A married couple have been spicing things up in their bedroom. When it comes to Gerald (Bruce Greenwood), Jessie (Carla Gugino) is willing to do whatever it takes to stoke the flames of their love life. She is already the passive one in their relationship, so why not take it one step further? Jessie agrees to a weekend getaway with her husband. This tryst includes a pair of handcuffs. Not the kind one would buy in an adult store. These handcuffs are the real thing.
Once shackled, Jessie begins to have second thoughts. Gerald is used to getting his way and does not like rejection. Therefore, tensions rise and Gerald’s poor heart just can’t take it. An unfortunate accident happens, and Jessie is left alone with her thoughts. However, she needs to be careful when calling out for help. One never knows what might answer.
Written by Jeff Howard and Mike Flanagan, Gerald’s Game is a stunning adaptation based on the novel by Stephen King. Once again, a work by King has transcended beyond genre to become a universal tale. This is especially relevant to today’s audience. Gerald’s Game reflects on a society still coming to terms with its treatment of women. A mirror to show the way in which women can become so easily shackled with pressure into a passive role. These pressures range from the obvious or, as this story uncovers, to the psychological manipulations utilized to mold women into society’s self-proclaimed ideal of perfection.
Jessie wants to please Gerald. This stems from her relationship to her father when she was younger. On the day of an eclipse, Jessie’s father (Henry Thomas) put on symbolic handcuffs when chaining her to a secret. Gerald’s symbolic chain is a false sense of comfort. This comfort stretches out further in the knowledge for Jessie that she has assumed the idealized role for a woman in society: a loyal and dutiful wife. However, the problem is that Gerald has trouble in fulfilling his end of the bargain. For if Jessie is to assume the feminine ideal: passive; then it is up to Gerald to maintain the masculine traits of dominate, sexual, and assertive.
Portrayed with seasoned precision by Carla Gugino (Sin City), Jessie has no choice but to spend her time with long hidden thoughts. After witnessing a horrifying canine encounter, her mind begins to crack leading to manifestations of Gerald and her mirrored self. Gugino encapsulates society’s ideal for the feminine, yet truly shines when her stronger reflected being forces Jessie to assess her situation. Gugino splits Jessie into two parts and ultimately brings herself together as a woman capable of great strength within a situation of insurmountable odds.
Bruce Greenwood’s (Double Jeopardy) performance as Gerald shows a man of weak character using his wife’s passivity to elevate his own power. As a result, his aid to Jessie comes in the form of negative reinforcement. Chiara Aurelia is heartbreaking as a young Jessie. Aurelia presents a girl of unlimited potential squashed by the adults in her life. While tears stream down her face, one can see the frustrated anger boiling beneath the surface. Henry Thomas (Cloak and Dagger, E.T.) is suitably creepy as Jessie’s manipulative father.
Gerald’s Game is a faithful adaptation by Mike Flanagan (Hush). Everything works based on Stephen King’s ability to take a mundane location and turn it into a battle arena. The landscape of a bedroom is changed into a desert where a glass of water inches out of reach might as well be a thousand miles away. The horror of this feature works strongest on a psychological level. There is not an abundance of gore, yet a particularly gruesome moment reminds viewers to the author’s genre of choice.
Sprinkled throughout this production are references to Stephen King. A viciously hungry dog takes on the moniker of “Cujo” for one scene. The most obvious link is to King’s Dolores Claiborne. Gerald’s Game and Dolores Claiborne were written as companion pieces to each other. A solar eclipse bridges the stories. Both novels feature a woman facing the oppressive forces that guide her life.
Netflix’s answer to Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale is Gerald’s Game. This is a year in which television has explored society’s treatment of women. Gerald’s Game seeks to create a dialogue that can elevate women above the horrors of everyday life. Horror sometimes painted as happily-ever-after. Or, as the movie states, horror that comes in the form of a husband who believes underneath it all that “women are a life support system for a cunt.” This shocking quote is displayed as a joke from which Jessie looks the other way. The message from Gerald’s Game is when a woman is willing to look the other way, she will remain handcuffed to whatever is holding her down. This latest addition to Netflix is a suspenseful flick unwilling to compromise in its beliefs.
Wicked Rating: 9/10
Director: Mike Flanagan
Writer: Jeff Howard, Mike Flanagan
Stars: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood
Release Date: September 29, 2017
Studio/Production Company: Intrepid Pictures
Length: 103 minutes
Sub-Genre: Psychological Thriller