Tuesday, January 15, 2008

 

Everyone looks out his own window

By Edward Copeland
When Amy Ryan began her near clean sweep of the supporting actress awards for Gone Baby Gone, I was a little puzzled, since she is hardly a household name and the film itself seemed to have garnered little notice. Now that I've finally seen the film, I can see that Ryan's awards were more than justified and Ben Affleck's directing debut really hasn't been given the praise it richly deserves.


I feel ashamed of myself for not recognizing Ryan by name when she first started getting attention, since she plays Officer Beatrice Russell on the great HBO series The Wire (which I'm missing greatly, given that my evil cable company took HBO away from me and sent it to the digital ghetto). However, you won't find any trace of the hardworking single mom Beadie within the drug-addicted single mother of a kidnapping victim in Gone Baby Gone.

It's easy to see how Ryan's powerhouse work got notice, but the rest of her film and fellow actors deserve kudos as well. Adapted from the novel by Dennis Lehane, who also wrote the book Mystic River and is a writer on The Wire, Gone Baby Gone plays in some ways as if it's a sequel to Clint Eastwood's film, only Gone Baby Gone is much better.

Gone Baby Gone doesn't go on past the point where it shouldn't and, by and large, the Boston accents in Gone Baby Gone are done much better than in Mystic River.

Affleck taps his younger brother Casey as the lead here and it's not a case of nepotism run amok. Casey Affleck is quite good as Patrick Kenzie, a private investigator hired by the missing girl's aunt (Amy Madigan) (along with his girlfriend, played by Michele Monaghan) to help the police with their investigation.

Leading the investigation on the police side are too veteran detectives (Ed Harris and John Ashton) under the supervision of the police chief (Morgan Freeman), whose own child was lost long ago.

While it's hardly noteworthy to expect good work from Freeman, this is by far the best performance Harris has given in ages.

As a director, Ben Affleck moves the film along nicely, even though its complicated story would have been easy to muck up and end up confusing the viewer. Still, there is a reason Ryan has burst into the consciousness with her work here. She is superb.


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Comments:
I know Ryan from her superb Tony-nominated performance in The Roundabout Theater Company's 2005 revival of A Streetcar Named Desire - as Stella, she pretty much stole the show right out from under Natasha Richardson and John C. Reilly.

I did not have the opportunity to see her other Tony-nominated turn, as Sonya (the role you nominated Brooke Smith for in Louis Malle's Vanya on 42nd Street) in Uncle Vanya, although my understanding is that she outshone the stars of that production - Derek Jacobi and Laura Linney - without breaking much of a sweat.

I don't know much about her other work (although, as an interesting gossip tidbit, she was romantically involved with Irish stage actor Brian F. O'Byrne for almost a decade - they lived together until about 2004). In any event, I look forward to seeing her in Gone Baby Gone.

In any event, I look forward to seeing her in this film.
 
I was a little bit confused about Ryan sweeping all the awards this season, but after actually seeing the performance, I realised why it was doing so. I wouldn't say she deserves to be sweeping everything for this performance, but she does deserve some recognition for this performance and it's good that she's getting this attention.
 
I was very pleased with this movie, especially since I have been a Lehane fan for a long time. Ben Affleck is a talented director. The movie is intense, well structured, and gritty. I was pleased that it lacked the usual Hollywood flash. Lehane writes hard-boiled detective novels and Affleck did him justice. Amy Ryan’s performance is moving and intense without being over the top. I wish Ben Affleck would get a directors nod, considering the unjustified flack he has gotten over the years. My only problem was the Angie Gennaro character was diminished. Although it has been awhile since I read the book, so it may have been faithful. This movie has a current social consciousness.
 
When I first heard early on of Beadie Russell's buzz I was nothing less than ecstatic, if only for the fact that one of The Wire's gazillion dazzling actors have finally caught the public eye. When I did catch up with the movie (which I have many reservations about) I thought what a damned shame that such histrionics was needed to bring about this critical consensus.

Still, it's far from bad performance. What am I saying, it's terrific. Like Ed I'm shook that this fussy addict is delivered by the same actress who plays the passive dock patrol/single mom in the HBO show [that everyone should be watching]. Come late february, I hope it's she who takes the golden boy home, and not Blanchett whose acting ticks have (very unexpectedly I admit) come to annoy this viewer. I'm bound for a few "WTF"s here but even in Little Fish I was never convinced I was watching anything besides, to quote Josh R, a studied and controlled Cate Blanchett. Ryan is the better crack whore.

PS. My first comment here I believe. Sup Ed, Josh, guys =)
 
Dug the film, and Ryan deserves whatever accolades come her way. But did anyone else have as big a problem with the ending as I did? Just couldn't buy it - and I really wanted to ...
 
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