REVIEW: Amanda Seyfried Makes One Crazy-Looking -- But Sympathetic -- Blythe Doll in Gone
In the vigilante fantasy Gone, Amanda Seyfried plays Jill, a young Portland woman who can’t shake the memory of her abduction a year ago. She managed to slip through the guy’s clutches – he’d been holding her at the bottom of a deep pit in a sprawling local park – but the local cops, after finding no evidence of said hole (it’s a very big park), decided she made the whole thing up. Then one night Jill’s sister (Emily Wickersham) goes missing in a similar fashion: When Jill goes to the cops for help, they eye her warily, all except newbie detective Wes Bentley, who purrs at her creepily, in a red-herring sort of way.
The thing about Seyfried is that she does look a little – OK, a lot -- like a crazy waif, capable of making up any old thing and getting you to believe it by blinking those saucer-sized Blythe-doll eyes. She does a lot of that here, and she’s part of what makes Gone reasonably effective: Seyfried can look fragile, feral or a combination of both. Her skin is so translucent that she looks something like a pond creature, delicate and mysterious but also capable of staying underwater for a long, long time without breathing – in other words, she can surely take care of herself.
Which is why you never worry too much about her character in Gone – you know she’ll come out on top, but it’s fun to doubt her here and there along the way. The picture is very simply constructed, using a minimum of tricks as it works its way toward its inevitable conclusion. (The director is Brazilian filmmaker Heitor Dhalia; the script is by Allison Burnett.) Essentially, Jill spends a day following a sequence of clues: She finds a possibly significant hardware-store receipt and treks to the establishment to quiz its super-friendly owner. (You know, the kind of guy who’ll sell you duct tape, a shovel, a flashlight and a mini-saw, chuck it all in a paper sack and say, “You have a great day now!”) En route to her prey, she queries a slacker kid about a mysterious fellow who’s been living in a local divey hotel. The kid warns her that the man in question is kind of shady: “My girlfriend says he has rapey-eyes.” Whatever those are – and it’s all too easy to imagine – you wouldn’t want to meet them in a dark alley, or at the bottom of a deep hole.
As vigilante thrillers go, Gone is actually kind of subtle – perhaps too subtle. The movie repeatedly tosses the “Can we believe her or can’t we?” coin to the point where we don’t even have to guess. But ultimately, the plot doesn’t really hinge on who the would-be killer is, or even on the question of whether or not we can believe Jill. The more resonant question is, What happens when authority figures think they don’t have to take a pretty, sweet-looking girl seriously? The creepiest thing in Gone isn’t the inevitable showdown between Jill and her prey; it’s the way the cops stalk her (she’s toting an illegal firearm, which, they’ve decided, makes her Public Enemy #1), talk about her behind her back as if she were just some random loony (she did spend time in a mental hospital), and use the people she trusts to help reel her in. The aura of slow-burning paranoia is the best thing about the picture, though it’s not enough to fully sustain it.
In the end, Gone really does have to be about Jill’s being smart enough to outwit her possibly imaginary nemesis – that’s what the audience comes to see, after all. Seyfried, a mini-Valkyrie with flaxen hair, can take care of herself all right. Still, those moments where you think she just might be an attention-seeking hysterical cutie-pie are exactly what gives the movie’s ending its satisfying click. Seyfried has spent too much time lately in vehicles that aren’t worthy of her, Red Riding Hood being the most egregious example. Gone at least takes her seriously – except when, to delicious effect, it doesn’t.