One of the most debatable points in screenwriting: “The book was better. . . .”
Of course the book was better. The book is always (well, sometimes) better. Because it’s a book. There are few rules in novel writing as far as plot and structure. No length or budget restrictions. Characters are explored and detailed to exhaustion, and the audience–the reader–becomes more emotionally invested. It’s one thing to sit in front of a screen, it’s another to bear the imaginative burden of conjuring up images by yourself. The typical result is a deeper, satisfying experience. But it’s nearly impossible for films to stay entirely true to their literary counterparts (unless audiences are receptive to a seven-hour time commitment, and that sounds dreadful). So the screenwriter takes the source material and adapts–in every sense of the term.
It’s no terrible surprise, then, that adoring fans of Gone Girl the novel became ardent critics of Gone Girl the movie. A few characters not getting their due, the ending, particular “crucial” details left out. . . common book-to-film grievances. Faithfulness, however, is not the primary skill requirement in penning an adaptation. In fact, it’s not a requirement at all. What matters: grabbing the essence of the tone, the basics of the plot, and the core of what made the story so popular in the first place without straying too far. It also sort of helps when the original author writes the screenplay, as Gillian Flynn did under the guidance of David Fincher. While the film itself might leave readers of the novel feeling shortchanged, the structure of Gone Girl, the twist on a common concept, and a remarkable depiction of character add up to an experience equally as entrancing as the book. Debatable or not.