Saturday, December 01, 2007

Affleckology

So I finally watched Gone Baby Gone. A decent film but, for me, too lacking in that something "extra"...some specialness required to push it from crime film into the realm of engaging human drama. There were a lot of questionable directorial choices made and needlessly confusing editing. Strangely, even when the film is trying to hold your hand with voiceover recalls of things you've just barely heard, it doesn't always make a lot of sense. 

But let's talk about the Brothers Affleck for a moment. After Baby and especially The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford you have to recognize (if you haven't already --and why haven't you?) that Casey Affleck is bonafide... a true actor. That scene that you've already seen in the trailer (even if you haven't seen the picture) you know the one where he says "...and I know a lot of people". I love that. How can you be so menacing when you weigh 98 lbs and you look like you're about to doze off? Casey the Sleeping Menace. There's a whole lot of heavy lidded angst going on with that one (even moreso in Jesse James). I think he's a fine actor but I don't think he should ever co-star with Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire. That'd be way too much somnabulistic angst. Narcolepsy: The Movie!

Ben Affleck is a generous guy. He's a better actor than he's gotten credit for (though I suppose the universe got balance there by making him a bigger movie star than he had any right to be) and he's also just giving giving giving to others. Matt Damon gets eternal love and support. Ben gifted his career to Jennifer Lopez (not really her fault that she had no real use for it) in what is now ancient history. Presently he allows the actors to rule Gone Baby Gone even when he should probably take more charge. And now, when he's been down and out, he gives us his little brother as his lead player... Here, take this younger more talented version of me. Nice guy to a fault, huh?

I know the reviews were rapturous for him as a director but I'm chalking that up to one of those weird groupthink things that happen when celebrities 

a) defy expectations 
b) earn our sympathy or 
c) deserve second chances... 

all three of which unarguably apply to Ben Affleck, whether or not one thinks of Gone Baby Gone as a mediocre effort or a great one. I do hope he makes another picture though. I assume it'll be much stronger. Look at the superman-style leap that George Clooney made from  messy indulgent first film (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) to controlled terrific sophomore effort (Good Night, and Good Luck). 

24 comments:

adam k. said...

That picture of them is really cute. Except it weirdly makes me feel like Ben and Casey are lovers instead of brothers, which should be very disturbring but actually kinda turns me on.

Anyway.

I have had very little interest in seeing Gone Baby Gone and I now have even less after this. But I'll probably see it anyway... despite the fact that BOTH Affleck brothers annoy me for entirely different but equally hard-to-put-my-finger-on reasons.

I have not been impressed with Casey in the few things I've been him in, but I guess I should give him another chance.

Catherine said...

I've always found Ben Affleck bland, but in an agressive sort of way. I'm willing to give him another chance though.

Waiting patiently for the von Sydow interview. :p

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this film a lot until the last 15 minutes. Casey was great - and damned sexy. Ed Harris is always a delight. Amy Ryan was brilliant as disgusting. The story was at least different from the same tired crime/gangster drama we're repeatedly served. But the end? Why does Lehane feel the need to tack on some moral dilemma to the end that has little to do with the first 3/4 of the film? Same with Mystic River. Crime drama or morality play. Pick one.

Anonymous said...

I loved Gone, Baby, Gone ... Ben has never been a favorite of mine, but his dircting shows much promise...Casey is still one to get used to, but does a good job in the lead.

Matt Noller said...

If you think the moral dilemma at the end of Gone Baby Gone isn't set up earlier in the movie, you need to see it again. It's established in the very first minutes, with the shots of Boston neighborhoods (the strongest part of Ben Affleck's direction in the film is, I think, his ability to really get across the locale - the man knows Boston) and Casey's voice-over about knowing and respecting those you grew up with. Which is the entire point of the dilemma at the end: he defends the local girl he knew in high school at the (possible) expense of her daughter, even though he really fit into that group anymore, and now he has to live with the consequences.

And whatever you think of Ben's direction on the whole, I think it's pretty hard to argue that that final shot isn't one of the best and most devastating of the year.

Matt Noller said...

*doesn't really fit into that group anymore. Oops.

Matt Noller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kamikaze Camel said...

Aww, I've always liked Ben and I thought Casey was amazing in Jesse James. I've oddly been anticipating this movie for a very long time.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

I've not seen Gone Baby Gone yet, but I've been worshipping at the shrine of Casey Affleck since The Assassination of Jesse James. I used to find him irritating for a long time, so his Bob Ford was something of an epiphany to me. Best male lead of the year so far, in my book.

(And I know Brad Pitt is more famous but also infinitely blander and less resonant in the movie, so I'm not sure why they're pushing Affleck as supporting. It's so clearly his story. At least give him co-lead.)

NATHANIEL R said...

goran that probaby would've happened anyways due to stardom. I mean Training Day is Hawke's story essentially and he went supporting. Collateral is Foxx's story and he went supporting.

but that said I blame VENICE. Y'all know I'm a huge fan of Brad Pitt but giving him best actor when they could've given Casey's career such a boost --and for a better performance too? It's so maddening

Joseph B. said...

