Written by: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
When one thinks of book adaptations, it is usually followed by groans and sighs of disappointment, since no movie can possibly surpass a novel right? Well in some cases, I disagree. Look at the book versions of Thank You for Smoking or American Psycho. In both instances, the movies were far superior to their source material. But yes, movie adaptations sometimes lose a lot of the meat when it comes to transferring book to screen. Dennis Lehane is an author not unfamiliar with this process. The film derived from his novel Mystic River gained a lot of Oscar attention, both for its story and the acting. His next novel Gone, Baby Gone is gearing up to receive similar treatment.
Note: there are some slight spoilers ahead.
Directed by actor Ben Affleck (hey don’t knock the guy. Despite what you might be thinking, and this website even wrote about once before, the face remains that the guy did win an Oscar for writing once upon a time), the film version stars his little brother Casey, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang actress Michelle Monaghan, and veteran actors Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris. While the film doesn’t come out until October, Miramax is already saying behind closed doors that this is probably shaping up to be the best movie of the year, which bodes well for Oscar nominations. In my case, I was fortunate enough to have read this script right on the heels of finishing the novel as well. I was prepared to find that the film simply dumped most of the source material as previously discussed, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the movie measures up to its source, and in fact loses almost nothing in the translation.
Gone, Baby Gone is based on a series of crime novels revolving around two private detectives, Patrick Kenzie and Angela “Angie” Gennaro. In this particular book/film the two must investigate a child kidnapping. (Since both versions of the story follow the same plotline, I will say novel from now on for simplicity's sake.) The novel is set in the slums of Boston, a place filled with hookers and drugs, and definitely not the best place to raise a child. Patrick and Angie get a call to investigate the abduction of four-year-old Amanda McCready, a sweet girl who happens to have a cokehead for a mother who let the poor girl alone while she went out drinking. The two detectives know that there is only one possibility if the girl isn’t found right away: that she’s probably dead. This ends up screwing with the minds of our two heroes who are hoping to have a child of their own. In looking for the little girl, the PIs get mixed up in drug deals, and discover a possible theory that goes deeper than they know. They both know something foul is afoot, but the further they dig the farther it pushes them away from each other.
The film adaptiation, if they stick to the script I read, stays remarkably faithful to the novel, with some lines lifted directly from it. Gone, Baby Gone has all the makings of a tight thriller. The dialogue is perfect and there are tons of action pieces for the males to enjoy. There’s also a lot of complexity in the story for those who need to think during a film, and of course some romance for the ladies. A lot of praise has to go out to Ben Affleck (he directed and wrote) and Aaron Stockard for writing such a tight, concise story. They are able to trim most of the excess plot, but leave in enough for all the purists. Hopefully Affleck will get recognized for it.
If the script is any indication, the acting in this should be top-notch as well. I’ve been a fan of Ben Affleck’s brother Casey, and for awhile now I've thought he was the more talented one. This is the film that will get him more leading man fare, and I predict you’ll see him afterward as more than “Ben Affleck’s little brother.” This film is his and embodies Kenzie’s character completely. In reading the book I didn’t think of him right off the bat, but after seeing that he was going to be Kenzie I could see him in the role. Michelle Monaghan should be spectacular as Angie, she has a particularly heartwrenching scene at the end of the film that Monaghan should nail if her previous work is an indication. Ed Harris is also perfect casting in the role of the duplicitious Dectective Remy Broussard, I could see him perfectly while I was reading the script.
My only problems with the script are some of the little things they ended up taking out. I could easily see it being about two maybe two and a half hours, so I do understand that things had to be trimmed, the only issue is what was cut. In the film Patrick and Angie are already going to have a child, whereas in the novel they are trying. I think this was a bad choice since you have to see that they are two very complicated people and for them to decide to have a child is a choice that plagues them. To already commit them to that decision makes them lose a bit of their personality and complexity. Also, Morgan Freeman’s character Jack Doyle does not get a lot of face time in the book until the end, whereas the film will be showing a lot of Freeman. Another major plot issue that the writers removed was how Angie and Patrick got together in the first place. Angie was actually cheating on her husband, a fellow cop, with Patrick. Her husband is murdered by a crazed killer who ends up slashing Patrick’s face, shooting Angie and setting a warehouse on fire almost killing both of them. I would have liked to at least seen this mentioned since it did bond them inextricably to each other. The end of the film is also changed a bit, and when you finally find out Broussard’s intentions and how it connects to his family, it isn't developed nearly as well
Mind you, this script is from 2005 so a lot may be changed, though hopefully not too much since the script is nothing short of amazing. This definitely has the potential to be this year’s The Departed. When October comes, forgive Affleck his past indiscretions and check out Gone, Baby Gone. Until then, remember, to quote both sources: “It isn’t the bears and moose you have to watch out for. It’s the other hunters.”
Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.