~Gone Baby Gone

Gone Baby Gone

Film Review
October 18, 2007 by JAN ALBERT

GONE BABY GONE is a darkly entertaining ride into the bowels of the human psyche that will confound you to declare who the good guys and bad guys are at the finish line.

Been a while since a film made me feel like picking up a book, but GONE BABY GONE is a great adaptation of the terse crime thrillers I used to devour like candy. It is a hardboiled but poetic page-turner of a movie.

Ben Affleck’s directorial debut (he also co-wrote the script with Aaron Stockard based on Dennis Lehane’s novel) is set in his old stomping grounds – South Boston – and is an ode to “the people who started out in the cracks and then fell through.” The neighborhood and its residents run deep in his blood and Affleck revels in the faces and places where a little girl has gone missing and the press and the police are trying to outdo each other in a frenzy of self-righteous fury. Every location is crammed with detail and extras cast right off the streets and bar stools of Dorchester, which keeps your eyes wide open.

To make it even more personal, Affleck bet his whole hand and cast his little brother, Casey Affleck, in the lead as Patrick Kenzie, a private detective brought onto the case with his partner/lover Angie Gennaro by the child’s aunt. Slight of stature, but not of ability, Casey Affleck has quietly (the opposite of Ben’s acting career!) been making his name as a character actor in flicks like Oceans Eleven, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and Gus Van Sant’s Gerry. As the star of GONE BABY GONE, Casey Affleck makes you root for this baby-faced but smart, tough, sensitive, and stubborn PI, refusing to give up even when it becomes obvious that the truth is rotten to the core and threatens to tear his own life apart.

Affleck steps up to the front of the screen here against some real star power like Ed Harris (scarily great as a very tightly wound cop) and Morgan Freeman and doesn’t let them steal the scene.
He also holds his own with a score of brilliant character actors he comes across in the course of the investigation—most notably Amy Madigan, Titus Welliver, and Edi Gathegi.

Amy Ryan (who had a recurring role on the TV series, THE WIRE and is also featured as Ethan Hawke’s former wife in Sidney Lumet’s BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD this season) does steal her share of scenes! She gives a star-making performance as the little girl’s druggie, careless mom. Ryan is a force of nature as a woman the audience may disapprove of but cannot just hate despite it all. She makes her a person of spunk and humor, as well as fear and guilt. So far for me, Amy Ryan and Hal Holbrook (Into the Wild) are the ones to beat for best supporting actress and actor of 2007.

Ben Affleck doesn’t yet have the fluid chops to slay the audience with the action sequences, but when he sticks to advancing the story through Kenzie and Gennaro’s (Michelle Monaghan) facing off against the many colorful characters, he’s on solid ground. I’ve seen a lot of fine films lately; Michael Clayton, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, The Darjeeling Express and I must say GONE BABY GONE is the one I cannot shake. Go see it so Hollywood brings more of Patrick and Angela’s series of adventures to the screen and Ben Affleck gets to direct another movie real soon.

P.S. Now that I am deep into Dennis Lehane’s novel, I can see what a great job Ben Affleck did of capturing its essence. Here’s one great passage that had me nodding my head in admiration:

“ When a child disappears, the space she’d occupied is immediately filled with dozens of people. And these people – relatives, friends, police officers, reporters from both TV and print – create a lot of energy and noise, a sense of communal intensity, of fierce, shared dedication to a task.
But amid all that noise, nothing is louder than the silence of the missing child. It’s a silence that’s two and a half to three feet tall, and you feel it at your hip and hear it rising from the floorboards, shouting to you from the corners and crevices and the emotionless face of a doll left on the floor by the bed. It’s a silence that’s different from the ones at funerals and wakes. The silence of the dead carries with it a sense of finality; it’s a silence you know you must get used to. But the silence of a missing child is not something you want to get used to; you refuse to accept it, and so it screams at you.
The silence of the dead says goodbye. The silence of a missing child says, Find me.”
From GONE BABY GONE by Dennis Lehane. Copyright 1998, Harpers paperback, pg. 24.