Save us, Ben Affleck. You’re our only hope.
October 7, 2009 by twynne105
From Mike. I promise that I will have an original thought of my own soon and stop relying on Mike for new content.
The story of how Matthew McConaughey got the role of Wooderson in Dazed and Confused is that after he auditioned he went up to director Richard Linklaterand said, “I’m not this guy. But I know this guy.”
Let’s put a pin in that and I’ll get back to it’s relevance later.
A year ago the state of Massachusetts created a tax-break through which the commonwealth would refund 25% of all money spent here on film production. In the just over a 12 months that have elapsed Boston has turned into a veritable Hollywood East (numerous stars have passed through town (the Cruise family and Cameron Diaz are here as I write this)).
However, look at this:
The Pink Panther 2
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
My Best Friend’s Girl
Granted none of these movies is a classic (or even good) but one has to recognize the star-power of the collective cast. Hathaway; Hudson; Ryan; Benning; Baldwin; McConaughey; Steve Martin; Sandler et al. And that is all well and good, but where is the Boston-ness of these movies? In the name of full disclosure I will admit not having seen any of the above movies but am pretty sure based on advertisement and reviews that Boston stood in for Paris in The Pink Panther 2. Really?
(And, yes, I am aware that Dane Cook of My Best Friend’s Girl is from a local suburb but that doesn’t make the movie any more Bostonian. And, no, I’m not going to take cheap shots at Dane Cook).
Moving on. There is a scene in the under-rated Gone, Baby Gone in which the missing girl’s uncle is giving Casey Affleck‘s private eye an over-view of the case. At one point he brings up the fact that he no longer drinks (he “put the plug in the jug”) then (and this is the important part) he pauses…and waits to be congratulated. Young Affleck rolls his eyes and gives him a prefunctory ‘good job’ just to move things along.
The guy’s niece is missing (allegedly) but he feels compelled to boast about his sobriety. That is Boston. That guy is familiar to me. Remember the story I related at the beginning? I’m not this guy, but I know this guy. This is an example of a minute detail enhancing a universal message. Those people are Bostonians, not Parisians or Nebraskans. Maybe there are things in Coen Brother movies that distinguish a midwestern ethos without differentiating from a collective humanity but I wouldn’t know, I’m not from Minnesota. It doesn’t make their movies any less good, it just means there might be layer that is lost on me for reasons of simple birth lottery geography.
I know guys like the uncle in Gone, Baby Gone. I know that every prolatariate worker in Boston with the slightest ambition takes night classes at Suffolk like Matt Damon’s character in The Departed (note: The Departed is excluded from this conversation because it was A) before the tax breaks and B) primarily filmed in NY. Though in fairness, William Moynahan’s screenplay is a pitch-perfect example of what I am discussing). To me those characters are real people (none less that “Dottie” in Gone, Baby Gone who actually is a real person). I know them. Ben Affleck knows them too.
All of this is a round-about way of getting to the point that I was heartened to see a bunch of emergency vehicles surrounding Fenway Park when I passed there the other morning. At first I was afraid my brother had acted on some of the threats that he’d made against JD Drew then I realized they were filming a movie.
Affleck is adapting another crime novel by another local author–very similar to his directing debut (though, to be fair, Denis Lehane is the new Robert B. Parker (was the new George V. Higgins) so I can’t say with certainty Mr. Hogan’s novel carries the same weight amongst my socio-economic strata, we can hope however). This is good for Boston and for local film. If Ben Affleck can continue to prove that F. Scott Fitzgerald was wrong in saying, “There are no second acts in America”, the Bay State arts community will be all the better for it.
It is nice that all those previous movies were made here and spent money here but there is a certain civic pride in being able to say that we (collectively) have produced something of quality.
I look forward to seeing “The Town” because it will be a local product with inherently local aspects to it. I look forward to watching actors try to say “cah” or “bah”. I look forward to smiling slightly to myself when there is a line (or less) snuck in there specifically for me.
Plus my wife says we’ll see it opening weekend…because it has one of the Gossip Girls in it.