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‘Gone in The Night’ (review)

The opening scenes in Gone in the Night feature Winona Ryder as Kath, a Gen-Xer botanist driving to a rented cabin with her Gen-Z boyfriend, Max (John Gallagher Jr.). It’s the first time the movie subverts expectations, flipping the usual cinematic relationship age convention. She’s mild-mannered and mature, while he’s young and garrulous to the point of irritation.

It’s not the last time the movie attempts to do the unexpected. The feature directing debut of Eli Horowitz, co-creator of the Homecoming podcast (which was adapted into an Amazon drama series), Gone in the Night tries to blend relationship drama, character study and suspense.

It doesn’t quite succeed at any of them, though it’s not for lack of effort.

There’s a wrench thrown into Kath and Max’s romantic getaway–two wrenches, in fact, named Al and Greta (Owen Teague and Brianne Tju). They claim they’ve already booked the cabin, and the two couples end up spending the evening getting to know each other.

But Kath wakes up the next morning to find Al sobbing over Max and Greta running off together.

It seems a little strange, but over the next hour, Gone in the Night paints a picture of a mismatched pairing in Kath and Max. She resents his rootlessness, while he chafes at her reluctance to try things he enjoys.

The movie does so using parallel timelines, with Kath and Max’s relationship playing out in intermittent flashbacks.

Meanwhile, in the present, Kath decides to reach out to the owner of the cabin, Nicholas (Dermot Mulroney), in an attempt to find Greta and get to the bottom of things. He’s a bit of a hermit, but agrees to help Kath.

Ryder and Mulroney easily settle into a rapport, their chemistry not unlike two protagonists in a romantic comedy. It’s actually fun to watch them together, but that budding friendship feels at odds with the cold lighting, muted palette and frequent orchestral stings, which suggest a Fincher-esque thriller.

If only the movie worked as a thriller.

The nonlinear timeline and frequent cuts to flashbacks sap Gone in the Night of any real tension.

Worse, its plot grows more and more nonsensical with every new revelation, and the younger characters aren’t developed at all. Max is a collection of millennial tropes while Greta seems to exist to spout “hip” dialogue like, “We’re not together, not in that capitalist consumerist cis-normative bullshit way.”

Teague, as Al, spends the entire movie glowering.

And while Ryder’s Kath seems to bloom into a deeper portrait of a woman staring down middle age, she doesn’t do much of anything to push events forward, not in any decisive sense. The movie’s narrative hinges, in a number of scenes, on what Roger Ebert called the “idiot plot,” which posits that everyone in the movie is an idiot, else the film would quickly be over. Kath doesn’t even call Max after he disappears.

On the upside, if you’ve managed to stick out the first hour, you’re rewarded with a ridiculous final act that almost salvages the movie by dint of its absurdity. Ryder and Mulroney manage to draw unintentional but welcome laughs in the final minutes.

Gone in the Night definitely feels like a first film, with a messy structure and dialogue that’s often too clever by half.

But it has Winona Ryder and Dermot Mulroney hanging out for a little while–a tease, perhaps, for a better movie down the road.

Hopefully it’s a comedy.

*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Raphael Margules J.D. Lifshitz
Shaun Sanghani Russ Posternak
Written by Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby
Directed by Eli Horowitz
Starring Winona Ryder, Dermot Mulroney,
John Gallagher Jr., Owen Teague ,Brianne Tju

 

 

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