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part of a small rebellion | 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, please 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.

  • Louisa

    I know its been a while since your comment, but have you actually seen the film? Because that is very clearly not the point.


    The female detective has no sympathy for Jill, and expresses no approval for her actions at any time. Her treatment of Jill is gratuitously cruel and demeaning. That smirk/grimace of hers is used to express contempt or exasperation (usually), or chagrin (when she gets the door slammed in her face at the end of the movie). Never approval or sympathy. She is every bit as bad as her male colleagues; that is, she is not as creepy or predatory as the younger detective, but far nastier and more unprofessional than her two male superiors.

    The female uniform cop is even worse. She never interacts with Jill directly, but she has conversations with her male partner that make clear her attitudes towards female victims. She characterizes battered women who remain with their husbands as “volunteers”, and snickers in approval at her partner’s unrepentant adultery; “What did [your wife] expect. She married you didn’t she?” The common thread running through all her comments is that any woman who is victimized 1) asked for it AND 2) deserves to be victimized further.

    The policewomen in the story are there for the same reason as the policemen; to illustrate the kinds of foul attitudes that people like Jill — people who have already been victimized and are in need of help and support — are up against. I have studied both sex crime AND the treatment of mental patients, and I can attest that this film is pretty spot on.

    In contrast, the champion of female solidarity and basic decency in the film is Jill herself. Her motivations throughout the film are to protect and defend other women in trouble. Even before the killer reenters her life, she searches the woods for other victims, is supportive of her sister, and protective of her female coworker. It is clear LONG BEFORE the ending actually proves her to be sane and factually correct that Jill’s attitudes and morals, rather than those of the cops, are the ones to be admired and emulated, and that she would be the superior human being even if she actually was nuts. It is Jill who believes in standing up and fighting for those who are damaged and victimized, including herself. The cops either overtly believe in kicking people who are already down, or (at best) are simply unable to stop themselves from doing so.

    Jill is rewarded in the end by the loyalty of the decent characters in the film, male and female, who had initially been led to doubt her.

  • Louisa


    The young cop IS a red herring. His line when he hears about Jill’s mental history [“Maybe she should move in with me. I like crazy girls.”] is not an endorsement of female agency, and is not intended as such. It is meant to be creepy, which it is, and his superior calls him on it. His next move is to call Jill, while surreptitiously glancing around the squad room to see if anyone notices, and telling her a pack of lies about how he is now in charge of her case and she should call him. He’s a predator. Clearly. And like all predators, he targets Jill because he sees that she is vulnerable.

    The punch line is that he is not actually the killer. More than just a plot twist, this is there to make an important point. The world is full of guys like that, looking for girls who are already victimized to take further advantage of.

    The cops are not so much superfluous as they are the real villains of the movie; which is about the cycle of stigma, re-victimization and gaslighting that crime victims have to deal with. The serial killer is merely taking advantage of that situation.

  • not an endorsement of female agency, and is not intended as such

    Of course it isn’t! I was being sarcastic.

    about the cycle of stigma, re-victimization and gaslighting that crime victims have to deal with

    This movie needs to be a *lot* more sympathetic to Jill if it wants to be about these things.

  • Louisa

    MaryAnn, I think you know that nobody is accusing you of failure to be sarcastic.

    I think you also know that my comment was addressing not your lack of sarcasm but your errors of fact. Hood is not “on Jill’s side”. He is clearly a predator and a villain, and hence — contrary to your belief — a red herring.

    His remark does not in any way represent the films point of view. His character is not meant by the screenwriter to be a supporter of female agency, but a bottom-feeder who takes advantage of women when they are down. You clearly were NOT aware of this; so responding with “Of course it isn’t” when I point it out is ungracious and dishonest. Exactly the behavior that I have learned to expect from you.

  • MaryAnn, I think you know that nobody is accusing you of failure to be sarcastic.

    I don’t know that at all (or at least I didn’t).

    We clearly have different interpretations of this film. Yours is not “fact.” Sorry.

