IN DEFENSE OF BEN AFFLECK 


When one looks at the long career of Ben Affleck, in particular his resume as an alleged actor, it becomes clear that he is only famous for two reasons: His relationship with Matt Damon and, for a much-briefer period there, his relationship with Jennifer Lopez’s globoid derriere. Besides his status as Damon’s man-mate for life and Lopez’s paparazzi-bait, Affleck has done so little of merit in Hollywood that it’s actually difficult citing five movies out of the 30 or so he’s had sizeable roles in that are actually worth checking out more than once. Good Will Hunting, which he co-starred in and co-wrote with Damon (ultimately winning a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for his often dismissed contribution) is one of those, while Gigli, which he co-starred in with his then-fiancée Lopez (during the height of her obnoxious obsession with being plastered on the cover of every magazine in the Western world) is certainly not one.

It’s not that Affleck hasn’t been positioned to be Hollywood’s greatest leading man. He’s divided his time nicely between commercial and artistic endeavors, from his early days in Kevin Smith indies like Chasing Amy and Dogma to loud, explosive fare like Michael Bay’s surprisingly fun Armageddon and desperately retarded Pearl Harbor. Hell, he’s even been a super-hero, though his choice of the blind-lawyer-turned-vigilante Daredevil was probably not the most inspired decision. And that’s probably Affleck’s biggest problem: Despite his obviously great ambitions to be taken seriously as an actor and a filmmaker, he has some of the worst taste in material in the entire industry; arguably worse than Lopez, too, except Lopez never churned out movies at the rate Affleck has managed to (mostly because she turned her attention to her equally dull music career).

Consider some of the brainless duds he has signed his name to: Forces of Nature, Reindeer Games, Bounce, Jersey Girl, Paycheck. None of these, however, come close to the patina of shit Affleck will forever be coated with because of Gigli and 2004’s holiday sell-out/debacle Surviving Christmas, which is the worst Christmas movie ever made. Apparently, even Affleck noticed because, after the movie grossed barely $11 million, his career took a sudden turn for … well, the better. At least in terms of how the poor guy sleeps at night.

This is best evidenced by Affleck himself who now jokes about the movies he used to make and professes that he only wants to work on projects that he’ll be proud of in 30 years. Upon Surviving Christmas’ release, that number couldn’t have been greater than three or four and maybe that’s why he followed it up in 2006 with his best performance since Chasing Amy, but also his best performance ever, as TV’s first Superman, George Reeves, in the otherwise disappointing Hollywoodland – a turn that earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor. This was no doubt a nice reward considering that, outside of award nominations for producing television’s “Project Greenlight,” Affleck had only earned or won numerous Razzie awards since Good Will Hunting.

Hollywoodland confirmed what the least critical already knew, though: Ben Affleck is not a bad actor. He’s actually a pretty good actor who brings tremendous commitment to his projects. Many of his past choices in projects, whether born of his own bad judgment or the advice of his agents/managers, certainly deserve to be mocked and, yeah, Affleck deserve to be mocked to. But it’s time to give the guy a break, since anyone who’s listened to him talk for five minutes on any of the political news programs about his support of the Democratic party knows he’s far from the idiot slathering oil on Lopez’s ass made him look.

Take his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone; despite the knowledge that, if he screwed up, the tabloid media would pound the last nail into his coffin, he wrote and helmed the Boston-based thriller about the search for a missing child anyway. The good news is, at least for Affleck, he can direct. He also managed a more-than-solid script, proving once and for all that Good Will Hunting was not Damon’s baby and just something that his attachment to his friend got him credit for. In other words, Affleck’s future is suddenly looking bright again. If he can continue to pick projects for quality rather than career growth, he might just find that the fickle critical arm of the media, like this journalist, could forgive him his past transgressions and maybe even doff him a respected filmmaker.

film@orlandoweekly.com

More by Cole Haddon

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