Thursday, January 31, 2008

How do you like them Afflecks?

Ok, so maybe Ben Affleck did help write the Good Will Hunting screenplay after all.

If his directorial debut Gone Baby Gone is any indication, then it turns out there's brains and talent to be found in the same guy who top-billed in bombs like Gigli and Paycheck. And talent must run in the family, as his baby brother proves. Casey Affleck, whose biggest claim to fame until now has been a supporting role in Ocean's 11, 12 and 13, stars in Gone Baby Gone as a young idealistic private detective hired to help find a missing little girl. The screenplay was co-written by Ben (maybe someday he'll write something all by himself, eh?), and despite a twisty plot, the story holds together with admirable
coherence and manages to be compelling throughout. The younger Affleck shows some impressive acting chops as the ethically challenged hero, who finds himself embroiled in a case that involves kidnapping, drugs and police corruption, set in the Afflecks' native Boston.

The supporting cast, headed by the reliable Morgan Freeman and give-him-an-Oscar-already Ed Harris, all turn in solid performances, particularly Amy Ryan, who's already been nominated for the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards and the Oscars for playing the drug-addled mother of the missing girl. Whether or not these good performances were drawn out by competent direction from Ben, I don't know, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I also appreciated how his love for Boston is made apparent by revealing both the grassroots charm and the social ills of the city: Ben's Beantown is working middle class, with a strong sense of community, and struggling against the negative forces threatening its values system and way of life... just like his film's protagonist.

I've been a Matt woman ever since Good Will Hunting, and my regard for Ben just hasn't been the same since he started started dating J.Lo. But with Gone Baby Gone, he has redeemed himself, and regained my respect. Let's just hope he doesn't decide to make Gigli 2.


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