Monday, September 27, 2010

Man on Film: The Town

Perhaps the most impressive feat that Ben Affleck, The Director, has achieved is that when leaving the theater, I kept thinking to myself that I cannot wait to see the next film by* Ben Affleck.

*I use "film by" not without the knowledge of the loaded connotation the phrase has, but it seemed the easiest way to construct the sentence. You can choose to ignore this note, but I choose to subscribe at least partially to the auteur theory.

In The Town, Affleck has crafted a compelling crime drama with the emphasis on the drama. Rather than just churn out another bank-robbing movie, Affleck has chosen to focus on character rather than action. That is not to say that the action is non-existent--quite the contrary--but the central focus is not on the heist/chase sequences, and the film is that much stronger for it.

Having found his niche within the genre, Affleck surrounded himself with an outstanding cast, threw one of the best cinematographers in the business behind the camera (Robert Elswit, whose credits include every P.T. Anderson film, Michael Clayton, Good Night, and Good Luck, and Amazing Grace and Chuck), and hired Dylan Tichenor, the editor of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Brokeback Mountain, and most of P.T. Anderson's films, to put the whole thing together.  And the film looks fantastic.  The Greater Boston Area comes alive on the screen, as does Affleck's affinity for his hometown--even its seedy underbelly.

As for the cast, I don't think it's any secret that I have a totally hetero-man-crush (probably) on Ben Affleck, the actor.  People used to look at what seemed to be a normal guy with discerning taste with raised eyebrows when I not only confessed that I liked Ben Affleck but vehemently defending him.  How do you like me now?  As was the case in State of Play, Hollywoodland, Extract, Affleck impresses in front of the camera.  His character, Doug MacCray, is the heart and soul of the film.  The life of the bank robber is one he was basically born into.  Brotherhood, figuratively, is what keeps him in.  What is interesting is how the external factors pull at Doug.  At his core, he is a mostly good person.  His crimes are victimless for the most part, and his life of crime is one he wants to extricate himself from.  His fraternal allegiances, his protective urges--these are the things that keep him tied in.  Doug is the heart of the film, despite his dubious pastime, and Affleck plays him with a perfect mixture of good nature, good humor, and quiet danger. 

Around Affleck is a cast rounded out with standout performances from Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall, Blake Lively, Pete Postelthwaite, Titus Welliver, and Jon Hamm.  Renner in particular stands tall as the hardened ex-con best friend whose stint in prison was served after protecting Doug.  His time changed him, leaving him slightly unhinged and a bit of a wild card.  There is a chaotic, anarchic energy coursing through his performance.  Any scene he is in has the audience on edge.  Postlethwaite surprises in playing the aged hard-ass.  Hall and Lively play polar opposites, with Lively playing the drugged out single mom with a flair I didn't think was possible and Hall playing the part of the victim in recovery with pitch-perfect fragility.

Narratively, the film never had me bored.  The dialogue seemed both authentic and adroitly mixed in enough comedy to strike a tonal balance to lighten things up just enough (that "Bones" line had me laughing out loud).  In short, there is nothing that I didn't love about The Town.  Sure, I'm not the most objective person on this film, but don't let that stop you from seeing this film.


KRD said...

I think that you cannot call yourself "the world's biggest Ben Affleck fan." The man with the biggest questionably heterosexual crush on Ben is, hands down, Kevin Smith.

That said, I very much agree with your assessment of the film--especially the comment about the film's humor. It works not so much because it is SO SMART or SO FUNNY, but rather it is totally unexpected. (The Bones line, yes, but also the note on John Hamm's car window--)

Old Man Duggan said...

The note was hilarious.

I don't know if Kevin Smith can technically be called a fan since he is a personal friend. As much as I would love to be his friend, I sadly am not.

KRD said...

Um. Yeah. I actually knew that this would be your argument. I knew it so much that I almost wrote why you were wrong about it being different because they are actually friends in my original comment, but I thought it would be weird to disagree with you before you responded. Lesson learned.

Although they are personal friends, whenever Smith writes or talks about Affleck, it is clear that he is more fan than personal friend. I mean, really. I always feel a little creeped out when he discusses Affleck. I think, "Does Ben Affleck get weirded out by this guy, who is his personal friend, but acts like the president of the official B. A. fan club?" Because that isn't normal.

In fact (and I realize that this comment is getting out of hand--but permit me to finish the thought), it is probably better (and less creepy) that you AREN'T personal friends with Affleck, because then you too might have a weird-o friend-but-more-fan relationship with him.

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