*** (out of 5)
February 24, 2012
Amanda Seyfried as JILL
Daniel Sunjata as POWERS
Jennifer Carpenter as SHARON AMES
Sebastian Stan as BILLY
Wes Bentley as PETER HOOD
Joel David Moore as NICK MASSEY
Michael Paré as LT. RAY BOZEMAN
Directed by: Heitor Dhalia
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
There was a moment about half-way through watching “Gone” when I leaned over to my friend I was sitting next to, and I said, “This movie is awesome.”
Mind you, the “awesome” I’m talking about isn’t the same kind of awesome as watching “The Dark Knight” on the IMAX screen, or even the kind of awesome I experienced in 1999 when I saw “Star Wars” blast onto a theatrical screen for the first time in a 16 years. It also isn’t the “awesome” of enjoyment that you’d expect from a brilliant comedy or powerful drama.
But it was awesome nonetheless.
I know it’s getting destroyed by most critics, but “Gone” quickly became a guilty pleasure for me, not because it’s expertly made. It’s because I could not decide whether it was absolute garbage or a work of sheer genius.
The film focuses on Jill (Amanda Seyfried), an escaped kidnapping victim who is mentally unstable. One day she returns home from work to find her sister missing. Determined to find her, Jill runs to the police, sure that her kidnapper has returned. However, no one believes her because they investigated this before and found no evidence that what she said was true. This leaves Jill to hunt for the kidnapper herself with slim hopes of finding her sister alive.
It’s a pretty basic late-night-cable plot, reminiscent of the mid-90s women-in-trouble movies like “Kiss the Girls” or “Jennifer 8.” And in many ways, it plays out like an homage to those movies with a younger actress than Ashley Judd.
On its surface, the film is a work of standard scripting. There’s your basic set of twists and turns throughout the plot, and the characters act in wildly predictable fashions. In fact, if you take the film at face value, there’s very little in terms of substance, and it’s only Seyfried’s general likeability on screen that raises the movie above any of this.
Sure, it’s paced decently – except at the end when the film comes to almost a literal crawl. Still, for ninety percent of the film, it moved fast enough and kept things going to make it fun. Plus, it was entertaining to watch Seyfreid’s character try to lie out of almost any situation she was in.
But deeper, I found some amazing things in there. The film either plays with convention or executes it so poorly that it’s laughable. Just as in the movie, where there’s a 30 percent chance that Jill is completely bonkers, there’s a 30 percent chance that the director meant to make every apparent mistake throughout the film but refused to wink and nod at the audience because it would seem so trite to do so.
Take, for example, a scene where Jill is searching an abandoned apartment and finds bags of dog food strewn across the floor. She opens a closet door, and a rworing cat flies across the screen. It’s the oldest trick in the book, but like an episode of “Community” not too far back, it was played for humorous effect.
Then there’s the fact that before Jill goes into the apartment, she’s told by a resident that the guy she’s looking for “has rapey eyes,” easily the funniest moment in the film. This is only made more hilarious by the fact that every goddamned man in this movie has “rapey eyes,” from the creepy detective played by Wes Bently to the guy who actually told her that the man she’s looking for has “rapey eyes.”
Finally, there’s the character of Detective Londsale (Katherine Moenning), who is decked out in every lesbian cop cliche available – from the mussed haircut to the sensible shoes. When she announces that one of the many rapey-eyed character is “taking soup to his sick grandmother,” it’s either a brilliant diversion or the worst writing imaginable.
Best viewed stumbling drunk on home video, “Gone” is an enigma, but an amazingly entertaining one. I’m an optimist, so I’m considering it to be a work of genius.