If any of you were captivated by the allure of BDSM that 50 Shades of Gray was criticized for providing, Gerald’s Game is a good way to get rid of that.
After being handcuffed to a bed in preparation for sex things, a woman’s husband drops dead, leaving her trapped in their bedroom. As the clock ticks down, she must find a way to escape before dying of dehydration, or boredom.
Promotional poster for this movie:
Two middle aged white people drive down a country road. They come across a dog, whom the man honks at to get out of the road, telling us that he is, in fact, a dick. The couple arrive at their cabin, a nice isolated country home which has been prepared for the weekend. The husband (Gerald), takes some viagra and washes it down with scotch. This is foreshadowing cause you’re not supposed to drink alcohol and take meds together.
Going into the bedroom, Gerald breaks out some handcuffs and tells “Jessie” that he wants to get k i n k y. She tacitly agrees, and gets bound to the bedpost. Gerald begins to do a rape roleplay type thing, but Jessie gets uncomfortable and tells him to get off (of her). She demands to be uncuffed, which spurs an argument about their marriage and how they haven’t had sex in a while or something. Anyway, Gerald has a heart attack, falls on top of her, rolls onto the floor, and starts bleeding out of his skull. So that’s not good.
Jessie freaks out and starts yelling for help. The dog from earlier comes in and begins to eat Gerald’s corpse, but she scares him off. She hallucinates Gerald getting up and talking to her. After five minutes of more arguing about their marriage? Ghost-Gerald turns into Sherlock Holmes and starts being useful. They run through all the details of the house (cut grass, stocked fridge, etc.) and conclude that all the “help” probably won’t be returning for a few days.
Jessie then hallucinates a version of herself not handcuffed to a bed talking to her. Ghost-Jess says some stuff about her past relationships and tells her that she needs to try and live or something. Real Jessie manages to retrieve a glass of water from the bedpost, and drinks it.
She goes to sleep, and begins to dream sequence about some childhood memory. I guess her family went to a cabin at some point to watch a solar eclipse? Anyway, she and her father stay behind on the dock while the rest of her family goes out on the lake.
I want to talk about this next scene in detail because it sucks. We’re treated to an incredibly poorly animated solar eclipse (which moves way too fast) and the sky is this weird tint of bright orange for some reason. Between her and father, they have a single viewing apparatus, consisting of a tissue box with some dark plastic in the front. When looking at the sun, they stare directly through the plastic. Now just to be clear, not only would this box not prevent harmful effects from the sun, but at each point in time only one of them is using it. So basically they should probably be blind by the end. Anyway, her father starts jacking off as she’s sitting on his lap, so if the sun’s not gonna blind him, that definitely will.
H O T
She wakes up to find the giant from Twin Peaks standing over her (turns out the actor’s name is Carel Struycken, and he seems like a cool dude). He holds out a box or something? End scene.
She then wakes up again? to the dog from earlier licking her feet, which she promptly kicks away. We’re treated to more conversations between her and hallucinated her/Gerald. There’s another flashback showing how after the stuff on the dock, her father convinced her not to tell anyone about the “incident.”
Back in the present, she takes the glass she was drinking from and smashes it against the bedpost. Taking a shard, she sticks it into the frame, and uses it to slice her hand open and slip her arm out of the handcuff. This scene is very long, extremely gross, and does not cut away (heh) at any point, so I would recommend not looking unless you have some sort of tendon fetish.
Anyway, she retrieves the handcuff key and escapes. She goes out in the hallway, at the end of which we see Carel Struycken kinda standing there. His eyes are also glowing red for some reason? She tells him that he’s a figment of her imagination (rude) and gives him her engagement ring. She gets in the car and drives away, only to crash into a tree. The police arrive at the scene and help her out.
I think the ending to this movie is better if you stop around the 80 minute mark and start watching the bed scene from Se7en, but I digress.
We get a sort of epilogue showing how her hand heals over time. After the incident she starts a foundation for abused people or something, so good for her. Then, in the last 10 or so minutes this movie takes a bizarre turn into like a crime thriller? Turns out Carel Struycken’s character was real all along, and he was like a crazy person that murdered people and cut body parts off corpses. Then there’s like a newsreel telling us about all the bad shit that he did before the events of the movie.
In the final scene, Jessie barges into the courtroom during Carel’s arraignment (which you can’t do), walks through the bar leading to the front of the courtroom (which you really, really can’t do), and tells Carel off, then walks out. I guess this is supposed to be her overcoming her baggage with various relationships in her life? But I feel like the epilogue already kind of showed that. Seeing her physical wounds heal, and having her found an organization to help people who went through what she did shows that she’s conquered her problems. Taking the metaphor of abuse and physically manifesting it into some evil psychopath who she can literally insult to show that she’s “stronger than her abuse” removed any subtlety from the movie’s message, which up to that point had actually been pretty good. I guess Stephen King is some sort of prophet whose works must be fully adapted on screen? I don’t know.
