Is Ben Back? - With praise for a new movie and a slew of quality projects lined up, Ben Affleck seems poised to regain his shattered reputation
Over the past few years, Ben Affleck has lost face with the public. In the midst of the Bennifer controversy, he received unflattering overexposure in the tabloids and in several commercial duds. As a result, heís pretty much been out of the limelight since the end of 2004, with nary a film in sight.
While some of the backlash Affleck has received is understandable, I have long believed that he has caught somewhat of a rough break. People often make two claims: he is a bad actor, and he always makes bad films. While these claims are sometimes true (i.e. Gigli), I would dispute them more often than not. In fact, looking over his career since he became a star by winning the Best Screenplay Oscar for Good Will Hunting in 1997, Iíd venture to say heís made some pretty smart and gutsy choices.
Letís look at this objectively. Since winning his Oscar, Affleck has appeared in 21 films. However, five were cameo performances, and so really Affleck has starred in just 15 films since winning an Oscar nearly a decade ago (not including his most recent, Hollywoodland). And when you look at the breakdown, his numbers donít look that bad.
By my estimation, Affleck has churned out six pretty good films: Shakespeare in Love (an Oscar winner), Dogma, Forces of Nature (a decent film made better by the fact that it was pretty original for its genre), Boiler Room, Bounce and Changing Lanes. Some may dispute the quality of these films, but all have merit in one regard or another, and each features a superior performance by Affleck.
This would lead one to believe that Affleck has made nine bad films, but it really isnít that simple. Armageddon and The Sum of All Fears are both decent in terms of what they set out to accomplish. The former was a huge fan favorite, the latter, while not as good as the other Jack Ryan films, was actually quite good at times. Affleck was neither good nor bad in either film, and both made boatloads of cash.
The other seven are pretty bad, I admit. In fact, in my opinion, Surviving Christmas and Pearl Harbor are both horrible, and Affleckís pretty bad in them. However, I refer to the other five ó Jersey Girl, Paycheck, Gigli, Daredevil and Reindeer Games ó as wildcard failures. My reasons for this vary. Reindeer Games, Gigli and Paycheck are all bad; however, all three were made by extremely gifted directors, and so I donít fault Affleck for getting involved. While he may have been derided for those films, I admire the fact that Affleck attempted to work with John Frankenheimer, Martin Breast and John Woo, respectively.
As far as the other two films go, the word is that both Jersey Girl and Daredevil were cut by their respective studios. Although I have yet to see it, the Directorís Cut of Daredevil is supposed to be pretty good, and, letís face it, Jersey Girl isnít as bad as its reputation (despite its bland unoriginality, made worse by the fact itís a Kevin Smith flick).
When considering this information, it seems slightly wrong to completely deride the guy because of some bad publicity and a few bad films. Affleck, given the right material, can be very effective. He may not have much range, but neither does John Travolta, Clint Eastwood and a slew of other beloved, talented actors.
In addition, with so many celebrities doing extremely stupid things (looking at you, Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise), it seems unfair to judge him. Unlike Gibson, he went into rehab for alcohol abuse of his own accord, and unlike Cruise, he didnít attempt to fuel the fire on his freaky relationship-sideshow. The media did.
The fact of the matter is, he seems like a pretty good guy, who has kept his friends (Smith, Matt Damon), despite the cutthroat business that is Hollywood. Furthermore, youíve got to admire the way heís rebuilt his career, especially in light of other celebrity meltdowns.
He took a year off, got accustomed to his new family with Jennifer Garner and then began to work on quality projects. He took a major pay-cut to take on the demanding role of George Reeves in Hollywoodland, a move which may pay him back tenfold. Heís getting great reviews and won the Best Actor Award at the Venice Film Festival.
Furthermore, heís made two films with talented, on-the-rise directors: Man About Town, Mike Binderís follow-up to The Upside of Anger, and Smokiní Aces, Joe Carnahanís follow-up to Narc. In addition, heís also writing, producing and directing Gone Baby, Gone, a mystery based on the novel by Dennis Lehane.
Affleck is obviously in the midst of an extremely well-planned career revival. When looking objectively at his films and his situation, he doesnít really seem to deserve the extreme derision he received, but it happened regardless, and heís responded well. Thereís no guarantee that Affleckís upcoming films will hit, but I like it that way. Iíd rather see an actor take chances and work with good directors then pander to the masses.
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