    Exactly the behavior that I have learned to expect from you.

    How tragic for you that you are forced to continually return to a web site that displeases you.

  • Louisa

    So, just to be clear, you now saying that you did NOT make an error in fact when describing the young detective?

  • Louisa

    I’ve seen this film several times. I thought it was a nice little film the first time, and it gets better every time I watch it and tune in more to the writers themes and intent. There is no doubt that the film is an examination of the re-victimization process, with it’s entire sympathies being for the victim/heroine. Every detain in the film, including what at first seem to be pointless scenes (the chatter of the two uniform cops), plays into this theme.

    As the review points out, Jill is suffering from “understandable” trauma that is being exacerbated by the gaslighting and indifference of the police — not to mention the sheer terror when the killer comes back for her and her sister. Yet the reviewer then condemns the film as misogynist because Jill fails to act “cool and competent” under these psychological conditions.

    If people with severe trauma were able to project a cool, competent aura while actually being re-victimized, then re-victimization would not happen, because it would be no fun for the abusers at all. Exactly the qualities in Jill that cause MaryAnn to dismiss the film are the qualities that cause the cops to dismiss and belittle Jill herself. So Jill’s “crazy” behavior isn’t just a fun little red herring, it is essential to the humanist and feminist intent of the film.

    She is behaving the way anyone else with anxiety and trauma would behave. The difference is that she is also extremely competent and badass. Her weaknesses make the film all the more satisfying to anyone who has ever been in her position, or who is capable of sympathizing with someone in her position instead of kicking them further when they are down, which is sadly the more common reaction.

  • I think it’s pretty clear that what I’m saying is that your interpretation of the film is not “fact.”

  • Louisa

    Thank you for that truism. Now, can you please clarify YOUR interpretation of the facts that follow;

    1) In the movie, the young detective, Hood, makes comments about Jill (“She could move in with me. I like crazy girls.”) which get him raked over the coals by his superior for inappropriate behavior.

    2) Hood then calls Jill behind his superior’s back, telling her that he is now in charge of the investigation. This appears to be a lie (according to my humble interpretation) because of the way his shifty little eyes dart back and forth trying to make sure nobody hears this conversation, and because he continues to take orders from his superior in the pursuit of Jill for the rest of the movie.

    3) He never actually helps Jill in any way, and gets the door slammed in his face by the sisters at the end of the movie same as the other cops.

    In light of this film content, is it still your interpretation that Hood is meant to be on Jill’s side, represents the voice of the filmmakers, and is NOT meant to be a red herring?

  • can you please clarify YOUR interpretation of the facts that follow;

    I haven’t seen this movie in five years, and I am not going to watch it again so I can indulge you. Sorry.

  • Louisa

    You know, you could have said that right away instead of doing your usual gaslighting-and-stonewalling routine.

    Few people can remember a film well enough to discuss it after five years, UNLESS they watch it again. If you haven’t done that and aren’t going to, then it is best to say so up front. You clearly no longer have the ability to comment on the level of sympathy the film has for Jill, or the validity of my interpretation.

  • You are banned. “Usual gaslighting-and-stonewalling routine”? What the actual serious fuck? If you’re a regular commenter here, you are suddenly using a new Disqus account that has never been used before — not just on this site but *anywhere* on the web — until your first comment on this review a week ago. So I doubt your ability to engage on a reasonable level.

    And if you think it’s a given that I am going to drop everything and rewatch a film for the benefit of someone like that, you are delusional.

  • Danielm80

    Louisa has posted comments on a number of threads. She tends to be a little…intense. Sometimes she uses a registered account, sometimes she doesn’t. (On the Girl on the Train thread, she did both.) Here’s one of her Disqus accounts:


  • It’s not cool to use multiple accounts. And I would say that it’s difficult to tell whether it’s even the same commenter, except she also lobbed the bizarre accused of gaslighting at me in that thread too. I should have banned her then, probably.

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