Do You Really Expect Me to Believe That?

I watched a movie I'd vowed never to see the other day. It's not that I don't take my vows seriously, it's that I'm absentminded and forgot why I didn't want to see the film, namely that it's based on a true story and has a tragic ending. I have a hard enough time dealing with fictional tragedy; the real thing can make me cry for a week. But since I'd inconveniently forgotten everything about the film except the title, Boys Don't Cry, and that Hilary Swank's performance was supposed to be fantastic, by the time I realized the danger to my psyche it was too late.

The next thing I knew, one of the characters had violently assaulted another character, then decided the best way to cover up the crime was to murder the victim. His line was thinking was that this way there would be no witnesses and he'd go scot-free. I paused the movie and turned to my son, saying, "He'd have to be pretty stupid to think that killing his victim is going to get him out of trouble. It'll be obvious he did it and the case against him will be that much stronger." It turned out that he was just that stupid and sure enough he went to prison and is still on death row today. Since the film was based on a true story I couldn't really object and say nobody would be that stupid. Obviously they can, and sometimes are. But another film I watched this week had huge gaping logic holes and no feeble excuses like "reality" to fill them.

Gone Baby Gone came out last year, against strong competition, and garnered quite a bit of critical acclaim, as well as a slew of awards, mostly going to Amy Ryan for her excellent portrayal as the drug addled mother of a missing girl. The movie has a mathematical ending, which I won't reveal, designed to lead to much discussion; i.e. did character A make the right decision when they took action X? While that could be an interesting question, it doesn't work for me because the plot twist struck me as outlandish. Instead of feeling like I'd just heard a moving story with a difficult moral choice, I could have been in philosophy class on the first real day of spring, wishing I was outside enjoying the sun instead. And that's a real shame because there's plenty about this film to enjoy.

Gone Baby Gone is Ben Affleck's directorial debut and he did a credible job, creating an intriguing project with strong acting and cinematography. He also co-adapted the script, along with Aaron Stockard, from a novel by Dennis Lehane. The story takes place in Boston and, much like The Wire, uses many local actors, whose accents and appearances enhance the natural feel of the project. The acting is spot on throughout the movie, creepily so as some of the characters are child murderers and their protectors. This is a dark, gritty film about a depressing situation filled with depressing characters.

The film tells the story of two private detectives, played by Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan, who are hired by distraught relatives when a young girl vanishes from her home. The police are none too thrilled to have the detectives interfering with their case and the detectives themselves are reluctant to get involved, especially since they don't have the resources the police force does. But they do have one advantage, they aren't authority figures and hopefully the people they grew up with will be more willing to speak to them than to the police. As they investigate they realize there is much more to the case than a simple child snatching; there is a substantial amount of money involved and all sorts of unscrupulous people are after it.

What follows is a fast paced storyline with many twists, turns and deeply emotional moments. There's very little time to catch our breath until the end of the film, when we're left to contemplate the moral dilemma presented in the story. It's unfortunate that for me the moral dilemma is moot because the circumstances that lead up to it seemed so outlandish that I can't believe they are remotely possible.

Unfortunately I can't explain my reasoning to you without spoiling the film, since the part that doesn't work for me is meant to be surprising, but I will say that I might have found the plot feasible if a certain person left the country after a certain action. The idea that they could commit their crime, stay in their home in full sight of everyone and get away with it is just plain silly. There are smaller plot holes that got in the way of my suspension of disbelief, but worrying about them is like worrying about a blister when you've got the plague. You have to fix the biggest problem before you worry about the little things.

Either one of these two films are worth a look. You might prefer Gone Baby Gone if you're in the mood for a crime fantasy that doesn't adhere to real world rules. If you're looking for a heartbreaking story about love, intolerance and violence you might prefer Boys Don't Cry. Or if you're in the mood for something completely different, something fluffy and light, you could always go outside and watch the fireflies. After all summer is nearly over. You might want to catch them while you can.

One-Paragraph Review
This week's one-paragraph review is from Burned, who is unhappy with a new download. "Firefox 3 = incredibly annoying. When I try to type a web address worthless addies pop up. When I'm lucky enough to get something I want like yahoo search I don't get yahoo.com. Instead I get a list of old searches. I hate it. I wish I could have the old Firefox back." Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.