Gone Baby Gone (2007)

Dir. Ben Affleck
Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, etc.

This is a good film that I recommend to all the idiots, especially Don, Marc, Joel, Jill and Penny. I’m pretty confident about the pick (guessing that most of you will give a similar rating), so you don’t have to know anything else about it. If I worked at a dvd rental store and a customer asked me for a recommendation–if I knew nothing about his/her tastes–I’d pick this one.

I like finding films that seem to fall through the cracks, especially ones that would appeal to wide audience. I don’t know many people who have seen this, and I have a feeling that this goes beyond my circle of acquaintances: if more people had seen this film, I think it would have gained gotten good word-of-mouth and not been as obscure. This may not be a great film, but it’s a very good, entertaining one.

The story involves a private investigator, Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck), and his girlfriend, Angie Gennaro (Monaghan), hired to find a missing girl. Like Mystic River the film is based on a Dennis Lehane novel, and the film follows similar terrain, except I’d say Gone Baby Gone is more entertaining.

I really enjoyed this film, partly because it took me by surprise. Even with the great cast, I had relatively low expectations. It didn’t seem to get much critical attention, or good word-of-mouth. It also didn’t seem to last very long in theaters. So when I finished this film I was surprised. I felt sure that more people would like this, if they had seen it. Certainly, this would be a film that could lead to a pretty good discussion afterwards.

As I watched this, I thought how Affleck’s efforts compared with Clint Eastwood’s. While the films were similar, I had this feeling that Eastwood (and his crew) made a better film; things like the acting, cinematography, score, just didn’t seem at the same level. Perhaps, the difference lies in experience–and a part of me feels if Eastwood had directed it, this could have been great. Part of the reason for this is that I think this script is really strong (particularly for a Hollywood film), and Eastwood’s. Ultimately, this is a minor quibble: this filmmaking is more than sufficient, and I can’t think of many people who wouldn’t enjoy this film.

I enjoyed *Gone Baby Gone* and was surprised at Casey Affleck’s performance, I didn’t know he had that in him. I enjoyed it more than the the movie version of *Mystic River* I don’t really know how to compare the directing since that’s a little beyond my understanding of film making, but I think Amy Ryan in the role of the mother of the kidnapped child gave a performance that was equal to anything in *Mystic River* including Sean Penn and Tim Robbins.

I don’t know if Mystic is better directed, but my memory of it gives me that feeling. In any event, don’t you think Gone Baby Gone would entertain more people and therefore more people–at least you average moviegoer–would like the film more? At this point, I might prefer GBG.

As for Amy Ryan, I thought she was OK, not outstanding, but even if she was, she’s a supporting character. The performances of the leading actors, while OK, didn’t feel as weighty as the leads in Mystic River. Perhaps, the mood, tone and performances are more effectively dark in Mystic River and that’s why I think it was better directed. Again, I’d have to see MR again.

I can see you not being interested in Lars and the Real Girl, and there’s other films you should see before that one. Still, you shouldn’t write it off; there’s a chance you might like it.

Minor spoilers

I liked GBG better, I suspect the average moviegoer may as well. This may be in the fact that while both stories feature the solving of a mystery of a missing daughter, they resolve the cases in very different ways and with different moral overtones. GBG ends with a very interesting decision with significant ramifications for all the characters, which is probably what you would be interested in discussing among friends. There was nothing like this in MR.

Regarding the actors:

Yeah, Sean Penn was weightier than Casey Affleck, but Penn’s role was itself meatier and more showy. It seems hard to compare the two. Penn was being asked to play a tough-guy gangster type dealing with tragedy, which doesn’t seem like all that big a stretch for him. In some ways, I’d argue that Affleck was the bigger revelation. All I can recall seeing him in before was *American Pie* and the Oceans 11 series. Like I said earlier, I didn’t know he had that in him to be convincing in the role of Patrick Kenzie. Casey certainly seems to pull off edgy and tough better than his brother Ben.

The big supporting role in MR was Tim Robbins. I just think that Ryan was as good in GBG as Robbins was in MR. Again the performances were very different though. Robbins was asked to give a restrained, somber performance. Ryan was asked to give a showy obnoxious one. To me, Ryan made a bigger impression but maybe that’s in the nature of the parts.

