A version of this review appeared in The Age, February 23, 2012.
You have to feel sorry for Amanda Seyfried, who has hardly made a decent film since 2004, when she had her moment of comic glory as an airhead in Mean Girls. Things are looking up, just slightly, with this thriller set in Portland, Oregon, directed by Brazil's Heitor Dhalia from a script by the prolific Allison Burnett (not a good writer, but a reliably eccentric one).
Seyfried plays Jill, a young waitress with mental problems that seemingly stem from her ordeal at the hands of a crazed kidnapper. When her sister Molly (Emily Wickersham) disappears, she assumes that the nightmare has started once more. So she becomes an unlikely detective, following a breadcrumb trail of clues while dodging the cops who would like to lock her away for her own good.
Though not quite zany enough to rank with an instant schlock classic like the Lindsay Lohan vehicle I Know Who Killed Me (2007), Gone at best is an enjoyably silly ride. Dhalia is alert to the distinctive qualities of the setting – the decaying industrial areas, the surrounding forests, the men in strange beards – and manages to extract considerable tension from a central puzzle: is Jill totally crazy, or is she the only person in town able to recognise the truth? Seyfried's spacey manner keeps us guessing, particularly when her character proves to be an alarmingly fluent liar – spinning stories about an imaginary grandparent, or winning over a couple of schoolgirls by promising them tickets to a Justin Bieber show.