that can be consumed an hour, I think. One a one hour show, guessing the bad guy is half the fun, and you’re proven right rather quickly. Meanwhile you get the other fraction of your enjoyment out of the relationships within the crime-solving team. A lack of such likable characters is probably part of the genesis of  my complaint with Gone Girl. I suppose, that the characters are not likable is the point, but it made it exceedingly difficult to find a reason to hang on in places where the plot, inevitably, as plots do, slowed down.

Part 3, where Amy returns, was rather fascinating. The depth of her depravity made Nick finally seem pitiable by contrast, and the ending was fittingly twisted and dark. It’s the only part of the book I wished had gone on a bit longer as months pass in a few short pages. I thought the ending fit the story, assuming the “we’re perfect for each other!” rhetoric was not meant in earnest, as I thought it completely misguided. I think it was meant, rather, as yet another example of how twisted their minds are, one final barb, just in case you weren’t feeling disturbed enough already.

And that’s all I have to say, I suppose, normally here is where I reiterate my review and give a recommendation, but hopefully the only people who’ve read this far have already read the book and don’t need to hear the it…unless you ignored my spoiler warning like a rebel. A a very sad, spoiled rebel.

Vampire Academy: A Casual Moviegoer’s Review

VA Poster Pic
Source: IMDB

I have never in my life written a film review. I will say I am not professionally qualified, but in this case, that might actually be a useful quality.

First, A Brief Rant

I actually quite enjoyed myself watching this movie. I went in with relatively low expectations, admittedly, but they were exceeded. Acting was mostly good, the source material was followed reasonably well, and the vast majority of jokes were quite funny. I had a few problems that I can get into, but overall, it was a good movie.

My problem is with many of the “professional” reviews I’ve seen so far. (I’ve debated sourcing a few here, but I decided against it since I mainly paraphrase comments I found in multiple places and I’m not trying to rip on any one reviewer. I found all the reviews I obliquely reference here linked from the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes page, if you are interested in reading any of them yourself). Like I said, this movie did have things wrong with it, I’m not claiming it to be perfect. Indeed, it was clumsy with its exposition. There was a lot to explain in not a lot of time. It did sacrifice character development for plot. I don’t have a problem with reviewers pointing out things that are wrong with a movie’s plot or pacing or effects. That is their job, after all.

But what I hate is the way that reviewers seem to automatically disdain any movie created for teenage girls. They say that it is just another in long line of terrible YA adaptations. That it’s entirely too focused on teenage melodrama. Buried within all the comments that sound like legitimate criticism is the idea that it doesn’t deserve any praise or attention because it’s just for those damned, Twilight-starved tweens with more money and hormones than sense. This is insulting to me, personally, as a fan of the YA source material, and it seems to be a pretty well-ingrained oversimplification of young women. Teenage girls are not vapid, brainless, sexually-repressed airheads. They are human beings.

And, because they’re humans, teenage girls are a varied, diverse group made up of individuals. The YA genre, books and movies are the same way. Not every movie with vampires is trying to compete with or attract the same audience as Twilight. Nor is it Harry Potter. Nor is it The Hunger Games. Yes, there are elements from each, and I get the need to describe it in terms that the audience will understand, but this impulse to say Vampires+female lead=Twilight completely baffles me. The YA market is not publishing the same exact story repeatedly and slapping a new title on it. Like in all literature and film there are tropes and plot lines that repeat, but each story has its own unique characters and themes and we need to be more creative when we explain a plot to an audience in a review.

I also really wish someone could do an experiment and make this movie over with a male protagonist and see what reviews it gets. Might they be different? Because I’m pretty sure being quick with a snide comeback, having a reckless, “fight the system” attitude, and experimenting/making mistakes romantically are all par for the course when it comes to male centered or superhero movies and protagonists in those films don’t get labeled as annoying and melodramatic nearly as often.

Basically, my point here is that if you are on the fence about going to see Vampire Academy, please, please, do not be too discouraged by the 11% Rotten Tomatoes score. 86% of real people like it. And if you’re a fan of the books and were worried by the Mean Girls-esque advertising, also do not be afraid. Remember that the first book was a little heavier on the humor and school drama than the later books and know that this movie doesn’t pull its punches on blood or fangs or fights.

End Rant. Start Review.

One problem reviewers have had with the movie was with plot exposition, specifically with the explanations of the mythology and everything making sense. Having read the entire series, I can’t speak to the movie’s effectiveness in this regard because I already knew what was going on. It did seem a little clumsy and obvious to me when they were trying to do pure exposition (Rose and Lissa in the first few minutes talking about the car accident, for example). Dialogue was definitely strained somewhat at the beginning because of this need to explain everything, and, as I mentioned, I have no idea if the explanations were actually effective, though it appears from other reviews I’ve seen that it may not have been.

