Jeff Smith 4 p.m., Aug. 28
Remember this scene from Silence of the Lambs? (If you haven't seen Silence of the Lambs, maybe watch just the first minute or so.)
I don't feel bad referencing a different film than the one I'm reviewing right here at the outset, partly because, like Silence, Gone is a movie about a guy who kidnaps girls and puts them in a hole in the ground. So it's not all that too terribly different, you know?
Okay, okay, unfair. Both films include that theme, but that's not to say it's what they're about. Silence of the Lambs is about a young woman seeking to deal with psychological damage from a traumatic past by arming herself against evil, only to wind up in a terrifying confrontation with a sadistic madman. Gone is about a young woman seeking to deal with psychological damage from a traumatic past by arming herself...oh, never mind.
But really, they're not the same movie. The tension in Silence comes from the race to save another woman's life, but the drama is based on is the head game between the woman and the genius-monster Hannibal Lecter. The tension in Gone comes from the race to save another woman's life, but the drama is based on the head game between the woman and the police,. A-ha! Found a difference!
And it's a worthwhile difference. When Officer Smugly told Jill (Amanda Seyfried) that the whole "killer in the woods" thing was all in her head, I wanted to punch him for mansplaining, which is as it should be. I like the idea of the girl relying on her own (possibly unreliable) wits, some crusty neighbors, and the sort of helpfulness average people naturally extend toward beautiful blondes, plus maybe an understanding girlfriend or two. Sisterhood!
BUT. But but but but. A film like this lives or dies based on our identification with the lead, and that gets at my real reason for posting the Silence clip above. Clarice Starling has had FBI training. But she is inexperienced, and when she comes up against genuine danger, she is terrified. And we are terrified with her.
Jill is even less experienced, but never once did I sense that kind of desperation coming off of her. Never once did my stomach tighten as I shared her panic over the deadly passage of time. Never once did I feel much of anything, really.
Once that identification fails, other things become more noticeable. The silly plot mechanics. Let's see. Our crazy, armed suspect just chatted up a hardware store owner, then bolted. I know - let's not ask the guy if he knows where she's going. The bloodless direction. And most of all, the unbelievably gutless ending. I like a film to have the courage of its crazy convictions, even if they're fake-crazy convictions.
Reader rating: No stars
More like this:
- The Texas Chainsaw interview that never was — Dec. 31, 2012
- Intimate Murder — July 2, 2008
- A Primitive Heart: Stories — March 16, 2006
- When Your Love is Locked Up — Feb. 10, 2005
- The White Mask: Marilyn Monroe and the Hotel Del Coronado — Sept. 4, 2003