Local Boy Makes Good

20 Oct

In the opening scene of Gone Baby Gone, Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) talks about how the neighborhood you grow up in is what makes you who you are. And clearly, that pedigree is all over Ben Affleck’s film.

I’m a Brookline kind of guy, and I don’t know Dorchester from anything, but this movie just feels, looks, and sounds authentic. (And for the record, yes, I know Ben’s from Cambridge, not Dorchester. Close enough.)

From the accents (though they’re stronger at the beginning than at the end) to the shots of the streets and people of the neighborhood, there’s no mistaking that this is a set-in-Boston movie.

Hell, Ben even gives a special thanks to Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz in the closing credits.

Gone tells the story of the search for a missing four-year-old Dorchester girl. Early on in the search, the girl’s frantic aunt hires Kenzie, an investigator who gets people to talk because he’s a local boy and knows the neighborhood and, most importantly, works independently of the police.

Kenzie works with his girlfriend, Angie (Michelle Monaghan), and the two initially feel like they are in over their heads because the cases they typically get involved with don’t ever involve the possibility of a dead body.

But they uncover some details the police weren’t paying attention to, and soon they’re also collaborating with two cops (including one played by Ed Harris) and their Chief (Morgan Freeman).

And that’s just part of it.

Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane (who also wrote the book Mystic River), and adapted by Affleck and Lehane with Aaron Stockard, it’s a layered plot with twists and turns that I didn’t see coming.

Acting across the board is excellent, from Casey Affleck on down. Clearly, working with his brother suits Casey (though he was also good in The Assassination of Jesse James …).

But Ben’s made a compelling movie that is a great compliment to Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River, with its working-class neighborhood setting and missing person plotline.

It’s pretty exciting that the movie turned out so well, because I think deep down Affleck’s a good, decent guy (and he certainly has great taste in women), and he was due for something to turn out so well. I mean, you could say the guy didn’t really stretch himself, given that this is such a Boston-centric film. But Gone Baby Gone more than that, more than Good Will Hunting too, and it’s a very impressive achievement.

I’m giving Gone Baby Gone an A–.

3 Responses to “Local Boy Makes Good”

  1. jpp October 21, 2007 at 5:33 pm #

    I hate to be a negative nelly, but I’ve got a major bone to pick with your line of thinking in the opener here. Admittedly, I haven’t seen the movie, so i can’t tell you that it’s authentically Dorchester, but saying that since Ben Affleck is from Cambridge it’s “close enough” is just plain wrong. Cambridge and Dorchester couldn’t be further apart in the world. You live in Brookline, not Cambridge, but THAT’S close enough, because Brookline and Cambridge are quite similar. My mother was raised in Dorchester, and I was raised in the suburbs of Weymouth, but that’s hardly close enough. And while I do know Dorchester somewhat, I’d never propose to know it well because it’s changed so much in the last 40, 30, and even 5 years.It’s no secret that I’ve not been a huge fan of Affleck’s work. I think the thing that rubs me the wrong way is this exact sentiment about him — he’s not from Dorchester, he’s from Cambridge. The difference is just about as big as the gap between South Boston and, well, Cambridge — a theme that banked Affleck millions in “Good Will Hunting.”

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