Garbage baby garbage
Yesterday, I received a copy of the US Blu-ray release of Gone Baby Gone from DeepDiscount. I watched it tonight, and was less than impressed.
This film gained some level of notoriety in the UK when distributor Buena Vista cancelled its theatrical release, which was scheduled uncomfortably soon after the disappearance of British child Madeleine McCann, and I must confess that my interest in seeing it, while due primarily from the positive write-ups it received, did to some extent stem from the parallels drawn between the McCann case and the one portrayed in the film. (Perhaps Buena Vista’s marketing department should have made a donation to the Maddy fund for the free publicity?) And the parallels are quite striking. Not only does the missing child, Amanda McCready, bear a great deal of physical resemblance to Madeleine McCann, the circumstances surrounding her disappearance are similar: in both cases, a neglectful mother left her child alone in an apartment to get wasted (Kate McCann on alcohol, Helene McCready on cocaine) at a local bar, and later lied about the length of time for which she had abandoned the child. In both cases, a toy belonging to the missing child becomes a vital piece of iconography. And finally, in both, frustrated by the police’s lack of progress, the family of the missing child hires private investigators.
Unfortunately, the most significant similarity between the two cases is how annoying they both are. The media furore surrounding the McCann disappearance, and the manner in which her parents shamelessly and (I believe) insincerely manipulated the media, made me gag. The mawkishness and falseness of the front they adopted was irritating in the extreme, and, unfortunately, Gone Baby Gone is every bit as mawkish and false. This is a film which doesn’t just tug at the heartstrings - it claws desperately at them, using every cliché in the book in a desperate bid to make the audience care about what is, ultimately, a dull, confused and poorly plotted story.
More annoying than all of that, however, is Casey Affleck, who delivers all his dialogue (most of which seems to be about “respec’”) in the same deadpan mumble and is virtually incomprehensible half of the time. This film was co-written and directed by his older brother, Ben Affleck, and I can only assume that this proves that nepotism is alive and well in Hollywood. Similar criticisms are sometimes made of Dario Argento when he casts his daughter in his films, but Asia Argento seems to have a better grasp of English than Casey Affleck and is considerably less annoying to boot. Ed Harris, meanwhile, stumbles over his ridiculous dialogue as best he can, and Michelle Monaghan’s role is so pointless that I wouldn’t be surprised if it was written in minutes before shooting began because the producers realised, at the last minute, that it would look rather bad if all the women in the film were drug addicts and/or negligent parents. I like both of these actors, I really do, but there’s a limit to what they can do without a worthwhile script. The only actor to escape with any sense of self-respect is Morgan Freeman, who I tend to find elevates the perceived quality of just about any material he gets his hands on.
In short, I don’t rate Ben Affleck as an actor, and, based on this, he isn’t much better as a director or writer (bearing in mind that I haven’t seen Good Will Hunting). It’s definitely one of the weakest films I’ve picked up in high definition since its inception, and definitely not worth the $27 I paid for it. Oh, well - you win some, you lose some.