Monday, Oct. 8, 2012

Good Will for Ben Affleck

By David Luhrssen
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The Friday, Oct. 12 release of Argo will mark a new peak for Ben Affleck, a celebrity-cum-reviled Hollywood figure. Affleck became a joke as half of the tabloid couple Bennifer, especially after his sinkhole movie with JLo, Gigli (2003). Of course, his resume was also studded with wretched nonsense like Armageddon (1998) and disappointments such as Pearl Harbor (2001). With Argo, he regains the momentum he began with as writer-director-star of an entertaining, serious film with Oscar potential.


That momentum began with Good Will Hunting (1997) and the recent Blu-ray release of the film’s 15th Anniversary Edition couldn’t have been better timed to highlight the precipitous decline that followed (and his gradual climb-back in recent years). A critical and box office success, Good Will Hunting helped bring Matt Damon as well as Affleck to widespread notice; they shared a Best Screenwriting Oscar for it. Directed by Gus Van Sant in his Hollywood mode with schmaltzy music by Danny Elfman, Good Will Hunting shines on the strength of an interesting story about a young math genius from South Boston (Damon) unable to crack the equation of his life, and his swaggering but loyal buddie from Southie (Affleck). The film is a platform for superb performances by Minnie Driver as Damon’s Harvard love interest, Stellan Skargard as the smug MIT professor who wants to direct the young genius and, especially, Robin Williams as the kid’s combative but kind therapist.


It’s a rare Hollywood screenplay unafraid to look American class conflict in the eye. It even smuggles in some pointed commentary on U.S. foreign policy.


The 15th Anniversary Edition includes several features, including interviews with Damon, Affleck, Williams, Van Sant and producer Kevin Smith.

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