Monday, November 19, 2018

Gone Girls

Bumping a random flop of a 2012 teen-aimed thriller seemed like a great light way to kill 90 minutes.

Then the world happened.

Quick Plot: Diner waitress Jill lives with her hard-studying college student sister Molly. While Molly spends most of her time immersed in economics books and her boyfriend (pre-Bucky Sebastian Stan), Jill roams a nearby forest seeking evidence of her own alleged abduction a year earlier. 

One day, Jill returns home to find Molly vanished--er, GONE. JIll immediately jumps into action mode, digging for clues at the scene of the crime and calling the detectives who handled her own past cast.

Turns out, nobody believes Jill, neither then nor now. Since no evidence had been found to corroborate Jill's previous experience, the Portland PD has written off the young woman as a pathological liar. The fact that Jill spent some time in a mental asylum certainly didn't help.

Without the law on her side, Jill decides to hunt down Molly's abductor herself. Thankfully, most strangers are pretty willing to help an attractive young woman, especially since Jill has such an uncanny knack for making up elaborate lies on the fly. 

Directed by Heitor Dhalia, Gone premiered in the much simpler time of 2012. Back then, it opened to little fanfare, an 8% Rotten Tomatoes score, and the general consensus that it was an overcomplicated but underwritten PG13 dude. I'm not here to say that Gone is anything worthy of the Criterion Collection, but when you make the randomly mistimed decision to watch the day after Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the highest court in the nation, it's weirdly relevant.

Nobody believes Jill, but the male cops REALLY don't believe her. The film isn't quite good enough to explore that in a way that says much, but there is an extremely dark undercurrent to the idea in 2018. Along with that is the somewhat ahead-of-its-time recurring motif of men encouraging Jill to lighten up and smile. Any woman can tell you why that's a horror in itself.

Is Gone a good movie? Not especially, but it has that kind of earnest intensity that I tend to enjoy. I've always found Amanda Seyfried to be incredibly watchable, and her crazy saucer eyes are used to grand effect here. It's also fun to see a random assortment of attractive character actors inhabit the red herring of the moment, from Jennifer Carpenter as a single mom diner waitress to Wes Bentley as the world's shiftiest rookie cop.

Perhaps more or less importantly, Gone is a different movie when watched in October of 2018. We can thank this vomit of a government for a lot of horrible things, but seeing a mediocre thriller turn into a weirdly relevant social message about believing women? That's a new one.

High Points
While I don't quite know how to feel about the final stinger of Gone, the main ending involving Jill's decision is incredibly satisfying in concept (even if the film is a little too distracted to truly earn it)

Low Points
Red herrings are expected and required for this kind of movie, but there's something annoyingly disappointing about just how carelessly Gone handles its handful

Lessons Learned
The way to a teenage girl's trust is the promise of a Justin Bieber concert ticket

Chasing split tail is for firefighters, not detectives

No woman taking a self defense class wants to be called "sweetie" by her male partner

Hell hath no fury like whatever it is living on the head of Daniel Sunjata's partner

I have no idea who should watch Gone. Like the occasional better-than-it-should-be Lifetime flick, it's probably more enjoyable to my eyes than most. It's also (and perhaps by the time November elections come up, less so) oddly infuriating until it becomes (mild spoiler alert) even more oddly uplifting in its depiction of how women are looked at by authority figures. The world is a strange place.

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