Has any topic been more exhaustively dramatized than Prohibition-era gangsters?
Live by Night seems especially redundant so soon after HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, which covers a lot of the same ground: the Florida/Cuba liquor pipeline, the Irish/Italian mob conflict, the pivot to legal gambling, etc. The explanation being pretty simple: original novelist Denis Lehane also contributed to Boardwalk Empire. The few elements not already done to death by the gangster genre, including additional conflicts with evangelicals and the Klan, are in this case simultaneously not enough and too much.
Also, did Ben Affleck always play every role as a man in a deep depression, or is this a recent development?
Chasing Amy is far and away Kevin Smith’s best film, and not coincidentally his most heartfelt. I think Smith’s achievement is to tell a universal guy’s story while still featuring significant and sympathetic female characters. Yes, Chasing Amy is spectacularly profane and the characters are prone to giving extended on-the-nose speeches perfectly explicating their inner motivations, but the central theme is worthy and true: love can be a mixture of elevating another to a height to which you can’t measure up, while paradoxically needing to have them do the same to you. More literally, Holden (Ben Affleck) feels both fascinated and threatened by what he perceives as Alyssa’s (Joey Lauren Adams) more adventurous and worldly sexuality, but also needs to believe that he has power over her and has somehow tamed her.
Out of Smith’s oeuvre, the closest to Chasing Amy is Jersey Girl. But his personal meditations on fatherhood required more of his trademark raunch to offset the treacle than the PG-13 allowed. It did, however, feature the single cruelest joke I’ve ever heard: Andrew Lloyd Webber is “the second-worst thing that’s ever happened to New York City.” Zing! Nobody, not even Lloyd Webber, deserves that.
A far better writer than I has already been here and done that: please refer to Matthew Dessem’s review on The Criterion Contraption. I disagree with his obvious dislike of the film, but every point he makes against it is fair.
Good ol’ Bahstuhn Cahtholick Ben Affleck is an all grown-up, big-boy director now, and lookit, he made himself a pretty decent movie. That said, Gone Baby Gone is a big plate of grim, with side order of depressing.
Affleck makes excellent use of location footage and local color. And not surprising for a movie directed by an actor (recently, Julie Delpy’s 2 Days in Paris and George Clooney’s Good Night and Good Luck), Affleck privileges the characters and performances over the plot. We also see plenty of B-roll footage of the faces and voices of Bostoners on the streets, in the bars, and on local TV screens.
Gone Baby Gone is one of the first movies to poach some of the excellent acting talent premiered in HBO’s superb series The Wire. Doubtless by accident, Michael Kenneth Williams and Amy Ryan both play characters diametrically opposed to their TV counterparts; Williams is a sardonic po-lice resolved to the corruption around him (compare and contrast with The Wire’s Omar, a parasite that feeds on the drug trade), and Ryan plays a coked-out winner of bad-mother-of-the-year, the exact opposite in every way (including accent) of her salt-of-the-earth B’more Port Authority po-lice on The Wire.
The few bad points to mention (other than the aforementioned pervasive grim tone), are Ed Harris’ inconsistent rug and a middle section papered over almost entirely by voiceover narration.