Amanda Seyfried has been stepping outside the proverbial box recently with her roles in films. The last time we caught up with the "Mean Girls" and "Mamma Mia!" star, she was fighting the Man with Justin Timberlake in the sci-fi thriller "In Time," and this week, she has us on the edge of our seats in the suspense thriller "Gone."
When the closing credits of Gone began to roll, there was a sudden smattering of enthusiastic applause from a small group of women seated in the back of the theater. I came very close to eyeballing them and asking, “Really?” These ladies were truly riveted by what amounts to a Nancy Drew story for the Lifetime Network murder-mystery crowd? Apparently so.
Amanda Seyfried does give a strong performance as emotionally fragile heroine Jill Parish even if it is wasted on a mystery thriller devoid of both mystery and thrills built around a serial killer that exudes little to no menace.
A year ago Jill narrowly escaped an encounter with a serial killer that abducted her from her bed and tossed her in a hole in an Oregon national park. A year later she comes home from her late night waitressing job to find her college student sister missing from her bed in a scenario not all that different from how her ordeal began. She rushes to the police department to tell them the serial killer she escaped from came back looking for her but took her sister instead. The police don’t believe her and tell her it’s Friday and if her sister is still missing on Monday to come back.
Why are the police so unwilling to help? Because when they found Jill wandering the park a year earlier raving about being abducted and dumped in a hole, they couldn’t find any evidence to corroborate her story or the existence of any predator; and because she had gone a little crazy after her parents died and was briefly committed to a mental institution as a teenager; and because in the year since her alleged abduction, every single time a young women is reported missing, she’s trounced into the police station convinced the person that abducted her is responsible.
If there was supposed to be an element to the script to try and make viewers think as the police do that it’s all in her head, it got badly bungled along the way. It’s pretty apparent that she’s not hallucinating and the cops are contemptibly disagreeable only for the sake of furthering the plot.
Jill knows her sister will be dead by the end of the day if she isn’t found, and since the police think she’s nuts, it’s up to her to make like Nancy Drew and save her sibling by personally cracking the case of the mysterious hole-digging murderer known only as “Digger”. Well, she’s like Nancy Drew if Nancy Drew had a history of mental problems and brandished a snub-nosed revolver that would put a smile on Charles Bronson’s face.
More effort is put into mining suspense from Jill eluding police capture than just about anything actually involving the whereabouts of her sister and the maniac responsible. From the moment she pulls her gun on locksmith Joel David Moore, whom she confronts after asking a neighbor about any strangeness in the neighborhood the night before, who told her to go ask the creepier neighbor that saw a locksmith van in her driveway late at night, as much time is devoted to the police tracking her down as it is about her tracking the killer. According to police Lt. Michael Pare, if a former mental patient gets hold of a gun and shoots someone, somehow the local police department is fully liable, and therefore, bringing her in becomes their top priority. This leads to many near miss encounters with the cops, like the (sarcasm alert!) riveting scenes in which Jill has to find a way to escape from a hardware store bathroom after two police patrolmen have her cornered and when she fools another patrol car chasing her by pulling her hoodie over her head and walking up to some teen girls to blend in by talking about their mutual love of Justin Bieber.
I wasn’t kidding with all the Nancy Drew comparisons. In the early stages of her investigation, for every perfect stranger she questions, she gives them a cover story straight out of the Nancy Drew playbook. Did you see anyone suspicious in the neighborhood last night because someone stole my bicycle? I kid you not. She finds a receipt the killer left behind in a van that reads like a laundry list of kidnapper tools and takes it to the store they were bought under the guise that these items were purchased by her Alzheimer’s ridden grandfather who wandered off in the night.
This movie got a round of applause from grown adults? Really?
I find that even harder to believe after the underwhelming finale that actually left me longing for a Shyamalan twist to the ending.
There is no real surprise to the killer’s identity, and the showdown the whole movie has been building up to resolves so quickly and easily the only way it could have been more underwhelming would have been if the moment Jill and “Digger” were finally in each other’s presence the cops jumped out of the bushes and arrested him.
From the moment his character was introduced, I kept thinking Wes Bentley was going to be killer because he was the only cop willing to believe Jill and he had this sinister expression on his face at nearly all times. I should have known better because this is Wes Bentley we’re talking about; constant creepy leering is his acting style. Like Joel David Moore and Jennifer Carpenter, Bentley is just there in a purposeless role not even developed enough to qualify as a red herring.
You know what “Dexter” co-star Jennifer Carpenter’s biggest contribution is to the plot? Her character loans a desperate Jill her car at the 11th hour. That’s it. That’s her big scene. One scene early in the film even went out of its way to establish her vehicle ownership just to set up this scene near the end when Jill shows up to tearfully beg to borrow her car.
You know why this movie is called Gone>? Because the suspense is gone, the tension is gone, and the intrigue is gone. Everything you want from a psychological thriller and a serial killer chiller is gone.