A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this crime thriller (which is Ben Affleck's directorial debut) is so disturbing in spots that it may even make adults flinch. It doesn't shy away from the story's dark elements -- of which a 4-year-old's abduction is just the beginning. There's also neglect, drug use, barroom brawls, gunplay, murder, and plenty of strong language (including "f--k"). That said, older teens and grown ups who do end up seeing it will likely be able to look past the base, repugnant characters and appreciate the leads, who are compassionate and dedicated and fight for justice.
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What's the story?
Based on Dennis Lehane's novel of the same name, Ben Affleck's directorial debut GONE BABY GONE stars Affleck's younger brother, Casey, in a subtle-yet-powerful performance as Patrick Kenzie. Patrick is a two-bit detective roped into the big time when he and his partner (business and otherwise), Angie Gennarro (Michelle Monaghan), are recruited by a neighbor to help investigate the disappearance of 4-year-old Amanda McCready (Madeline O'Brien). Amanda isn't like many of the kids who unfortunately find themselves plastered on network news when they're abducted; she's from Dorchester, a hardscrabble South Boston community addled by drugs and crime. Her mother, Helene (Amy Ryan, in a stunningly affecting -- and effective -- turn), is a junkie, and her father is nowhere to be found. Victims like Amanda are apt to fall through the proverbial cracks: Already, the cops haven't turned up anything. Despite their misgivings, Patrick and Angie may be the only hope Amanda has, but their choice to get involved -- and stay involved even when answers have already been "found" -- may change them, and their relationship, forever.
Is it any good?
An impressive, confidently helmed vehicle that ably mixes grit with heart, Gone Baby Gone lays to rest any impression that Affleck's talent, much-lauded in the Good Will Hunting days, is no more. From the first frame on, Ben Affleck's affection -- and, more important, his respect -- for his native city is palpable; rather than romanticize it, he presents it as is, with the ugliness intact. Much has been made of the lengths he took to be authentic (he shot in Dorchester and cast locals in nearly every scene) and it pays off. The movie thankfully lacks the gloss of many other crime movies, even those that are well done (like Out of Sight, for example). Even the twist ending feels less like a device and more like an essential plot development. Lehane's story is grim, as is the film's palate and tone. It may even outdo another lauded Lehane-inspired film, Mystic River.
The film does take time to find its footing early on, slightly hobbled by too much exposition (this is the drug dealer; here's the possibly corrupt cop; etc.). And Angie's character is sadly lightweight (though Monaghan gives it the old college try). But Gone Baby Gone quickly gets into a groove, thanks in no small part to a stellar cast -- can Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris do wrong? -- and a script, penned by Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard, that isn't afraid to be ambiguous and complicated. Much like this new incarnation of Affleck himself.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why people will want to see this movie -- because of the story, or because Ben Affleck directed it? Why do you think some actors choose to go into directing? Which role gives them more power within the media industry, and why? Families can also discuss how the media handles stories about missing people, particularly children. Do you think cases are covered differently based on their circumstances (i.e. a child being kidnapped from a tough, working-class neighborhood instead of a pretty, manicured suburb)? If so, why?
- In theaters: October 18, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: February 11, 2008
- Cast: Casey Affleck, Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman
- Director: Ben Affleck
- Studio: Miramax
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, drug content and pervasive language.
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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