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Don’t Read This! Unless You Want to Speculate on Gone Girl’s New Cinematic Ending

By T.v. Locicero

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s domestic crime thriller, became a publishing sensation in 2012, began its journey to the silver screen with Flynn writing the screenplay in 2013 and is scheduled for its cinematic debut in October, 2014. Recently there’s been a spate of publicity for the movie with the news that it will end in a way substantially different from the ending of the novel.

The word came in the 2014 Preview edition of Entertainment Weekly, where Flynn once worked, and which features a cover photo that seems to be a major spoiler. The photo was staged and snapped by the film’s director, David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), who reportedly pushed for the revised ending. The cover picture shows British actress Rosamund Pike as Amy, complete with toe tag and a frozen look of wide-eyed surprise on an autopsy table. Also on the table and snuggled around the corpse is Ben Affleck as Nick, with no toe tag and perhaps still in love with his dead wife. Or perhaps not. Maybe he’s dead too.

Now in case you haven’t noticed, Hollywood taking liberties with a popular book is not news. It happens way more often than not, but Gone Girl was a widely devoured novel that engendered a great deal of controversy and discussion. Readers came away from it with powerful likes and dislikes that led to passionate debate, often focused on the story’s end. And those inclined to look at the bigger picture wondered what kind of nerve had been struck here.

So for a lauded director to want a changed ending and the writer of the both the novel and the screenplay sounding like she was only too happy to come up with a different conclusion, yeah, well, that was news.

Gone Girl is a nicely terrifying relationship drama, featuring Nick and Amy Dunne, a smart and attractive 30-something couple with, shall we say, complex issues. Amy and Nick are two people navigating love and hate, consumed by secret desperation and scheming revenge, and locked in a marriage rife with suspicion and deceit.

Their story is told with alternating points of view, and sooner than later we learn that the two narrators are wildly unreliable. The writing holds a clear-eyed, hip and knowing tone while it effectively describes and explores timely topics such as the media and its obsessions, the impact of a crashing economy on personal lives, and maybe most of all, the cracks and fissures of identity produced by hyper self-consciousness in a society that seems both pressure cooker and fishbowl.

But the narrative is littered throughout with moments that, given the nature, history and propensities of its protagonists, either could not or should not have happened. In short, it is chock full of the implausible and the impossible to believe. Some examples:

–Early in their back story there’s a strange time lapse between Nick and Amy’s instant attraction in their first meeting at a party and their chance encounter on a Manhattan street eight months later. Nick says he was going to call, but the slip of paper with Amy’s phone number got ruined in the wash. Patently ridiculous: each of them could easily have found the other through the party’s host. But Amy is fine with this story even though the Amy we come to know would have cut Nick a new one for being such an inattentive dolt.

–Both Nick and Amy are laid-off magazine writers in NYC, and his decision to move them back to his hometown, North Carthage, Missouri, and to buy a bar with what’s left of Amy’s inheritance seems more than a bit unlikely.

–When Amy goes missing after two years in North Carthage, there are signs of a struggle in the living room, and the front door of the house is left wide open. Whether Nick is the culprit (he is soon a suspect) or someone else is, this detail seems far-fetched, since it means the disappearance will be almost immediately discovered.

–Later we get the news that Amy had gone to an abandoned mall trying to buy a gun from one of the homeless folks squatting there. She feared someone, she told him, but he can’t get her a gun. As it turns out Amy wanted to leave a trail that will incriminate Nick, so why not just go to Walmart and buy a gun. Do it on the record—it’ll be easier to trace, which was the whole point. Please keep in mind: this Amy gal is supposed to be absolutely brilliant.

–Soon Nick and Amy are struggling to make ends meet, but she secretly runs up credit card charges of $212,000 in his name. Apparently he never picked up the mail?

–After a week or two on the run, Amy is hiding out at some rundown Ozark cabin resort and still has about nine grand in cash. She nonetheless decides she needs the 50 bucks oddball Jeff offers to help him steal somebody’s catfish. She stupidly lets Jeff and another obvious grifter see her money belt stuffed with her entire stash, and so, surprise, the next day she’s dead broke.

–Amy’s Plan A had been to send Nick to the chair and then kill herself, since, I guess, she’d be fully satisfied with her life.

–Plan B involves looking up her old high school flame Desi, a multi-millionaire living just an hour away with his mother in one of his mansions. For decades from afar Desi has been crazy in love with Amy, so first he rescues her, then he imprisons her in another of his mansions, then he makes love to her, after which she slits his throat and escapes in his vintage Jaguar. Whoo boy!

Look, there’s other ridiculous stuff, but you get the idea. The point here is that the problem with Gone Girl, the book, is not the ending. Yes, absurdly, these two get back together, with no charges leveled finally at either one. And yes, the baddest badass is not the man but the woman, so super-smart and devious that she can defeat, subdue and control a man who knows her every rotten proclivity, because she has confessed it all when they’re together in the shower, where no tape recorder can nail her.

But now Nick can’t just walk away: Amy has his baby boy in her belly. (She duped him into thinking the fertility clinic they had gone to years ago had destroyed his frozen sperm, then returned there recently to get herself pregnant.) And soon she’ll deliver the unfortunate little tike into a world in which his mother is a monster.

In the book’s final pages we learn that she has carried the baby to term, with submissive Nick there smearing on the cocoa butter and rubbing her feet. And on the marrow she will both give birth and see her new book published, the one that tells her own self-serving version of the whole sordid saga.

So she has triumphed. She has won this epic gender war. Or has she? In their final exchange Amy wonders aloud why Nick is being so good to her. She wants him to say he loves her and she deserves it. Instead he says he just feels sorry for her: “Because every morning you have to wake up and be you.”

At very the end Amy tells us she can’t stop thinking about that line from Nick. And so we know without question the war is still on.

Actually, the book’s ending, to me, was properly motivated and well-calculated, especially in terms of setting up what seemed like an inevitable sequel. No, the novel’s flaws and weaknesses are all related to the fact that it is implausible fantasy masquerading as cynical realism.

So what about the movie’s new ending?

The ultimate in marital dysfunction, rage and despair is, of course, a story that ends with the husband and wife killing each other. The one I best recall is The War of the Roses, the very popular 1989 film starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner and directed by Danny DeVito, from the 1981 novel by Warren Adler. If you haven’t heard of it, never saw it, or have an inkling to watch it again, I’d recommend it.

In the climactic scene, the warring Mr. and Mrs. Rose don’t exactly kill each other, but they’re trying to and end up dead at each other’s hand with the aid of a convenient chandelier. Will something similar happen at the end of Gone Girl the movie? My guess is that it will, although the final scene or scenes will certainly be very different.

But the wonderful thing about murder on stage, screen or page is that the various ways to make it happen are basically endless. Flynn is on record as believing that Nick is too “soft” to murder his wife. If so, that leaves it to Amy to initiate. Why would she do so? Remember, in spite of everything, she still wants Nick to love and cherish her. Instead, after leading her on, he tells her finally that he harbors only pity: “Because every morning you have to wake up and be you.”

Really, if she thinks about that line long enough, it could well be enough to make Amy snap. And if she acts, Nick will react. And then we’ll have our ending, carefully designed to be both shocking and somehow emotionally satisfying as we walk out of the multiplex.

At least we’ll be certain there will never be a sequel.

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