Rooting for Ben Affleck in a post-Gigli world

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I intentionally picked the first douchey image I could find of Ben Affleck for this post, because it helps prove my point: people have come to see Affleck as little more than a douchebag, and that’s unfortunate.

As near as I can tell, the Affleck hate really kicked into full gear in 2003, when Affleck released the epic bomb Gigli, co-starring then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez. I never actually saw Gigli, but nearly everyone agreed it was awful. But not only was it bad, it became a lightning rod against Ben and J-Lo. Suddenly, as I remember it, both were the butt of every joke. Neither’s career has really fully recovered to the point it had been. For Affleck’s part, somewhere along the line it became common opinion that he couldn’t act and was, in general, a no-talent hack. And that’s a highly unfortunate opinion, one I think couldn’t be further from the truth.

Like I said, I never saw Gigli, but I’m willing to accept it was terrible. So? Name one actor who hasn’t/didn’t do a couple stinkers in his/her day. Are you really telling me Harrison Ford wouldn’t take back Random Hearts if he could? Or that if he had the chance to do it over again, Morgan Freeman would still sign on for Nurse Betty? Hell, you want to know who else was in Gigli? Al Pacino! One of the top three actors of the past half century!

So, Affleck has been nearly universally dumped on, though movies likes Paycheck and Jersey Girl weren’t really bad at all, and in fact fairly enjoyable. Hollywoodland‘s script could have been better, but  Affleck’s performance in it was actually quite impressive. So, as Affleck’s new movie, The Town, opens this weekend, I’m rooting for him to find some success (he directed and starred). Not only because I think Affleck has gotten an unfair rap, but also because I genuinely like him for a couple of reasons.

One, I like famous people who don’t take themselves seriously. When Gigli (which followed Daredevil, another bomb that wasn’t as bad as advertised; if not for Collin Ferrell, that could’ve have been a good film) opened to absolutely brutal reviews, Affleck was due for a Tonight Show with Jay Leno appearance the next week. When critics ravaged the movie and the box office tanked, many actors might have canceled their engagement, but Affleck not only came on the show, but came prepared to make fun of how bad his movie was. On air, he read a series of his favorite reviews about how bad Gigli was, one of which I somewhat remember: “The only way Gigli grossed $3 million on opening weekend was if Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez both bought a ticket worth $1.5 million.” He also mocked himself in the Kevin Smith classic, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (“Affleck, you were the shit in Phantoms, yo!”). His interview about his new movie on The Daily Show was also funny (I’d link to it if I weren’t too drunk to find a link).

The other reason I like Affleck? He’s actually a good actor! People have already forgotten him in Good Will Hunting, which he co-wrote and had a good supporting role in. He also gave an excellent and vastly underrated acting performance in Dogma, a Smith comedy with some very serious undertones.

So now, The Town opens this weekend, and admittedly, most September movies are dogs. But Affleck’s new project is getting rave reviews, opening up to a ridiculous 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. For those of you who might not be as familiar with that site, anything over 60-70% is really impressive. I haven’t seen the movie, and probably won’t until it comes out on video (I’ve only been to the theater once, while killing time in London, in the past four months), but I hope it really is that good.

And furthermore, I hope people start to forgive Affleck for a couple bad movies. It seems like people have been rooting against him the past several years, but I think it’s time be get over that, and welcome one of former up-and-coming actors back into the popular fold.

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2 Responses to “Rooting for Ben Affleck in a post-Gigli world”

  1. spiffyithaca Says:

    Hilarious image. It’s pretty gay of you in the best way.

    But really well said, especially due to your intoxication, and a worthwhile blog post. Affleck is making a comeback, and with his talent both in front of the camera and behind it, he’s here to stay.

    And good for him: he’s found a great mate in Jennifer Garner, making Daredevil worthwhile for him in the long run. I agree, I kinda liked Daredevil, and own it, guiltilty enough. Him kicking out Michael Clarke Duncan’s knees was one of the best/most horrifying parts of any comicbook movie. The rest wasn’t much, but Garner was pretty.

    I’ve always rooted for Affleck, and while I experienced a little lull in my affections with Gigli, Paycheck, Jersey Girl and the like (I too never saw Gigli, but Paycheck was bad man, BAD). Jersey Girl is underrated, because it really isn’t what you’d expect from Kevin Smith, but was actually pretty heartwarming, and George Carlin was great in it, and you can’t be mean to that girl (but it’s not like it’s that good).

    But yeah, his comeback began with his nice turn in Hollywoodland, and an even bigger key, especially because I think his directing is becoming a huge part of his career, was his stellar direction of the critically lauded Gone Baby Gone that got Amy Ryan an Oscar Nomination (Michael Scott’s long lost love on The Office). The movie is pretty great, and Casey Affleck proved himself a star actor himself. It’s also based in Boston, clearly a constant in Affleck’s finer works (Good Will Hunting as you mentioned, one of my favorite movies of all time, Gone Baby Gone and now The Town) and his muse.

    If Affleck can get the casts he’s gotten in his first two movies for more, damn, he’s in good shape. I mean Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively (who’s a babe), Rebecca Hall, the old wrinkly guy who’s famous with a long name, Chris Cooper and himself? Dayumm, that’s a cool cast.

    I’m so pumped for The Town, but real pissed that Tahoe isn’t getting it this opening weekend. I assume it’ll be here next weekend, and I also assume come the Oscars, The Town will have a nomination for Best Picture, and maybe, Affleck will have a nod for Best Director. Quite the turnaround, and a definite trend.

    Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms, yo

  2. Gokitalo Says:

    The Town was good. I don’t know if I’d say Best Picture, but it was good. And old wrinkly guy was awesome

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