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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Gone (review)

Gone Amanda Seyfried red light

Never Trust a Woman

Of course the world is unfair to women, and women’s concerns are often dimissed as imaginary and hysterical. It’s theoretically possible that Gone is attempting to counter that, wants to maybe even salvage the notion that women are, in fact, to be trusted to interpret the world in rational ways. If so, this sorry excuse for a film is laughable. If it merely wants to be an involving, provocative thriller… well, it fails miserably at that, too.

Amanda Seyfried’s (In Time, Letters to Juliet) Jill escaped from a serial killer last year — because, you know, that happens — and her perfectly understandable trauma after this terrible event is exacerbated by the fact that the cops don’t believe her: they think she invented her kidnapping and terrorizing — because, you know, women do that — not out of malice or deceit but because, you know, she’s looney tunes. As women are. The kicker of Gone is, we’re meant to wonder whether the cops (including Daniel Sunjata [Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, The Devil Wears Prada], Michael Paré [The Lincoln Lawyer, Postal], and Erin Carufel [The Lincoln Lawyer, Untraceable], all completely wasted) don’t have the correct end of the stick, because isn’t it perfectly reasonable that women invent their own traumatic near-death fantasies? (With “friends” like this movie, the feminist cause doesn’t need enemies.) So, when Jill’s sister (Emily Wickersham: I Am Number Four, Remember Me) goes missing in a way that could have a plausible explanation or might not, and Jill is convinced it’s the serial killer come back to finish what he started, she is forced to investigate on her own, because the cops, you know, think she’s looney tunes.

As we are invited to speculate on all the various permutations of what might really be going on — there is no sister! no, wait, Jill is the serial killer! no, wait… etc — we are presented with the one cop (Wes Bentley: The Hunger Games, Underworld: Awakening) who’s on Jill’s side because (wait for it…) he “likes crazy girls.” (Yeah, there’s a ringing endorsement for women’s agency.) And we are presented with a dichotomy the upshot of which is unkind to Jill no matter what the “twist” might be. For as she goes about girl-detecting, she is far too slick and smooth a liar as she invents, repeatedly and on the spot, completely ficticious scenarios as the excuses for her “interrogations” of witnesses. (She cannot, as a cop would do, present a badge and demand answers, so she has to play the innocent and concernful granddaughter, niece, etc, just looking for answers that will help the ones she loves.) Most sane people are not such crafty and inventive liars — that is a talent of sociopaths, who make few distinctions between truth and lies, and who are very good at manipuating the human emotions of those of us who do actually feel.

I’m not going to spoil the ending, but it doesn’t matter: even if Jill isn’t crazy, hasn’t made up her own attack and isn’t wrong about her sister’s disappeance, she’s still crazy, because she does not behave like a sane person. (Another tipoff: she sees the presence of duct tape in a truck, in an apartment, as evidence of serial-killerness. As if everyone doesn’t have duct tape in their junk drawer or utility room.) However this might end, screenwriter Allison Burnett (Underworld: Awakening) has set things up so that Jill cannot win even if she wins, and director Heitor Dhalia is too invested in “Jill as crazy bitch” — in a radical-cute way — that there’s not much left for anyone who would like to see a woman onscreen who is cool and competent without being crazy or kooky, as if those are the only personality types open to women characters.

So, you know, *argh,* *grrr,* etc.


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Gone (2012)
US/Can release: Feb 24 2012
UK/Ire release: Apr 20 2012

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated CBBC: crazy bitches be crazy
MPAA: rated PG-13 for violence and terror, some sexual material, brief language and drug references
BBFC: rated 15 (contains strong threat)

viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • MaryAnn, are you at all a fan of Robin Wood? I can’t but think that he would have defended this film in much the same way that he defended another reviled film of its day, William Friedkin’s Cruising, by pointing to the questions it asks the audience to engage. Everything you say about Gone is defensible and reasonable but the fact remains that with this film, genre audiences, seeking nothing more than thrills, are instead asked to think about the indifference, incompetence, and/ or suspect motives of police in investigating cases of missing women, the mistrust the culture and maybe even the viewers themselves exhibit towards women who come forward, and the reasons WHY Jill has to resort to untruths and has no faith in the institutions that are supposed to be protecting her. Not many thrillers raise those questions, make them part of their narrative, and regardless of whether we ARE encouraged at points to mistrust Jill, the film ultimately does totally validate her interpretation of events and her heroism… Maybe it’s just that I’m seeing the film in light of the Pacific Northwest context – it can’t but remind any viewers here – be it in Portland, where it’s set, or Vancouver, where I’m viewing it – of the Missing Women Inquiry in BC, where women had been disappearing for years, due to the predations of Robert Pickton in particular, without the cops doing much about it, even as the evidence and complaints were pouring in against him. Of course, THOSE women were mostly First Nations and poor, so Gone definitely puts some whiteface on things, pretties the story up with Ms. Seyfried to make it consumable… but it’s hard for me to totally pan a film that gets people thinking about these issues AT ALL, when they might not otherwise be doing so. (See Wood on Cruising in Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan, by the by).

  • Oh, by the way – no one is mentioning this, so it’s just a curious detail. I had assumed, based on this film, that Allison Burnett was a female. He isn’t (and he isn’t a trans man, either). http://allisonburnett.com/Essays/Boy_Essay.html

  • are you at all a fan of Robin Wood?

    I’m not familiar with his work, sorry.

    genre audiences, seeking nothing more than thrills, are instead asked to think about the indifference, incompetence, and/ or suspect motives of police in investigating cases of missing women

    Are they, though? I don’t recall seeing anything like that in this film.

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