Culture

All hope is (mostly) “Gone”

gone

Gone

dir. Heitor Dhalia

Release Date: Feb 24, 12

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Three quarters of the way into Gone, the new thriller starring Amanda Seyfried, there’s a great sequence of Seyfried driving through the woods. The film centers on her quest to rescue her sister, who may or may not have been abducted by the same man who abducted her a year prior, and she is on her way to meet the man she believes is responsible. While she drives, the possible abductor is on the phone with her, guiding her through the woods with his laconic direction, and the sequence grips and titillates, while offering the diverting Brechtian fun of David Lynch. The scene is straight of out Twin Peaks, and the centerpiece of the film. If the gods are kind, it will soon pop up on YouTube and I urge you to seek it out.

However, aside from a brutally committed performance from its game lead, I can recommend almost nothing else in the film, which plays like the sleaziest episode of Scooby Doo I’ve ever seen. The film really wants to go for the vibe of classic women-in-peril films, like Otto Preminger’s Bunny Lake is Missing or anything of the Hitchcock subgenre, but no one involved seems to know how to get there. For instance, director Heitor Dhalia had the good sense to shoot his film in Portland, a landscape Lynch has similarly plumbed for noir gold, but Dhalia has no idea how to commit to the genre, and the aesthetic comes off as less “smoky” than “bargain bin at Target.”

Instead, it reminded me most of the Name-Actress-Gets-Revenge films of the 1990s and early 2000s, such as Jennifer Lopez’s Enough and Julia Roberts’ Sleeping with the Enemy, films that used avenging domestic violence as a means of female empowerment.  Although Gone isn’t nearly as manipulative as Sleeping with the Enemy or as howlingly terrible as Enough (which features some of the clunkiest dialogue in recent history), it also isn’t nearly as much fun as either and doesn’t have the gumption to commit to how terrible most of it is. Although Seyfried gives the type of manic, crazy-eyed performance that such a film could be built around, the film doesn’t know what do with her and doesn’t even bother to notice that Jill is probably insane. Sure, she happens to be right, but that also does not mean she’s in her right mind.

Gone’s scripting also indicates a total lack of knowledge of film or plot conventions, and it shows a complete disregard for Ebert’s Law of Economy of Characters, as a number of characters just pop up for a moment, never to be heard from again. Some of them will give the main character valuable information as to the whereabouts of her sister, most of which is weirdly specific and completely unbelievable, and others the movie just seems to forget about entirely.

Although Ebert’s principle is not meant to be positive, a certain amount of adherence to cliché is almost essential to the workings of a thriller. For instance, if a romantic comedy sets up the two leads as ending up together at the end of a film and one of them dies right before the end credits, the audience would feel cheated. In this film, the amount of screen time given to the Wes Bentley character, one of the cops assigned to her case, is clearly set up to be involved with the abduction, most likely as a Number Two.  However, he disappears two-thirds of the way into the film, reportedly to make his sick mother some soup.

If you are asking yourself “WTF?” right now, you will probably ask yourself that a lot during this film, but not in a way you might like—especially so after an anticlimactic ending that haphazardly discards any momentum that the film had built up, ending in a MacGuffin that doesn’t even realize it’s a MacGuffin. I expected it to be this year’s I Know Who Killed Me, the kind of delicious failure you share with friends and any stranger who will listen.  Although it shares that film’s low-budget trashiness, it takes its stupidity far too seriously to qualify as fun and doesn’t even seem to know how stupid it is.  It’s just drab, dull and, as its title suggests, completely forgettable.