This movie had very few characters, but since it was more about self-reflection than anything I guess it’s fine. While I didn’t necessarily find Jessie to be a super complex character, Carla Gugino (who was in all three Spy Kids!) did a really good job of playing her. While I thought she was overacting a bit near the beginning, seeing the progression as she’s trapped on the bed for more and more time was quite compelling. She did a really great job of showing the physical toll that the situation had taken.
Bruce Greenwood, who played Gerald, was also really good. I thought he had some fantastic delivery with his monologues . He was only onscreen for 20 minutes or so, but I thought he worked well, particularly as a facet of Jessie’s mind talking to her. He’s also in really, really good shape.
The girl who played young Jessie and the guy who played her father were fine. Their scenes were really weird but that had more to do with direction and cinematography than anything else. Props to the girl for being able to cry on command like that, though.
Finally, Carel did a great job in this movie despite half his scenes being unnecessary. He looked very creepy in the bedroom shots, and his line in the very last scene had some of the best delivery in the whole film. One thing I didn’t like too much was how hard he got roasted in this movie. His character has the same medical condition that he actually has in real life, but they kept on calling him gross and deformed. #LeaveCarelAlone #Truebeautyisontheinside.
The writing in this movie was at its strongest when it was practical, and its weakest when it was trying to be “deep.” The entire scene with Jessie and her imaginary friends recounting all the details she noticed and figuring out her situation was really good, as was all the stuff with her talking to “Gerald” about their marriage. The exchanges between young Jessie and her dad were decent.
The issues arose when the movie tried too hard to draw parallels between her various relationships. Everything was really on the nose and the movie didn’t try and leave much room for interpretation. There was one point where imaginary her was like “don’t you get it? Your father put you in handcuffs the moment that it happened.” Like, we get it, her husband and her father were similar people, you don’t have to spell it out for us every time.
There were also a few throwaway lines which were kinda good. At one point Gerald refers to the dog as “Cujo,” which I thought was a nice reference. Apparently there was some other Stephen King stuff thrown in which I didn’t get, but whatever. Good for the writers.
This movie has a very nice tonal progression for the first 90 minutes, until everything sort of falls off a cliff. Up until that point there’s a good build up of desperation as Jessie continually tries and fails to escape. This is best represented in her makeup, which shows her arms getting more bruised, and her face getting dirtier as time went on.
Even the flashback scenes, which were somewhat jarring, went along pretty well. In the beginning the mood is really somber and it’s unclear why, and then when the main point is revealed things start to fall into place.
Really only the last ten minutes kind of screw everything up. We get a light-hearted “after” sequence, which is fine, but all the stuff with the “Moonlight Man” is very random and out of place. And then that last scene is just so campy it detracts from the movie as a whole.
The cinematography for everything done in the present was fine. Shots were composed primarily of either closeups of Jessie’s face or full shots of the room. Set design for this obviously was not that complicated (given that it was all done in one location), but everything was set up pretty well.
The flashbacks, on the other hand, were not too great. Everything had this stupid orange filter over it, which made the transitions from present to flashback feel really odd. As I mentioned before, the solar eclipse looked really fake. And the way the scene on the dock was shot, half the time it looked like the dad was masturbating to the solar eclipse, but whatever.
The lighting in the bedroom also looked pretty natural. During the day, it seemed like sunlight was just filtering through the windows. At night it did look a little fake (everything was visible, just darker), but it wasn’t disruptive.
All the editing was fine, and a lot of the time the camera would move with the actors, rather than cutting to a different angle, which was nice.
I don’t think this movie actually had a score, so I guess I can’t really comment on that. The choice to omit music in favor of just having the dialogue front and center was good, though.
The sound design was also pretty solid. All the little noises in the bedroom were very natural. The handcuff clinks, the bed creaking and stuff like that sounded good. There was one scene where Jessie is rubbing her feet over the bedsheets and it was really loud for some reason? But overall not bad.
One thing I did like was that despite having some jump scares, particularly ones involving Carel’s face popping into frame, this movie did refrain from accompanying his appearances with stupid loud noises. While this did somewhat reduce the “jump” aspect by not being as scary in the moment, it did make the scenes a lot creepier.
Gerald’s Game isn’t a bad movie, but I don’t really think it needed to be one at all. In my opinion, a lot of the specific elements (relationship drama, abuse, inner dialogue), work a lot better in text than they do on screen. While this movie did certain things well, a lot of it is just really boring. I guess I sympathize with the main character’s situation, but watching someone lie on a bed for an hour isn’t compelling cinema (at least not for this genre). I genuinely don’t know whether I’d recommend this movie, but I will say that I was glad when it ended. GG.
Good for: Psychological thriller fans
Bad for: People grossed out by gore, Carel Struycken’s body image
Bod R8s: 5.3/8