I felt "Gone Baby Gone" falls into the mediocre category you speak of, Nathanial. Some strong performances (epecially Casey), but a rather unremarkable debut for Affleck's chops as a director. I mean, really, how hackneyed and illogical did that shoot-out between some crazies from a Romero film and Affleck feel? Yes, let's run up the stairs and hide directly behind a wooden door when being shot at.. and why not just shoot through the door??? Maybe second time is the charm for Ben....

daveylow said...

Casey Affleck has certainly grown as an actor but I can't stand the sound of his voice.

Barry said...

What did you think of Amy Ryan's performance?

Kamikaze Camel said...

I didn't like Brad Pitt's perf in Jesse James at all. Although, I guess it works because I understood why Ford would wonder what was so great about him.

Anonymous said...

I love that picture of the two of them together. Kinda makes me wish I had a brother. Sort of.

This should be the year that everyone realizes what a star Casey Affleck is. I thought "Gone Baby Gone" was a good "part 1" for Affleck, but it wasn't until "Jesse James" came along where I was like, whoa, I seriously underestimated this guy's chops. I hope he's nominated for "JJ" this year, b/c lead actor will be too tough for him to get in for "Gone Baby Gone". The only acting nod I see that film getting in is Amy Ryan, who was jaw-dropping there from beginning to end.

As for Ben Affleck, I'll be sympathetic toward him too. He's gotten a bad rap ever since "Bennifer 1" hit, and it's time that people get over all of that. He was Oscar-worthy in "Hollywoodland" and no one noticed, and if he's going to reincarnate himself into this actor-turned-director guy, I say let him do it. "Gone" was a good enough start with the potential for better in the future.

amir_uk said...

Yep, Ben robbed of an Oscar nom for Hollywoodland, as was Diane Lane.

Also, the only reason Brad Pitt won Best Actor at Venice is because Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu was the chair of judges and he wanted to reward his Babel "leads" (Blanchett won Best Actress) - for being unjustly overlooked at the Oscars for their performances in his film.

NATHANIEL R said...

"unjustly" ? sure about that ;)

i thought they were both bland in Babel but that's so disappointing. I mean again when a huge Pitt supporter like me says someone else deserves it more...

Barry said...

Amy Ryan?

amir_uk said...

I know we completely disagree on this (in that you don't think Blanchett should've been near any shortlists for anything last year), but she was definitely nom'd for the right performance. (I'm sure Gonzalez Inarritu would've liked it to have been for his film.) But Pitt was woefully overlooked - I rewatched Babel a few weeks ago and his telephone scene was not only heartbreaking but technically brilliant.

It wasn't exactly a vintage supp actor race last year - but I would've had him for the Oscar (with Earle Haley a close 2nd).

NATHANIEL R said...

i love the telephone scene, too, and again, love Brad. But Blanchett's performance made me actually mad... (I get the praise for the work in Notes even though I think it's a misread of the character) ... in that it was so vague and such a grand opportunity for some actress who would've killed for such a prime gig.

If you're cast in several movies a year I think you owe it to the cosmos to be proving your mettle every single time ... either that or step aside and say "no" once in a while and let other valuable actors get interesting opportunities

but i better run for cover now that I've dissed CB again. I really can't help myself *oops*

CanadianKen said...

I really liked "Gone Baby Gone" - great work from the Afflecks behind and in front of the camera.
I found Ed Harris'performance terrific and initially there seemed to be Oscar buzz for him. I'm surprised at the way it just melted away. I'd certainly nominate him. And - although Amy Ryan is excellent - the film's other Amy (Madigan) was superb and seems to have gone right under most people's radar.Definitely one of my favorite supporting actress turns this year (along with Samantha Morton's stunning (and largely unappreciated)Mary Queen of Scots in "Elizabeth:The Golden Age").

NATHANIEL R said...

canadianken -really? re: Morton. I didn't know what the hell she was doing in that movie and for the most part I am in awe of her acting

i agree that madigan was excellent in GONE BABY GONE. I preferred her to Ryan actually

CanadianKen said...

Having sampled some reviews, I wasn't expecting much from "Elizabeth: The Golden Age". But Morton's performance just kind of blind-sided me - in a good way. I saw her Mary as embodying a lot of different strands of fanaticism, entwined in a particularly volatile way - fanatical Catholicism, fanatical goodness, fanatical ambition,fanatical conception of duty, fanatical sense of entitlement. Not really reconciling them, but rather carrying on a relentless and highly charged balancing act. For me, Morton's combination of composure and hysteria was electric. And that death scene! It was like - "Well, they had their chance. Fuck 'em. But I'm going out in style - and I'm heading somewhere where they WILL get it!
Wearing red.

CanadianKen said...

Re my comment on Samantha Morton's Mary Queen of Scots. Maybe "hysteria" wasn't quite the right word. Memories of her quivering intensity may have suggested it to me. But perhaps "barely contained frustration" or "righteous indignation amounting to fury" might have been closer to the mark. In any case it worked for me. And I LOVED the accent.
Glad we agreed on Amy Madigan.
With all the Amy love floating around this year for Ryan and Adams, too bad a little more of it couldn't have gone to Madigan.