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...