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Movie Review: Gone Baby Gone

By Tom Houseman

October 23, 2007

Their onscreen chemistry leaves something to be desired.

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It has been a long and ignominious slide for Ben Affleck since he rocketed to stardom along with Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting. While Damon went on to become one of the biggest names in Hollywood, Affleck has become one of its biggest jokes, due to a series of poor decisions, mega-flops, and botched relationships, all of which concerned Jennifer Lopez. But Affleck seems to be in the process of resurrecting his career by moving behind the camera with his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone. Of course, Affleck might find it easier to redefine himself had he any discernible directorial talent, but Gone Baby Gone is a sloppy mess of a film that never comes together, resulting in a convoluted story filled with overly simplified characters that does not work on any level.

There are so many problems with Affleck's script, which he co-wrote with Aaron Stockard, that it is easy to overlook the myriad directional flaws. The story centers on private investigator Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) who is hired to find the missing child of a drug-addicted woman (Amy Ryan). As Kenzie tries to unravel the massively complicated web of intrigues concerning the crime, he butts heads with the chief of police (Morgan Freeman), a detective (Ed Harris), and the woman's brother (Titus Welliver). Affleck seems far more interested in the intricate story than the impact that the events have on the characters, and is satisfied by summarizing the emotional state of every character in one long-winded voice-over by Kenzie. After an hour of all-plot zero-character action, the film starts to drag, and then the twists come rapid-fire, each more ridiculous than the last, and by the end, you'll start to wish that you were the one who was gone.




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Affleck does one thing right with the script, and that is develop the main character, Kenzie, played by Casey Affleck, giving a brilliant performance that keeps this movie from collapsing as he continues to prove that he is the vastly superior Affleck brother. Watching Kenzie emotionally mature onscreen, from a young gun trying to prove himself in a man's world to a weathered and jaded cynic with barely a glimmer of hope left, almost justifies the rest of this movie, and Casey Affleck gives one of his best performances here. Unfortunately, Affleck didn't feel the need to develop any of the other characters, letting the actors do all of the work with their performances. With Ed Harris and Morgan Freeman, who are both incredibly talented, this isn't as much of a problem, but Michelle Monaghan, who plays Angie, Kenzie's girlfriend, seems lost on screen, with very little to do as one of the most pointless characters in the film. Angie's relationship with Kenzie is so painfully undeveloped that it only serves to distract from the film, without adding anything to it.

In fact, many of the details in Gone Baby Gone are treated more like they are distracting from the already complex story, rather than adding any depth to it. The development of story and character never mesh, and Gone Baby Gone never flows, which is why it feels so slow. What magnifies these flaws is the editing, which is choppy and frequently pulls the viewer out of the scene, and especially the music. Harry Gregson-Williams' music worked for the epic battle scenes of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, but the only powerful scenes in the film are frequently ruined by Gregson-Williams' overwrought and distracting score. It is possible that Gone Baby Gone is the work of a neophyte writer/director who has potential but lacks experience, but more likely it is the result of a lazy writer/director who thought that it would be easier to cut corners and get to the good stuff: the shocking plot twists and gut-wrenching confessions. But whatever the cause, Gone Baby Gone never develops its story or flesh out its characters, so those shockers and gut-wrenchers utterly miss the mark, a fitting ending for a movie that fails on so many levels.


     


 
 

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