Thursday, February 28, 2008
Gone Baby Gone
Director Ben Affleck tries to bring to the screen a very moving novel by Dennis Lehane. Unfortunately much like Mystic River, the book doesn't translate as well here. The young daughter of a coke whore Helene (Amy Ryan from The Wire) is taken from her while she is out getting high with her boyfriend. Her brother Lionel (Deadwood's Titus Welliver) and his wife Beatrice (Amy Madigan) look to out investigators for help. They turn to Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and his partner Angie Gennero (Michelle Monaghan) as a last gasp attempt to find their niece. Patrick starts poking his nose around the case while forming an uneasy relationship with the two cops (Ed Harris and John Aston) assigned to the case. Also, Morgan Freeman is the head of the task force trying to find the missing girl. Of course everything is not as it seems or else why would there be a movie?
Ok I wanted to get all that plot out of the way so I can talk about the problems and there are many. The first problem is that since Gone Baby Gone is not the first book in the series, you don't have a real idea of Patrick and Angie's relationship is like. Ben Affleck never really gives you that since of it which is key in the book towards their effects felt by the case.
Secondly, the two leads are horribly miscast here. Casey Affleck doesn't have the physicality that the character needs and Monaghan seems completely lost here. In the book, Patrick is a presence as soon as he walks into a room and much better dressed. Apparently (Ben) Affleck feels like trotting out his extra wardrobe from Good Will Hunting. Monaghan has had one solid performance in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and filled up her resume with craptastic parts in MI3 and The Heartbreak Kid.
But for the mistakes in the leads, casting Ashton and Harris as the cops is dead on. Both of these wonderful actors haven't had a chance to do something this juicy in a long time. Finally, the tone is all wrong. Anyone who has read the Kenzie novels knows that while the cases can be very dramatic the overall tone is much more light. Ben Affleck seems to try and milk the story for drama and completely throw out everything else.
The revelations in the book just does not translate onto the screen. Most of that could be blamed on Affleck since he adapted the screenplay. Like Mystic River (the film version is overrated), the people behind the camera do not seem to get what is compelling about the books. Martin Scorsese is taking a crack at Lehane's novel Shutter Island in '09 so we will see what he can do.
* Wire fans should look for a cameo from Omar.