- Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Amy Ryan
The nicest thing I can say about this movie is that there are a couple of scenes where Casey Affleck looks a lot like Rob Lowe. In a good way.
Here’s the oscar.com synopsis:
When four-year-old Amanda McCready, the child of a neglectful, substance-abusing single mother, disappears, her distraught aunt and uncle ask private detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro to help the police find the little girl. As they team up with the detectives assigned to the case and follow a trail that appears to lead to a local drug dealer, it slowly becomes clear that the truth behind Amanda’s disappearance may be more disturbing than it seems.
The odd thing about that synopsis is that the path between the local drug dealer and the “more disturbing” truth isn’t a straight line. In a way, describing the truth behind the disappearance as “more disturbing than it seems” is a fake-out inside a dead end wrapped up in misdirection.
Because the truth behind the disappearance is simple: everyone is lying. Well, everyone except private investigator Casey Affleck and his colleague/girlfriend played by Michelle Monaghan who, in classic double-double-crossing style, do everything the good guys are supposed to do, and end up unknowingly aiding and abetting the little girl’s disappearance.
And that’s just the first half of the movie.
As far as I can tell, the local drug dealer is only tangentially related to the uncovering of The Truth. Rather, the drug dealer phase of the movie seems like more of a vehicle for some really nasty stuff that lets first-time director Ben Affleck play around with action shots, “gritty” subject matter, and fake blood — and which goes nowhere.
I don’t want to give too much away, but the truth, when we finally get to it, is only disturbing in that it is not really believable. You almost expect to hear one of the baddies-with-hearts-of-gold whine that they would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for that meddling Casey Affleck.
It’s a shame that the story is so unsatisfying, given that the cast contains such heavy hitters as Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, and Amy Madigan (plus that guy who was in Beverly Hills Cop). I blame the writing more than the directing, although it’s sort of a six-of-one situation since Ben Affleck was responsible for both.
Supporting Actress nominee Amy Ryan plays Helene McCready, the aforementioned substance-abusing (cocaine, heroin) single mother. While the part is quite small and almost completely limited to the first hour, she’s given more emotions to convey than all of the rest of the characters put together. She’s the only one who laughs, the only one who cries, the only one who changes expression at all.
That range alone would seem to elevate her above Saorise Ronan’s one-note performance in Atonement, and, I suspect, the performances by Tilda Swindon and dual-nominated Cate Blanchett. Still, I found the performance to be a little too much of a performance, and never stopped believing that she was acting. My money is on Ruby Dee.
In the end, there really isn’t much to recommend this movie. Except for the Sam Seaborn flashbacks, of course…