Earlier this year, many fans of Gillian Flynn’s 2012 thriller Gone Girl were dismayed to learn that the author had changed the story’s ending for the film adaptation. As Entertainment Weekly reported in January, director David Fincher quoted Ben Affleck as saying, “This is a whole new third act! She literally threw that third act out and started from scratch.”
But that’s not quite true—and Flynn later described the reports that the ending had changed as “greatly exaggerated.” Indeed, the overall arc of the story remains the same in the movie as in the novel. Still, in adapting the book for film, some changes had to be made. So how closely does the movie stick to the novel?
Closely enough that, if you’ve read the book, there aren’t really any spoilers below. If you have not, however, spoilers abound.
The crucial plot points and the structure of the book remain. The first half alternates between Amy’s disappearance—seen primarily, though not solely, from Nick’s point of view—and her diary entries, before we get the big reveal that Amy has faked her death. The back story is the same, too: Amy is a personality quiz writer and the inspiration for her parents’ book series Amazing Amy, and she meets Nick in New York at a party; they move to Missouri after Nick’s mother becomes ill, and there Nick buys a bar (called The Bar) which he runs with his sister Margo (whom he calls Go). Amy eventually runs to her high school boyfriend, Desi Collings, then kills him and makes it look like an escape from a dangerous captor. She returns to Nick, becomes pregnant, and convinces him to stay with her.
But not everything is exactly the same. Below we’ve highlighted the principal differences.
Nick and Amy’s Courtship
In the book, Nick and Amy (Affleck and Rosamund Pike) meet-cute at a party in Brooklyn thrown by one of Amy’s friends. They leave together, then immerse themselves in a romantic cloud of powdered sugar wafting off a late-night delivery to a local bakery. All this occurs in the film. In the book, though, over eight months go by before Amy runs into Nick again, randomly on the street—he claims to have lost her number. And while the book release party for the Amazing Amy wedding story is depicted in both versions—as are the invasive questions Amy answers about her own singledom from attendees—in the novel, this event occurs the night before she runs into Nick, and leaves her devastated about her marriage prospects. The moment in the film turns out to be a much happier occasion, as Nick proposes to her in front of the nosy guests after two years of dating.
For the most part, Amy’s anniversary clues and their locations are taken wholesale from the book: Nick’s office at school (where red underwear is found), Nick’s father’s house (where Nick forgets the alarm code), and the woodshed in back of Margo’s house (where Nick finds all of the items he denies having purchased on his credit cards, including the Punch and Judy dolls). But one clue is absent from the film: Hannibal, Missouri, where Mark Twain grew up and where Nick spent his childhood summers. There, in the old courtroom of Mark Twain’s father, Nick finds a long note from Amy about how “witty” he is, as well as the next clue.
Nick and Amy’s Memoirs
Completely missing from the film is any mention of Nick and Amy’s respective memoirs. In the book, over a week after Amy’s return, Nick begins writing a book about his side of the story so that he can “burn [their relationship] down” and leave her for good; he spends his nights furiously typing it up. Amy begins her own memoir, which she intends to call, simply, Amazing.
As in the book, Amy, unbeknownst to Nick, kept semen of his that was frozen when they were trying to have a baby, and she impregnates herself after returning home. After learning that she is, in fact, pregnant, and that he is the father, Nick, in the novel, deletes his book at Amy’s request, feeling defeated and trapped into becoming the father he had always wanted to be. In the film, however, he slams her against the wall before reluctantly revealing the news during an on-camera interview with media star Ellen Abbott.
In the novel, Nick seeks comfort in a bar that is not his own, and there he meets Rebecca, a young crime blogger who has flown into Missouri from New York just to interview him. He agrees on the spot, using the opportunity to “take control of the story” by gushing about Amy’s treasure hunt and playing up the “regretful husband” angle. (“I failed my wife so entirely. I have been so wrong. I just hope it’s not too late.”) The video goes viral and seems to sway public opinion largely in his favor. Both Rebecca and the video plotline are omitted from the movie entirely.
Also left out are Tanner’s wife, Betsy Bolt, described in the book as a “gorgeous six-foot-tall black woman” and “former TV news anchor turned lawyer”; Desi’s mother, Jacqueline Collings who staunchly avows her son’s innocence; and Hilary Handy, a former high school friend whom Amy falsely accused of stalking and pushing her down a flight of stairs.
Other characters are present but have their roles much reduced. Andie, Nick’s young mistress, is largely relegated to the background, though she does make her televised announcement about her involvement with him as seen in the book. Nick’s father appears in the book several times, but his abusive, misogynistic tendencies toward women, including Nick’s mother, just barely make it into the movie: He appears on screen at the police precinct while Nick is first being questioned about Amy’s disappearance. (And as in the book, Nick returns him to his group home.)
Amy’s parents, Marybeth and Rand Elliott, are also smaller presences, rarely seen in the movie outside of the press conferences and one other scene in which they speak with the police about possible suspects. A tense confrontation with Nick in which they raise their suspicions about his involvement is absent from the film.