The professional marriage between Gillian Flynn and David Fincher works so much more effectively than the actual marriage of Nick and Amy Dunne, as depicted in the new film version of the mega-successful novel, Gone Girl.

Gillian Flynn and David Fincher have come together to bring Gone Girl to the local Cineplex and after viewing it, excitement will build for their next collaboration. For the record, that will be the new HBO drama Utopia. For now, back to Gone Girl.

Gillian Flynn has succeeded in adapting her bestselling novel into a damn fine screenplay. Readers of the novel will wonder if Nick and Amy are still as unsympathetic and unlike-able as they are in the book and the answer is yes. But somewhere in the translation to screenplay, that dislike becomes an effective storytelling device, manipulating the audience and constantly shifting their loyalties. Some would argue that it worked the same way in written form, but many readers could not get past their inability to connect with either character.

David Fincher was the perfect director for Gone Girl. On display are his usual film-making techniques, but they seem more restrained here than they did in another of his blockbuster-to-film adaptation, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Visually stunning, Fincher is able to make even the dreariest outdoor shot seem lush and beautiful and he knows how to elicit affecting performances from his actors.

Gone GirlBoth of the lead performances are exceptional. Ben Affleck, as Nick Dunne, portrays the lack of emotion and confusion in Nick’s mind realistically. But it is Rosamund Pike, as Amy, who is the real revelation. A veteran of numerous British properties, this is likely the first time most American audience members will register her performance. And what a performance it is. She transforms so convincingly (physically, emotionally, and psychologically) over the course of the two-and-a-half-hour film, that I would not be at all surprised to see her name again on the day Oscar nominations are announced.

All of the minor roles are perfectly cast, but there are two other standout performances. Missi Pyle’s depiction of the Nancy Grace-like television journalist is so spot-on that it comes close to being a caricature – but manages to hit the mark on the blend of camp and sincerity. Then there is Neil Patrick Harris as one of Amy’s ex-boyfriend’s. He succeeds in making his very limited screen time count and I think that he has proven that he can do dramatic and scary roles just as effectively as he does comedic ones.

Fans of the novel will be happy to know that Amy’s “cool girl” speech has made its way into the screenplay, even if it seems a bit less revelatory on film than it did on paper. Also worth noting is how wonderful it was to see the Amazing Amy picture books in reality after just having descriptions of them in the novel.

In the end, the film version works as a faithful adaptation of the novel, and in many ways, manages to defy the odds and become one of those rare times when “the movie is better than the book.” Your mileage may vary, but either way, Gone Girl is worth seeing.