The acting overall seemed pretty good. I thought Zoey Deutch as Rose and Danila Kozlovsky as Dimitri had good chemistry. (Which is the professional sounding way of saying I had a little book-fangirl moment whenever Danila said “Roza”). Lucy Fry was great as Lissa as well, though I thought the character not liking the word “vampire” was strange, and I can’t remember if that was a thing in the book or not. Dominic Sherwood played Christian Ozera, Lissa’s love interest, and I quite enjoyed him. They managed to work in his and Rose’s grudging friendship as well, and I thought it was well done. The only performance I didn’t love was Olga Kurylenko as the headmistress. She was overly bitchy, both in writing and in performance, I think, though it could be just one or the other.

I really don’t know anything about cinematography or special effects, but I didn’t notice anything strange about them or the scoring, which I think is probably a sign that they were well done, or at least done well enough.

There was quite a lot of attempted humor, and it was delivered admirably (much better than I expected from what was selected for the trailer) by Deutch. There were a few jokes that fell quite flat to me, though often that’s a matter of personal preference (if I wasn’t laughing the two girls in front of me usually were). It wasn’t necessarily riotously funny, but it wasn’t a painful attempted-comedic experience either. It seemed to me to be self-aware of its own ridiculousness, which helped it out quite a lot.

On a star rating scale I give it like a 3.5 or a 4 out of 5. It is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it is entertaining, and faithful to its source material. That’s all I was really looking for out of it, and I definitely want to see a sequel. If it seems interesting to you, give a shot, and I am pretty confident you won’t be disappointed.

The TFIOS Trailer is Here!

It’s crazy-hyped and has been talked about to death, but The Fault in Our Stars truly is one of my favorite books. The movie adaptation is coming out on June 6th, and, other than buying the box of tissues I’ll need to take to the theater, I’m so ready to see it.

The first full-length trailer released this morning and it looks pretty amazing to me. The scenes and the dialogue looks like it was pulled straight from the book and the casting looks great as well. The moment when Augustus tells Hazel he loves her is a favorite quote of mine from the book and, though it looks like the setting is different, I also love it in the trailer. His face is so sweet when he says it, and the line seems sincere, not nearly as corny as it could be (and kind of is, if we’re being honest here).

The Fault in Our Stars is a book that shook me to my core, and it’s one I revisit whenever I feel the need to be reminded about what is important about existence and emotion. It made me cry, it made you cry, yes, but what I love most about it is the way it makes you feel a whole range of emotion, good and bad. The movie looks to me like it follows the book so well it will do the same: be funny and youthful and sweet and sad and frightening all at once, just like life.

So point is, I have high expectations for this movie, but this trailer has only reinforced my overwhelming confidence that the movie will be just as wonderful as I hope. Definitely looking forward to experiencing the story again in a whole new way this summer.

November’s a Good Month to Read a—Movie

I’ve been working most of the afternoon on this big, meaty review and philosophical discussion post about Veronica Roth’s Allegiant, which released this Tuesday. I hoped to have it up today, but it’s turning into such a monstrous and messy block of text that that is clearly not going to happen. I was just thinking though, that November is going to be such a good month to be a book lover at the movie theater as three YA books hit theaters this month.

Ender’s Game-November 1st

Ender’s Game, starring Asa Butterfield and Harrison Ford, rockets into theaters November 1st. (See what I did! Rockets! ‘Cause it’s in space! I crack myself up.) I’d heard of the source novel by Orson Scott Card a long time ago, but I didn’t read it until about a month ago, after the movie started advertisements, and I am so excited to see the game-battles on screen. It’s definitely a book that I think will lend itself to an amazing visual experience, and there are so many great actors cast in it.

The Book Thief-November 8th

Just a week later, on November 8, 20th Century Fox releases its film adaptation of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I’ve read this book twice, and I loved it both times, but it’s been at least 4 years since the last time and I think I forgot a lot about it. I’m trying to decide if I should reread it before or after I see the movie. I want to remember the plot, but I don’t want to sit in the theater and nit pick about every little change the filmmakers make. I am interested to see if the movie maintains Death as a character, though. It was such a fascinating aspect about the novel.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire-November 22nd

Then, on November 22, Catching Fire, the follow up to The Hunger Games comes out. I was pretty impressed with the first movie, and I’m sure this one won’t disappoint either. Catching Fire was my favorite book in the series because it so perfectly balanced emotion and action, and we all know Jennifer Lawrence can do both.

Which one are you most excited for? Did I forget any? What books are becoming movies next year that I should start reading now? Hopefully I’ll be able to go and see all of these movies next month and try my very non-expert hand at film review, or at least book-to-film comparison.