"Gone Girl" is something different to everyone. To many, it's one of the decade's defining literary hits. Others find it a "trashy airport novel." Most seem to agree, however, that David Fincher's movie is an effective, noirish adaptation that's equal parts entertaining and complicated. Following the movie's buzzy wide release and $38 million opening-weekend grosses, we know everyone has a bevy of questions. Whether you've seen it or not, here are some of your "Gone Girl" mysteries, solved.
Do I need to have read the novel to follow along?
Not at all, but know that you'll be able to fill in the many details omitted from the film if you've read it. That said, given the book's ubiquity, the movie is probably best appreciated among "Gone Girl" readers who didn't just finish the novel before entering the theater. Give it some time to percolate.
But just how different is the movie?
Again, there's a laundry list of details, many of them fairly menial, that are absent from the film. Even the ending, which Flynn implied would be different, sticks pretty closely to what's on the page. A few bigger changes (spoilers): Andie doesn't bite Nick in the face, there's no antifreeze, Tommy O'Hara's story is different and Nick has no memoir planned. Read our full list here.
Were Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike the right choices?
By what seems like all accounts, yes. Just like his Batman casting, fans were outraged when the now-42-year-old Affleck was announced as the 34-year-old Nick Dunne. With Pike, people cried, "Who?" (Some hoped Reese Witherspoon, who produced the film, would take on the role of Amy as well.)
Affleck's lingering query, for better or worse, is: Can we let go of the actor's offstage persona to accept him as a bitter husband widely believed to have murdered his wife? And with Pike, would her lack of household status help or hinder the role? Both worries are instantly assuaged. Affleck carries the right charm to contradict Pike's New York chill.
"As Nick, Affleck gives what may be the most natural performance of his career," Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty wrote in his review, a sentiment echoed among most of the film's reception. Pike's performance has found a few dissenters, but the British actress has earned mostly effusive praise. Reviews labeled her performance "chameleonic," "a smashing, award-caliber breakthrough" and "a study in acting."
But wait, who is Rosamund Pike? Where do I know her from?
She made her breakout as Bond girl Miranda Frost in 2002's "Die Another Day" before starring as Jane Bennett in Joe Wright's 2005 adaptation of "Pride & Prejudice" and as Helen in "An Education."
And isn't that lady from "The Leftovers" in it?
That's Carrie Coon, and you should know her name. She played fan-favorite Nora Durst on HBO's "The Leftovers" this summer, and she commands every scene she's in as Nick's sister, Margo, in "Gone Girl."
So, do we see Ben Affleck's penis or not?
We do. We definitely do. Keep you eyes peeled on a shower scene late in the movie. If you're worried, Vulture has step-by-step instructions for how not to miss it. And if you're paying especially close attention, you'll catch a glimpse of Neil Patrick Harris' naughty bits as well, during an intimate scene with Amy and his character, Desi Collings.
Can Emily Ratajkowski act?
The model turned "Blurred Lines" star's appearance as Andie Hardy, Nick's much younger mistress, isn't very prominent in the movie. Ratajkowski does fine in the role, but let's say she didn't exactly leave us wanting to see more.
Is there significance to Tyler Perry playing Tanner Bolt?
Not really. Bolt, who is white in Flynn's book, gets a fair shake in the screen adaptation of "Gone Girl" (though his wife, Betsy, is missing from the proceedings). Fincher said seeing the 2012 flop "Alex Cross" is what prompted him to cast Perry, who recently said he hadn't read the book and didn't even know who David Fincher was upon taking the role. Fortunately, it all works: Perry has been cited as one of the film's bright spots.
Will it factor into next year's Oscar race?
In short, yes. But with more than three months to go until the nominations on Jan. 15, 2015, the pulpy movie will have to recapture the longevity that Flynn's book quickly found.
It seems Flynn herself is the closest thing to a lock, in part because of her celebrity-writer status and in part because Best Adapted Screenplay pits her against fewer heavyweights than most of the other "Gone Girl" constituents' categories. Affleck will likely come up short: Despite rave reviews, he's contending with a vicious Best Actor race. (You try vying against a trendy star playing Alan Turing, another playing Steven Hawking, a Michael Keaton comeback and Steve Carell's most dramatic turn yet. Plus, as we've all bemoaned many times, Affleck was denied a Best Director nomination for "Argo" despite being considered one of 2012's frontrunners.) Count on a mildly safer gamble for Pike, whose "She's a movie star!" bells are ringing loudly. We're also likely to see repeat nominations for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, whose previous Oscar nods came for scoring Fincher's "The Social Network."
As for Fincher, it's far from a guarantee he'll make the shortlist. He's hit Best Director twice ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and "The Social Network"), but his movies never perform all that well come Oscar night. It'll be a tough battle for him to edge out prestige auteurs like Christopher Nolan, Bennett Miller, Paul Thomas Anderson, James Marsh and Mike Leigh, but there may be room for "Gone Girl" to secure a Best Picture spot as one of the year's few awards-worthy blockbusters.
Is the "cool girl" speech still there?
How about Nick and Amy's cat?
Oh yes, Bleecker is a constant presence in the movie. "There's a screenplay book called 'Save the Cat.' It's all about making your character likable," Flynn said at the New York Film Festival press conference held after the premiere. "In the first 10 minutes he should do something that makes you like him. I enjoyed that in the first 10 minutes he literally saves the cat."
How does it hold up in Fincher's canon?
You don't need to know anything about Fincher's previous movies to decide whether "Gone Girl" is good, but where would we entertainment journalists be if there weren't an auteur's legacy to pick apart? This is one of Fincher's pulpier movies, which seems to surprise some people. They must be forgetting that no matter how finely written Flynn's novel is, it is still a bombastic thriller with more twists that Auntie Anne's. But for all its mainstream appeal, Fincher is still working with a story that harbors his usual themes of death, power and strained relationships. "Gone Girl" is filmed with the same sepia tones and skewering social critiques that are staples of Fincher's films. (Jeff Cronenweth is Fincher's director of photography for the fourth time, after "Fight Club," "The Social Network" and "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.") But the movie owes more to its source material than it does to Fincher's canon, so let's treat it that way.
How great is the Nancy Grace-type character?
One of the crowning accomplishments of "Gone Girl" beyond the gripping mystery is the sentient slap it gives to the media's obsession with good-folks-gone-bad motifs. Nick watches as the national news skewers him as a "sociopath" and the "most hated man in America." Many of those not-so-journalistic labels come from Ellen Abbott, a sleazy TV host who bears obvious resemblance to Nancy Grace. Missi Pyle plays with her with a gusto that's equal parts fun absurdity and distressing realism, especially as we watch the horde of flashbulb-happy reporters stationed outside Nick's home hoping for a glimpse of the elusive man they so desperately want to christen a killer. Transfer this scenario to any number of the accused transgressors whose media circuses becomes part of our temporary national pastime. You probably still know their names, just as the world captured in "Gone Girl" will always know Amy and Nick Dunne.
Does the movie improve after a second viewing?
Like the novel (and most things in life), there's nothing like your first time. That doesn't mean it isn't still enjoyable upon repeats, but Fincher's movies often play more resiliently when we're less desensitized to their twists and stylistic hues (with "Seven" and "Fight Club" as arguable exceptions, as those movies are ripe for multiple viewings).