The Town opened last Friday, and you KNOW that I was at the cinema for opening night along with my fellow Masshole, Leah Dubie. We were both supposed to be dressed dressed in head-to-toe gear from Kickassachusetts, but guess who didn't hold up her end of the deal? I'll give you a hint: she DIDN'T win "Best Hair" in high school. That's right, little fockers, I was there in full Masshole regalia and Ms. Dubes was NOT. I even brought in some Neco Wafers-- how Mass is THAT!?
In honor of The Town's successful opening weekend, let's take a walk down Boston movie memory lane, shall we? Don't worry, this amble will end in a bar called Sully's, I promise. Here are some of the greatest hits and misses of Boston representations on the big screen. In chronological order because if there's one thing I love as much as lists and Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" (the full version with the rattlesnake sound in the beginning), it's chronology.
GOOD WILL HUNTING (1997)
The movie that (seemingly) started it all for Boston on the big screen. At least in the 1990s. I'm not going to count "Love Story" (1970) because it's about two Harvard kids who aren't Boston at all. No offense to all the smaaat kids from my high school who went to Harvard undergrad (6 out of a graduating class of 95 kids--how nuts is that? I felt like a special needs kid for going to a NESCAC school).
The one flaw that I have a hard time reconciling is when we see Will Hunting going HOME from Skylar's dorm (at Harvard) on a red line train on the T. It's fine so far-- yes, the red line goes from Harvard Square in Cambridge over to South Boston (Broadway and Andrew Sq stops. I've spent WAY too much time at the Andrew Square stop--that place used to be my JOINT!) The problem is the shot of Will above ground on the red line. The red line goes back above ground AFTER Andrew Square, which is beyond Will's stop. It looks nice, but Bostonians know that this makes no sense. I know, I'm being a nitpicky Masshole.
Not sure if you can make out the subtitle on the above poster, but the copy reads, "Southie: The Toughest Neighborhood in America." Yes! I love it. I own this movie and it's laughably bad. Killer cast, though-- Donnie Wahlberg (my favorite new kid), Rose McGowan, Anne Meara (before she was Steve's mom on Sex & the City), Amanda Peet, and Will Arnett! The only movie that might rival "Southie" in the number of times a character flips out and completely overreacts (but the actor thinks it's just "convincing acting") is "Showgirls." I love that it's filmed all over Southie, though-- the streets, the South Boston Yacht Club, that ghetto sketchy bowling alley on Broadway by the courthouse (incidentally, the courthouse that we see in the opening of "Good Will Hunting" when Will gets into his first scrape and Ben Affleck's character meets him with small Dunkin' Donuts coffees waiting in the car).
MONUMENT AVENUE (1998)
I must confess that I've never seen this one. I know, I know. And I call myself a Boston movie die-hard. I'll go do Catholic-style self-flaggelation for this error in judgment. Now THAT'S a Boston thing to do!
BOONDOCK SAINTS (1999)
I haven't seen this one and I don't have a poster for it. STOP JUDGING ME!
MYSTIC RIVER (2003)
When this one first came out, I assumed it was about Mystic, CT and somehow related to Mystic Pizza. What a naive little naif I was, huh!? Turns out this movie isn't about CT at all, it rules, and features another Wahlberg family member (there's a million of them in Boston), Robert Wahlberg. There are a few GLARING errors in this film, though:
(1) In the opening scene, the cops (Kevin Bacon and crew), who are townies from an amalgamation of Charlestown and South Boston (the author of "Mystic River," Dennis Lehane (who rules), has said that he didn't want to select one neighborhood in Boston and make it too specific), say that they are heading to the Cantab Lounge for a drink. The Cantab Lounge is in Central Square, Cambridge. I used to perform in that basement every Thursday night for years and while there were certainly cops (and mailmen) as regulars, they didn't schlep in from those waterfront neighborhoods. They were Cambridge locals and this was their watering hole. So while most Bostonians appreciated the screenwriter's attempt at local flavor with the Cantab name-drop, it's wholly unrealistic.
(2) Laurence Fishburn has a Boston accent. This is impossible. I don't make the rules, so don't blame me, but the Boston accent is a white phenomenon. Seriously. I don't know why, but black people, even if they spend the whole lives in Mattapan or Southie or Roxbury simply DO NOT get the Boston accent. The dialect coach on "Mystic River" was probably brought in from wherever and simply told ALL actors to start dropping their Rs and pronouncing "oo" as "aaaa" and that was that. Laurence Fisburn's character shouldn't have had an accent at all.
Speaking of bad accents, this takes us to...
THE DEPARTED (2006)
Don't get me wrong, I love this movie. Scorsese was filming all over Thomson Place back when I worked there and my co-workers and I wasted a hell of a lot of hours observing it all. Really interesting to see how it's done and the care that goes into every detail of every shot. But I have another accent issue and that is with Vera Farmiglia's character (Dr. Madolyn Madden, occupational psychiatrist) and the fact that she had any accent at all. At times her pronunciation sounded like a ham-fisted attempt at a Boston accent, at other times it bordered on Australian--she was all over the place. Much like Laurene Fisburn in "Mystic River," Farmiglia's character really didn't need an accent at all. Even if her back-story included an accent, but that point in her career, she probably would have deliberately dropped it (I know plenty of people who have done this). Robert Wahlberg is featured in this movie, too.
But man is the soundtrack to "The Departed" good stuff. A few years back, when I had first moved to NYC, I was back home in Boston for Thanksgiving. I was mugged on Newbury Street and I chased down the thief, knocked him off his bike, and got my purse back (one of the proudest moments of my life--seriously). I got in my car to drive home later that night and what was playing on the radio? A song from this soundtrack-- "Shipping Up To Boston" by the Dropkick Murphys. Seemed quite fitting.