Thursday, October 25, 2007

Gone Baby Gone

I was excited to see "Gone Baby Gone" for several reasons. The novel is my favorite of Dennis Lehane's Kenzie/Gennaro series, and my favorite of his novels after MYSTIC RIVER. The reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, and when Marcus Sakey used the word "Oscar" in total sincerity, "Gone Baby Gone" officially became the movie I've been most legitimately excited about in a long time.

In short, the movie delivers. Big time. I saw it with my wife and sister-in-law, and when the credits rolled we all turned to each other and uniformly said, "that was really good."

The acting for the most part is strictly A-caliber. Casey Affleck grows into his role, and though he struggles with a few emotional scenes he's terrific when in "cocky jerk" mode (much like his brother). The scenes where he threatens a drug dealer and nearly gets beaten to death in a dive bar are classic Affleck, a la Ben's awesome recruit dressing down in "Boiler Room." Ed Harris is great (has Ed Harris ever not been great?), and deserves a Supporting Actor nod. Though for the second straight Lehane movie, the filmmakers changed a character's last name for some inexplicable reason (Jimmy Marcus to Jimmy Markham in "Mystic River," Remy Broussard to Remy Bressart in "Gone").

Morgan Freeman is good as the chief of police, though his stoic/soulful performance is a little wooden when compared to his similar role in "Seven" (where he was jipped out of an Oscar nom in a total miscarriage of acting justice). Plus I think Freeman sets a record in his second role as a black man with an Irish name (Doyle in "Gone," Red in "Shawshank Redemption"). Michelle Monaghan, who has the most expressive eyes I've ever seen, is unfortunately half wasted as Angie Gennaro. She's a really good actress, but the role just isn't there. Angie's a wonderful character, but not knowing her backstory ("Gone" is Lehane's fourth Kenzie/Gennaro book) makes it harder to understand her motivations at the end. Somebody please give her a meaty role other than Standard Movie Girlfriend (no, I haven't seen "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang," but neither have the majority of moviegoers). If Charlize Theron can reliably get those kind of roles, Monaghan more than deserves her shot.

Perhaps the best performance of the film is given by Amy Ryan as Helene McCready. Helene is at once desperate, sad, angry, infuriating, pitiful, and in all a totally believable character. Ryan's performance is so good that when she appears at awards shows next year wearing some $75,000 gown while being fondled by Ryan Seacrest, you'll expect her to call him a sh*t-eating motherf*cker. And if Tim Robbins can win BSA for "Mystic River" (despite overacting worse than William Shatner), Ryan had better at least get nominated for "Gone."

And Ben? Ben does a pretty darn good job. He doesn't overwhelm the film with "stylistic vision" (like Eastwood did too often in "Mystic River"). Instead he smartly lets the performances carry the weight. Yet when the film needs it he delivers, as in the heart-pounding scene where Patrick and Remy raid a suspected pedophile's home, and the botched exchange in the quarry. There's also a sense of authenticity, as Affleck is spends much time focusing on actual Boston locals, many of whom are too "authentic" to show up in most Hollywood films. The script is top-notch, so don't be shocked if Ben (with Aaron Stockard) is up for his second writing nom in February.

"Gone Baby Gone" gets a solid A-, the second straight stellar adaptation of a Dennis Lehane novel. Now let's see what Scorsese and Leo can do with SHUTTER ISLAND...


Blogger Richard Cooper said...

Excellent review. I loved this movie.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Sarah Weinman said...

I liked it a lot as well, and yeah - Michelle Monaghan was totally wasted. You should see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang though, it is several ways of awesome.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Jason Pinter said...

"Kiss Kiss" is at the top of my list, unfortunately I've recently had "movie rental ADD" where I just can't sit and watch a 2-hour movie without getting distracted. But I've been able to catch up on a lot of TV on DVD (next up, "The Wire" at long last).

1:59 PM  
Blogger Dana King said...

You'll love The Wire. Look for Amy Ryan (in Season 2) and Michael K. Williams (who played Devin in GBG) to excellent effect.

7:37 PM  
Blogger Allison Brennan said...

This is on my list to see. I almost saw it last week, but hubby and I opted for MICHAEL CLAYTON and I was riveted. Definitely my favorite George Clooney movie. Terrific writing and a fabulous thriller, even though it was on the "quiet" side (no chases, shoot-em-ups, etc)

12:51 AM  
Blogger Bobby Mangahas said...

Yeah, I have to agree that "Gone" really was well done. I have to admit, I actually was surprised with Ben's directing.
As far as Lehane's series, I still like "Drink Before the War" the most.

As for Mystic River, I think it's really well written. My only issue was that there was a bit too much exposition in between the key scenes. Other than that, "Mystic" is one hell of a good book.

10:50 PM  
Blogger Christinekling said...

I liked the moral ambiguity in the film - classic Lehane. But I did have a problem with the fact that nobody seemed to think that Patrick should be charged in the murder of the pedophile. Even scumbags have mothers and sisters and people out there who would have been demanding "justice."

9:08 PM  
Blogger Ron Earl Phillips said...

I've always had doubts about Ben's abilities, but reading reviews like this make me think his calling isn't acting, which of late has been sub par.

I hope I can catch it before it leaves theatres. BTW, I second you seeing Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

12:55 PM  

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