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Friday, February 24, 2012
The Girl Who Cried Wolfie Wolf: Portland,
Whatcha talkin' 'bout Willis? Amanda Seyfried as Jill Conway in Heitor
Dhalia's thriller "Gone". Summit
Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
Is it possible for a film to be both tepid and
overblown at the same time? If so, "Gone" would be the gold standard.
Brazilian filmmaker Heitor Dhalia directs this forgettable thriller, which
opened today in the U.S. and Canada without any prior press screenings, usually
a bad sign.
Set in Portland, Oregon, "Gone" first shows Jill Conway (Amanda
Seyfried) in lush green woods with a map, wandering then driving.
We learn Jill had been abducted and taken to the same woods two years ago by a
man. She managed to escape and has suffered trauma ever since.
Confined to a mental hospital in conjunction with her ordeal, police detectives
don't believe Jill as she always points the finger at the same man as being
responsible for a spate of kidnapped women. We barely see this man until
"Gone" absolutely feels compelled to show him, at which point the film is
practically over or no one cares. Oh, and did I tell you? Jill's
sister Molly (Emily Wickersham) goes missing. Jill is convinced the same
man who took her has taken Molly, too.
Like an invisible boogeyman who gets hacked to pieces, "Gone" traffics in
overacting, hypertheatrics and bizarre, idle dialogue. It's as if Allison
Burnett, the gentleman who wrote "Autumn In New York" among others, didn't know
what words to populate these cardboard characters with. Perhaps Mr.
Burnett himself was lost for words while writing "Gone", which shifts tonally
from scene to scene, with characters who do the same, and for no apparent
reason. What sensible dialogue is spoken -- and there's very little sense
in it -- is awkward, and in scenes where any Mickey Mouse dialogue like "this is
not the sound of me laughing," is an absolute no-no, "Gone" disregards any
notion of genre cohesion or sensibility. There's absolutely zero suspense
The whole premise is that the film is taking place in Jill's head, and this
therefore gives the filmmakers the out they need to take a vacation. Jill
is supposed to be Cuckoo-for-Cocoa Puffs-crazy, but she's not nearly as haywire
as the film is. The obfuscation in Jill allows Mr. Dhalia to be elusive
and play loose with a bumpy schizoid narrative that jumps all over the map,
filled with red herrings and characters who needn't be on screen at all.
Jill investigates and tries to find Molly, and it's actually fun to watch the
strangely placid expressions of the disbelieving detectives who spend most of
the time staring blankly at Jill or barking commands into cellphones.
Meanwhile, Jill's long flaxen hair flaps, bobs and dangles, but the good news is
that her hair is longer than the film, which takes place over one 12-hour-period
and lasts barely 90 minutes.
The biggest problem with "Gone" is that it forces drama and tension. The
film is very impatient with its own existence. You can feel "Gone"
wrestling with itself, uncomfortable in its own skin the way
squirmed about uneasily a couple of summers ago. The film spends its time
trying to imitate others so well that it forgets how to relax and breathe on its
own. Full of poor acting and peculiar dialogue, "Gone" is a metaphor for
brainless. That "Gone" is a bad film is obvious, but worse yet it is
careless and desperate, which makes it more pointless and inconsequential than
it has to be. I never believe that directors set out to make bad films but
they have a full opportunity in the editing room and dailies to see what they
have on their hands. If you smell a rotting carcass in the editing room
you're better off not letting the smell fester and rot.
The same stench is beginning to nip at Ms. Seyfried's heels on screen. Ms.
Seyfried is a good actress with promise. With the exception of last year's
however, she has been mired in a spate of bad films ("Jennifer's Body",
"Letters To Juliet",
"Red Riding Hood". Will "Lovelace" be
next?) I believe it's time for her to graduate to better screenplays or a
sharper agent. In "Gone" Ms. Seyfried resembles Jodie Foster, with her
feral intensity and penetrating blue eyes. She has to carry this weak
picture with mental deficiency masquerading as chaos. Jill never gets a
second to breathe. Even stranger, Jill and Molly aren't depicted as
particularly close siblings, perhaps due to Jill's condition. Still, it's
strange, making the climax all the more puzzling.
"Gone" plays like "Red Riding Hood" combined with "The Silence Of The Lambs" but
without the Big Bad Wolf or the Lotion In The Basket Guy. I wish that
Hannibal the Cannibal had gobbled up the lot of these sorry big screen
Portlanders and regurgitated them as smart people into a clever story of logical
placement and function, or better yet, directed "Gone" himself as a comedic
horror tale of cannibalism and fava bean delight.
The pay-off in "Gone" -- specifically where Molly is located -- is wholly
preposterous, and makes "Gone" a circus act or early April Fool's comedy instead
of an authentic thriller. The scenario with Molly is a silly conceit,
making not just Jill but the filmmakers very foolish. Most curious is the
presence of Wes Bentley ("American Beauty") as a new detective on the job.
He goes from being barked at by a superior officer (Daniel Sunjata) for no
reason to suddenly being an ally with Jill. Jill, as troubled as she is,
knows better than all of these loop-de-lous, and when she shouts at them in
Portland's Finest police precinct she could just as well be saying, "Can't you
see how stupid you all are? Get me out of this movie!"
Mr. Sunjata, by the way, has now been stuck in two bad movies in three weeks,
both not screened for the press in advance. (The other was
"One For The
Money".) Other than Ms. Seyfried, who is forced to go with the
flow and drum up any phony, ballyhooed outrage she can muster or amplify, the
one guilty pleasure is Joel David Moore (no relation), who briefly turns up
looking like Shaggy from Scooby Doo, with the camera darkening his face with
less light and heavier stubble, trying to make him O.J. Simpson on Time
magazine's cover circa 1994. Mr. Moore, who is from Portland, revels in
grunge in "Gone".
"Gone" has been advertised as "nail-biting", among other descriptions.
Nail-biting? Please. I dozed off for a minute or two while
watching this snoozer. I could have decided to let myself catch up on some
much needed sleep but I might have begun snoring. I certainly didn't want
to annoy or wake up the three people scattered across the huge theater I was
With: Jennifer Carpenter, Sebastian Stan, Katherine Moennig, Michael Paré, Nick
"Gone" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for
violence and terror, some sexual material, brief language and drug references.
The film's running time is one hour and 25 minutes.
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