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February 27, 2012

Would it be too much to ask for the crazy girl who nobody believes to be actually crazy for once? Just once? The form is so played out that it’s not even a spoiler anymore to say it’s not all in her head. And so it is with the latest Amanda Seyfried thriller, Gone, which is doubly frustrating because it keeps showing flashes of potential.

Jill (Seyfried) was kidnapped a year ago and held for a day in an earthen pit dug out in the middle of Forest Park, outside Portland, Oregon. She managed to escape, but was traumatized by the experience, not least because she found remains of at least one other girl buried in the bottom of the hole. But the police gave up on the search for the hole after only a week, and wrote her off as delusional following the death of her parents.

Jill’s sister, Molly (Emily Wickersham), evidently dealt with their parents’ death by drinking, but she’s sober now and instead pouring herself into her studies at the nearby University. She tries to help Jill deal with her anxiety and paranoia, but without much luck. And then one night, while Jill works the late shift at an all-night diner, Molly disappears. Did she take off with her boyfriend, Billy (Sebastian Stan) without leaving a note? Did she slip and go on another bender? Detective Powers (Daniel Sunjata), who dealt with Jill before, thinks there are any number of other explanations, since he doesn’t believe Jill’s attacker even exists, but his new colleague Detective Hood (Wes Bentley) is a tad more open-minded.

Jill sets off on her own to investigate, convinced that Molly only has a day to live unless her kidnapper is stopped. As she goes, she picks up a trail of clues that are too unambiguous to leave us any doubt that Jill is, in fact, correct and that Molly has been taken. Oh, would that we could have wondered. Instead we make do with wondering just who the mysterious kidnapper is. Any of a dozen possible suspects suggest themselves to a mind desperate for some sort of intriguing twist, but to no avail; when the reveal does come it’s just who everything had pointed to all along.

The trail is pretty much linear, proceeding from one clue to the next, intercut with some frantic scurrying as the police try to stop a dangerous paranoid — Jill — from running amok, which also helps to pad out the movie. Allison Burnett’s script fills in none of the back stories it hints at — Jill and Molly’s parents’ death, Molly’s alcoholism, Detective Hood — and leaves numerous plot threads hanging. Director Heitor Dhalia manages some good atmospherics, but they’re just dressing around an empty window.

Producers seem to be blaming Gone‘s poor showing on a very small marketing budget. As I look around, I can hardly blame Summit for not throwing its good money after Lakeshore’s bad. A note to the studio: give us a reason for watching more compelling than anime-sized eyes.

Worth It: no.
Bechdel Test: pass.

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