There’s one singularly profound moment in Gone Baby Gone, when Affleck plus vieux has one of those filmic moments directors rarely have. He takes a broken, melodramatic scene and makes it sublime. It’s a wonderful moment, coming just after the film’s second ending and before the third and fourth. The film has a lengthy list of pros and a lengthy list of cons. The cons have a lot to do with the script–specifically, I’m assuming, the particulars of adapting a novel. There’s also Affleck’s handling of Michelle Monaghan, who might have been a main character in the novel, but is a fourth wheel here. But the major problem is Affleck the filmmaker–not even the director, because Affleck does a great job–because he doesn’t seem to understand to make a film in this genre great, it has to accept it’s in the genre. Gone Baby Gone is, everything aside, an investigative mystery. Regardless of who is investigating, regardless of how the intricate the crime… it’s an investigative mystery. And Affleck refuses to label it and spends a lot of energy trying to distance the film from itself.
That error aside–I’m going to deal with Monaghan now, just so I can have a couple paragraphs of praise. Monaghan is important in the first act, almost absent in the second, and thrown in for effect in the third. When the film started, I thought it was going to be a gritty Thin Man. It’s not. The film’s about Affleck plus jeune being Catholic and understanding himself. The film skirts the Catholicism, which is a real mistake, because it dictates lots of important decisions. As for understanding himself, a lot of it is in relation to Ed Harris’s character and, for a lot of the film, it’s about Affleck and Ed Harris… not Affleck and Monaghan. She’s part of the character’s ground situation, not an active mover in the story, at least as Affleck plus vieux‘s script sets her up. So she’s a real problem third act. Monaghan’s good, really impressive, but she almost could have gone unbilled.
Casey Affleck is, no surprise, excellent in the film. He holds his own against Harris, who’s turning in some of his best work in recent years here (Harris gets the genre, however). Also excellent are Titus Welliver and Amy Ryan. Ryan’s no surprise either and Welliver’s a good actor, but he’s better than I expected when I saw his name on the credits. His role’s one of the more complicated and he does great work. Running through the laundry list, Amy Madigan, Edi Gathegi and John Ashton, all good. Morgan Freeman is severely underwhelming. It’s a perfectly fine, boring Morgan Freeman performance. It’s getting hard to remember his great acting… back when it was electrifying, instead of Bromo-Seltzer.
Technically, great John Toll photography, great score from Harry Gregson-Williams.
A sign of great future potential from the Affleck brothers. Hopefully next time, Affleck plus vieux won’t be trying so hard to prove he’s legitimate.
Directed by Ben Affleck; screenplay by Affleck and Aaron Stockard, based on the novel by Dennis Lehane; director of photography, John Toll; edited by William Goldenberg; music by Harry Gregson-Williams; production designer, Sharon Seymour; produced by Affleck, Sean Bailey, Alan Ladd Jr. and Danton Rissner; released by Miramax Films.
Starring Casey Affleck (Patrick Kenzie), Michelle Monaghan (Angie Gennaro), Morgan Freeman (Capt. Jack Doyle), Ed Harris (Det. Remy Bressant), John Ashton (Det. Nick Poole), Amy Ryan (Helene McCready), Amy Madigan (Bea McCready), Titus Welliver (Lionel McCready), Michael K. Williams (Devin), Edi Gathegi (Cheese), Mark Margolis (Leon Trett), Madeline O’Brien (Amanda McCready), Slaine (Bubba Rogowski), Trudi Goodman (Roberta Trett), Matthew Maher (Corwin Earle) and Jill Quigg (Dottie).