Kevin Bacon as a cop vs Ed Harris as a cop… probably a wash although Bacon had more of a lead role, at least in the book he did. I’m having a hard time remembering what the character was like in the movie.

Admittedly my view may be colored by the fact that I read MR before seeing the movie, and as usual that book was considerably better than the movie. It also removed any surprise for me regarding how the movie played out with regards to the fates of the central characters as well as the resolution of the central mystery. I have not read GBG.

I think MR was more about the characters than the story, so the acting may seem “better.” But my overall impression is that MR may have been a better directed film, while GBG has a stronger story. I’d have to watch both films again to give specifics.

With reagrd to Ryan and Robbins, Ryan’s part was small compared to Robbins’ (He’s almost in a lead role.), so Ryan’s performance wouldn’t really tip the scales in GBG’s favor in terms of acting quality. Also, while Casey Affleck was a solid lead, the traits that enabled him to be effective don’t necessarily constitute really good acting, imo. An actor in a leading role can be very effective, without really displaying great acting. I think Affleck’s performance is along those lines.

I also had some problems with Monaghan. She’s likeable and a good match for Casey Affleck, at least in terms of having the right look, but her character was pretty one-dimensional, and I wished she was a stronger or more interesting partner. Sometimes she seemed out-of-place, too–a little too cute for the places Kenzie takes her. Ultimately, she didn’t hurt the film, but there could have been more there.

With Harris, I just felt like he went a little over-the-top at times, and I wonder if a more experienced director wouldn’t have reigned him in a bit and got a more subtle performance.

Fair enough. Most of this stuff is a little beyond my level of interest in movie making. So I’ll just throw in one more thing regarding the Angela Gennaro character played by Michelle Monaghan. I understand that the character is considerably stronger in the series of books by Dennis LaHane (which are generally referred to as “Kenzie/Gennaro novels.”). I think your complaint about her character has been voiced more loudly (is that possible, louder than Reid?) by many who are fans of the books.

Either way, I enjoyed the movie more than *Mystic River*. Ben Affleck appears to have directed a good flick, so I’d be willing to see what he does next. Don’t forget, he actually owns an Oscar as a screenwriter for *Good Will Hunting*.

1 Response to “Gone Baby Gone (2007)”

  1. pen


    Just saw Gone Baby, Gone courtesy of Netflix and thought it was pretty darn good! Kudos to first time director Ben Affleck. The pacing and tension-building was good and the story built in an interesting and easy-to-follow way. Casey Affleck also deserves kudos for being able to capably and believably carry off this role. There’s a lot of “meat” in this movie (child abuse/neglect/abduction), media circus and almost a false sense of caring, cycle of poverty and abuse, what “best interest of the child” really means, hope for redemption and reconcilliation, ends justifying the means, etc.) and Ben Affleck avoids being too obvious or preachy, although I think he had to restrain himself. He mentions in the commentary that the book had so much stats about missing/exploited/abused children that he wanted to put that in the movie somehow, but ultimately it interfered with the storytelling, so he cut it out.

    I think I may have to pick up a few Dennis LeHane novels after seeing Mystic River and Gone Baby, Gone. And I am even more excited to see Shutter Island.

    I also heard in the comments that the Gennaro character was pretty, but definitely had an edge, like able to handle herself in the situations they found themselves in. They might have been able to emphasize that a little in the bar scene. She basically is a non-entity for that exchange with “Big” Dave. Also, if she had gone with Patrick and the drug dealer guy to the pedophile/coke head couple’s house.

    Something maybe Ben was to subtle with was the ever increasing gap between the couple. I think he tried, but wasn’t able to convey it the way he wanted to. You get a hint in Patrick’s voiceover when he talks about hearing Michelle cry when she thought he wasn’t there, but not enough of that separation feeling.

    I was okay with Ed Harris’ performance. It may have been a bit “over-the-top” but I think that is okay for his character. He’s a cop from New Orleans who has seen and done it all. Those guys are a bit over-the-top in general, I think. Also, for parts of it he was literally “acting” a part (in the conspiracy).

    I also thought Amy Madigan was awesome. She made you hate her, but not enough to totally dismiss her. She showed some vulnerability and careless affection to keep the audience from completely dismissing her as with no hope for redemption. She also melds in with one of the themes of the movie about the cycle of poverty/abuse/neglect. She is (almost?) as much a product of her upbringing as her own choices.

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