I’m going to give it to you guys straight, with as little writerly affectation as possible, just to hammer home my point. I don’t want you to think this is some linguistic exercise or some kind of insult gymnastics. I’m not trying to be mean and I’m not trying to be clever about it. I just want to tell the truth, give you my opinion as a critic and move on with the rest of my life.
Gone is perhaps the worst film I have seen theatrically. At least in the past 10 years. I’m literally trying to find a precedent for a film I’ve enjoyed less and I can’t find one. I almost suggested Doom (I know – not even a remotely similar film) as an equivalent but at least that one had those stupid POV shots that were so hamfisted they couldn’t help but be entertaining. Gone does more right than Doom, and is a worse movie because of it.
How did this happen? I guess people weren’t paying attention. There are some surface elements that make this seem like a good movie if you’re not really watching it. It’s slick and well shot, so much so that I have to assume this is the reason the film wasn’t aborted during principal production – I’m sure the dailies looked fine. If you popped over to your friends house for a drink and they were watching this on mute, you might even wonder if you’d interrupted their enjoyment of some kind of stylish thriller. But you wouldn’t have. I’m not sure how the script got through development, perhaps it was just formatted correctly and didn’t have too many big speeches and that was enough.
The film is so bad that it manages to hinge on a strong central performance – a performance that Amanda Seyfried actually delivers – and still be utterly without merit. Seyfried, an actress I like, is Jill – the young woman determined to rescue her sister from the same kidnapper who tormented her the year before. The problem is, all of the local police (and pretty much everyone else in Portland OR) think Jill is crazy. Since everyone believes that she’s nuts she has a bear of a time obtaining help in any legitimate way and is forced to lie, connive and steal her way towards justice.
She goes from person to person, inventing a set of lies for each one that’s tailor made to produce from them the information she needs. But the film never establishes any of the components of the circumstances that she’s willfully obfuscating, so we never know (or care) if she’s lying or telling the truth. The film wants us to doubt her sanity along the way – but we need to care about it first and we never do. We’re never even remotely invested in this escapade. Every single character is such a vacant red herring without any semblance of human logic or emotion that I almost felt myself sliding into uncanny valley. Watching Gone is like watching the world’s dumbest person play the world’s worst RPG side mission.
I mentioned earlier that this is the worst film I’ve seen theatrically in some time. Is it the worst film period that I’ve seen in this time period? No. It’s true that I have many several DVD screeners, several in the past six months even, that are worse than this film. But even your sh*ttiest, most bottom of the barrel, direct-to-DVD releases have moxie or gumption – even if it’s just the slightest motivation for existing. There’s something to be said for a failure that at least has the charm of someone who was trying, someone who was passionate at getting their story out but just didn’t have the talent or resources to make it happen. Gone is different.
Gone has talent and resources at its disposal – it just chooses to be lazy. It chooses to be boring and bad. With so much in its corner you would think it could provide at least one single entertaining moment, but it willfully declines. And that is unforgivable. It chooses to take your money without the effort or intent of living up to its end of the bargain.
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House Mother (Short Film) - Written and Directed by Andrew Bowser
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