Sunday, October 21, 2007

Gone Baby Gone

The problem with having a long list of movies to see is that when you go to the theater to see each of them, they play trailers for NEW movies which you then have to add to your list of movies to see. Music Within starring Ron Livingston and the new Coen Brothers flick No Country for Old Men look like they're going to be great. Sigh--adding them to the list...

But back to the subject at hand--today's movie was Ben Affleck's directorial debut Gone Baby Gone, starring his kid brother, Casey. Just so you know, I am not a Ben Affleck hater. I like him as an actor (although I skipped Pearl Harbor, Jersey Girl and Gigli) and I don't hold the whole "Bennifer" episode against him. Show of hands people--who here HASN'T been in a disastrous relationship? Yeah, that's what I thought...

Gone Baby Gone is an adaptation of a Dennis Lehane book--as was Mystic River. It is the story of a missing child and the local private detective the family hires to "augment the investigation." Casey Affleck plays the young and idealistic Patrick Kenzie whose job is to "find the people who started in the cracks and fell through." Set in a lower class Boston neighborhood, the environment is one that is familiar to both Affleck boys and they use their knowledge and experience of growing up in "Bah-sten" to create an authentic depiction.

But Affleck's strength is just in creating a setting that looks and feels genuine, his genius (yes, I used that word to describe Ben Affleck!) is capturing the hearts and souls of the PEOPLE. I think that's what actors who direct do best--create and capture characters. Eastwood, Penn, Clooney and now Affleck direct ACTORS vs. ACTION. Character studies--the exploration of a personal journey--those are the types of movies that I find most affecting.

It's great to see Casey Affleck step into a leading role and knock it out of the ballpark. The whole cast is top-notch, but in addition to Casey Affleck, Ed Harris gives his usual superior performance as a tough Boston detective all too familiar with the moral gray areas of the job. And that's the crux of the movie--the gray areas one must deal with in life. Similar to George Clooney's Michael Clayton, Patrick Kenzie deals with complexities and ambiguities. The difference, however, is that Patrick is a young man trying to walk a path of honor and integrity while Michael Clayton was haunted by the demons of self-rationalization.

Kenzie hasn't reached that point yet, but he understands that compromising principles is a sure way to end up haunted by those demons. Or as he tells another character, "Shame is God’s way of telling you what you did is wrong.” It's a tough choosing between the best thing and the right thing. As the movie twists and turns, unraveling layers of perception vs. deception, the audience experiences the same moral gray areas as Patrick. Can you do the right thing for the wrong reasons? Or the wrong thing for the right reasons?

All in all, it's a superb first effort for Ben Affleck--who not only directed the film but co-adapted the screenplay. The movie is getting great reviews for the script, the direction and Casey Affleck's performance. Good for you, Ben! I, for one, am happy to see you succeed.


  1. Ohhh...I'm excited to see this. I've always loved Ben despite the Jlo debacle and I love these books. Gone Baby Gone is only one in a series and if you like mysteries, read all these Dennis Lehane books. Glad you gave it a good review. I'll be checking it out this week.

  2. I haven't read any of the books--although I did watch Mystic River. I read an interview where Ben said it was really hard to adapt because some of the characters had so much backstory from other books. But I had no problems with it.

    There's a part in the film where most directors would have exploited the visceral and horrific images. But Affleck, to his credit, uses "flashes" and achieves just as evocative an effect.

    I'm looking forward to seeing more directing from him.