In the wake of the Weinstein allegations, the people behind Gerald’s Game couldn’t have timed this Netflix original any better.
From the trailers, this adaptation of Stephen King’s novel tells you most of what you need to know: Jessie (Carla Gugino, carrying the entire movie in her most significant role for me outside of Spin City, even though that’s not saying much) and her semi-controlling husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) plan a cabin getaway to rejig their marriage. First thing on the agenda: sex with his handcuff kink – something they’ve never tried, and something that gets weirder as it transpires that Gerald’s needs run all the way to straight-up rape fantasy. After Jessie’s repeated protests during foreplay that she’s not comfortable, he finally climbs off of her, but before he can take her out of the handcuffs, the viagra causes a fatal heart attack.
What follows is part-survival thriller, part psychological drama, with multiple threats for each: a stray dog that starts eating part of Gerald from the get-go, and Jessie’s own fears, magnified by both the hallucinations of a Death-like figure and multiple flashbacks from her abusive childhood. Aside from an unevenly toned, Lifetime-movie ending, it’s well-shot, carefully plotted and decently paced once we open up the flashbacks.
After the hashtag movement #MeToo, there’s not a woman alive who doesn’t have a story of a sexual assault and/or unwelcome advances. And this is on top of encounters that made them feel guilty, ashamed or manipulated because of controlling. Perhaps the filmmakers knew this. Some of it is unsettling to watch. And that’s even including the gore, which will make you wince for days.