Amanda Seyfried is not well. So much potential and Star-of-Tomorrow hype has failed to pay off. Her career looks anemic. Her screen presence has turned her pallid—and me, too. It’s hard to believe, but she walked out of her leading role as the most sensible Mormon in the hit HBO series Big Love after 45 episodes to play Meryl Streep’s gooey daughter in the nauseating Mama Mia and then fall in love with a werewolf in the idiotic Red Riding Hood. Now she gets star billing in a latent snooze called Gone, which will be exactly that before you can even find out where it’s playing. Beware of movies that are not screened in advance for the critics. The reasons are usually manifest. Now that I’ve seen Gone, I know why.
Gifted and sincere as she always is, there’s not much Ms. Seyfried can do with this tripe. She is Jill, a deeply disturbed young waitress in Portland, Ore., still struggling to get back to normal after being raped, kidnapped and thrown into an underground pit occupied by human bones of other victims buried alive. The cops, played by Daniel Sunjata, Wes Bentley and Michael Pare, don’t believe her story. So she takes self-defense classes, eschews a social life and carries a loaded .38 caliber pistol in her purse. Before she can make any progress, her sister Molly disappears, too, in the middle of the night, leaving no trace. Once again, the cops think she’s making the whole thing up. Convinced there really is a maniac on the prowl who once abducted her and goodness knows how many other victims, and now he’s back, Jill turns detective, committing a series of crimes herself in a barbed wire tangle of red herrings and false-alarm clichés borrowed from every girl-in-jeopardy thriller on The Late, Late Show.
Following clues so dangerous Jodie Foster would carry a flame thrower, she tracks down match books and hardware store receipts in stolen cars, breaks into locksmith vans and seedy hotel rooms, and introduces a coven of contrived and sinister weirdo suspects whose sole purpose is to distract the audience from the fact that Gone is another in a long line of thrillers without thrills. With more moxie than good sense, Jill turns into a sexy Nancy Drew with no respect for a good manicure. By the time she foolishly telephones the serial killer for a rendezvous in the same woods where she was once dumped, and ends up in the same hole she once crawled out of with her bare hands, all credulity has left the room. It takes a while to discover she has a history of mental breakdowns herself and did some time in the nut house. No spoilers about how it all turns out. You won’t believe that, either. As capable and appealing as Ms. Seyfried was as Bill Paxton’s daughter on Big Love, she comes off in this mess looking like a hysterical, bug-eyed amateur. Allison Burnett’s careless screenplay jumps back and forth from flashbacks in the wooded graveyard to present-tense car-crashing chases through the filthy Portland underworld after midnight without the slightest attempt at character revelation or narrative coherence, and to director Heitor Dhalia (say who?) the word nuance might as well be a French deodorant.
Running Time 94 minutes
Written by Allison Burnett
Directed by Heitor Dhalia
Starring Amanda Seyfried, Jennifer Carpenter and Wes Bentley