The day my dad was moving me into my apartment in Boston, a cab driver told him I should have moved to Charlestown. I couldn’t agree more, but I don’t have $2,000 a month for a two-room studio, so probably what I could afford is something closer to where Ben Affleck is living in his new movie, The Town. And after my dad sees it, there’s no way he’s going to let that happen.
Let me just start by saying, I didn’t know bank robbers still existed, let alone walk the streets with me on the way to their next hit. I have yet to see a 15-passenger van blow up in Harvard Square, and I hope I don’t run into any men in nun masks anywhere in the North End. While on some level this whole crime aspect of The Town seemed a little ridiculous to me, Boston, despite being in my mind a safe haven of intellectuals and money-makers, does have its fair share of downright bad dudes. If I had to break it down for you, my life in Boston has been closer to Fever Pitch than it has The Departed.
So I have to thank Ben Affleck for once again shining a light on the communities and brotherhoods that go overlooked in a small city that is every day becoming bigger and more metropolitan. Boston is unlike any other city in that way – a mesh of real neighborhoods, where people are still from somewhere and have been their whole life. And these neighborhoods have their own rules and their own codes of conduct, and while every day that might be changing in Beantown, it’s still there and it’s still very real and strong.
And that’s what breathes life into this movie. There are no bells and whistles, no stunts you haven’t seen before. It’s all acting and it’s all storytelling. And the storytelling shines because the person doing it really knows what he’s talking about.
Affleck plays Doug MacRay, a once-drafted hockey player who can’t get past his demons (dad’s in jail, mom walked out). He comes back to Charlestown and falls in with his old buddies, as well as into bad habits. When the movie begins, Doug is past the drugs and drinking, but he’s still into crime.
During a bank robbery in Harvard Square, Doug and his crew take hostage the beautiful bank manager (Rebecca Hall). When the crew gets worried that she’s going to rat them out, Doug begins to follow her, and inevitably falls in love. I can’t really go further than this, but the general idea is that this guy is struggling with a loyalty to where he’s been and his knowledge that staying in Charlestown will most certainly be the end of him.
The acting in this movie is freakin’ fantastic. Obviously we know Affleck is a talent, as well as Jeremy Renner (who was nominated for an Oscar last year for Hurt Locker, come on), but what a surprise to see Blake Lively step away from Blair Waldorf and Nate Archibald (as well as those mysterious Traveling Pants) long enough to get a Boston accent and a bad reputation. Her part isn’t large, but it’s important, and Blake had me believing that I’d see her at a bar in South Boston or getting pizza at Santarpio’s any night of the week. Bravo girl (however, I seriously, seriously wanted to run a comb through your hair)!
And, if you take nothing away from this movie, the cinematography, especially the aerial views of Boston and Charlestown, is beautiful. I would take any freeze frame from this film and hang it in my apartment. It just enhances the feel of the movie and lends itself to a serious sense of place.
Someday I hope to tell a story like this one. For someone not from Boston, you may not understand all the nuances involved, but I have to say, Ben Affleck, they were spot on. It’s movies like this that prove to me that the best way to write is to write what you know.
Other noteables: The Freedom Trail and Coach Coen’s apartment get some serious play in this movie and should have been credited; Haley and I were fairly certain that every police officer we saw after the movie was a bank robber; I may never go to Bunker Hill Community College again.