Friday, October 1, 2010


After an intense few weeks with my any-day-now-thirteen-year-old son, down with an infection and bad cough etc., and various obligations to be met and work to be completed, etc., I got a break late yesterday from things I had to do and slipped out to the flickers to catch Ben Affleck's latest endeavor and was not disappointed.

The man can make movies. He may have had some ups and downs as a young Hollywood movie star, but he's matured into not just a sharp political analyst and articulate spokesman for positions we share in that realm (catch him any time he's on Bill Maher and if you're not impressed with his grasp of facts and figures and the integration of them into his analyses and perspectives you ain't listenin') but a fine fine director.

As my friend Jamie (I think it was) said, he may be our new Clint Eastwood, in terms of movie stars turned stars/directors. And yes, I know he's no Clint in many ways (including willingness to go on politically slanted talk shows), and has nowhere near Eastwood's iconic stature, but, after seeing THE TOWN I have to say, not only did both his direction and his acting remind me in many ways of Clint Eastwood's direction and acting, they compared favorably to them. (In fact, for my taste GONE BABY GONE and THE TOWN are both better in many ways than Eastwood's film with similar themes and location MYSTIC RIVER.)

I was knocked out by Affleck's debut as a director with GONE BABY GONE, still one of my favorite films, and now in this second outing as a director—his first as director/star—I'm even more impressed. THE TOWN is more ambitious than GONE BABY GONE, and as a result it is a little more uneven in some ways (mostly in the casting of better known actors, or more of them, who don't always come across as as authentic as—wow, that's a lot of "as's"—the lesser knowns in GONE BABY GONE, e.g. John Hamm can be, well, a little hammy at times (and his Boston accent came and went) and Blake Lively made a courageous effort (if sometimes over the top) but doesn't live up to the high standards for portraying authentic working class Boston-area Irish that Amy Ryan did in GONE BABY GONE ).

But THE TOWN is also more of an accomplishment than GONE BABY GONE as Affleck tells a more conventional and bigger movie story—the big heist caper cops-and-robbers one that goes as far back as the silent movie days—and does so with style and pizazz.  And moments of pure movie-making joy. I left the theater with that deeply satisfied if cliched feeling of having eaten just the right amount of ice cream to satisfy the craving but not too much to end up feeling stuffed and a little sorry. Know what I mean?


Robert G. Zuckerman said...

As a photographer, a set photographer at that, I like the one-sheet, how it employs natural caught-moment character portraits. I appreciate the work of the photographer that did these pictures.

Lally said...

Robert, I hear ya. The technical quality on the film in general is tops drawer. The guy knows what he's doing. Must have paid a lot of attention while acting in other flicks, as well as hired some really good people. Though, like I said, I found the acting a little uneven, which is on him as well.

Anonymous said...

Dear M:

I saw "The Town" last night & I only wish I could share your enthusiasm for it. I like Ben Affleck and, like you, have been impressed with his appearances on Bill Maher etc.; and I also agree that "Gone, Baby, Gone" was terrific. But I just don't buy him as a bad guy, no matter how days he goes w/o shaving. He doesn't have it in him. He was excellent as the compromised politician in that Russell Crow film---but a hard-core hood? No way. The movie was entertaining, with many good scenes and performances (Pete Postlethwaite is always great), but I was hoping for something better. I also found it hard to root for him and his crew of low-lifes---not that Jon Hamm brought home the bacon either. He's such a stiff. Some parts of the narrative were ridiculous---why would the Postlethwaite character tell the Ben character that he had castrated his father &, I think, had something to do with his mother's death? If you tell that to a fellow criminal, of course he's going to try to kill you. And when Ben calls the girl at the end, are we really supposed to believe, one, that a beautiful young woman would live in an apartment with no curtains or shades, and , two, that she and a battalion of FBI agents would all cluster in plain sight in her window? C'mon. Gimme a break.

Lally said...

Good points T, and I already agreed about some of the acting in my post and the writing, especially the bit you point out about the revelations about his parents. But I disagree about Affleck's acting. I thought he did a fine job as a guy who wasn't inherently bad but lived that life, at least in movie terms. It wasn't like it was a documentary. And in terms of reality, I found it much more realistic and consistent character wise in terms of Affleck than I did Sean Penn in MYSTIC RIVER or Scorcese's direction in THE DEPARTED or whatever that similar setting and millieu movie that won him the Oscar was called. It was a classic Hollywood caper flick with the usual tropes, bad guy with a heart of gold, one last job before I quit, nice girl enters the story, bad boss can't be trusted, revenge, etc. Compared to most film noir flicks with this basic plot and character study, I thought it more than held its own. In fact, I could watch it again if I stumbled on it channel surfing easily.