Fresh off his Golden Globes wins for Argo (Best Dramatic Film, Best Director), Ben Affleck is officially at his peak career-wise. And rightfully so; especially since the two previous pics he helmed (The Town, Gone Baby Gone) were quite fantastic in their own right. Unfortunately, the media’s narrative on Ben’s career has been a touch lazy. It goes like this: “Prior to recent memory, Affleck’s filmography has been a high-profile car wreck.” To this, I say “pish!” So to set the record straight, here are five quality Ben-Ben movies — with quality Ben-Ben performances — from years gone by. Note: the salty language in some of these video clips is a tad NSFW.
In this, one of Kevin Smith’s few great movies, Ben plays Holden McNeil, a comic book artist who falls in love — and somehow wins the heart of — a beautiful lesbian woman (Joey Lauren Adams). And although Ben was the film’s only lead not to nab an award (or even a nomination), he’s the linchpin, holding scenes together with genuine emotion, humour, and gravitas. In lesser hands, the role would have fallen flatter than a steamrolled gummy worm.
Hollywoodland is the period piece biographical docudrama (how many films can claim that label?) chronicling the story of George Reeves, a.k.a. the star of the 1950s TV series Adventures of Superman. And it’s hella solid. As Reeves, Affleck deftly lays out the tumultuous life and untimely death of the iconic television star, a complex dude to say the least (hey, you try being typecast as Superman — not so fun). Plus the rest of the cast aren’t exactly slouches either: Adrien Brody, Diane Lane, Bob Hoskins, Robin Tunney. Not only did Ben take home the Volpi Cup for ‘Best Actor’ at the Venice Film Festival, he also snagged a ‘Best Supporting Actor’ Golden Globe. Man of steel indeed.
Ah, Boiler Room. The gist: a college dropout (Giovanni Ribisi) lands a coveted broker gig at a top investment firm, only to be sucked in by Wall Street’s seedy underbelly. Although critical reception was initially mixed, the film’s become a card-carrying cult classic in recent years. And Ben’s steely performance as alpha-male d-bag Jim Young has definitely contributed to Boiler Room’s now-revered status. For his efforts, he even nabbed a ‘Choice Sleazebag Award’ nomination (yes, that’s a real thing) at the 2000 Teen Choice Awards. Who says discipline and hard work don’t pay off?
‘Dazed and Confused’
Speaking of cult classics, you don’t get more culty and classic than Dazed and Confused, the Richard Linklater pic the launched the careers of an uncanny number of actors: Matthew McConaughey, Milla Jovovich, Joey Lauren Adams, Parker Posey, Renée Zellweger, and yes, one Mr. Benjamin Affleck. It’s the coming-of-age story of a group of Texas teens on their last day of high school, circa 1976. We’re talking hazing, sex, violence, tears, and nostalgia, all crammed into the span of a few hours. For those who’ve yet to see it (sacrilege!), Ben perfectly rounds out the cast as flunking-and-doomed-to-repeat-his-senior-year Fred O’Bannon. And how’s this for kudos: Quentin Tarantino cites Dazed and Confused as one of the ten greatest films of all time, with Entertainment Weekly calling it one of the funniest movies of the past 25 years.
‘Good Will Hunting’
The obvious number one on this list, but hey, it’s the most deserving. Sure Dazed and Confused put Affleck on the map, but it was Good Will Hunting that shot him to stardom. Matt Damon and Robin Williams rightfully secure the lion’s share of the kudos as troubled genius Will and his put-upon therapist Sean. But Ben steals more than a few scenes as Chuckie, Will’s outspoken comrade-in-arms (if his performance in the below scene doesn’t move you, you may be a vampire android). Bonus: Ben and Matt penned the Oscar-winning screenplay. Funny how folks have stopped suggesting the former rode on the latter’s coattails during the writing process. Just sayin’.