Ah, it was the worst of times and it was the best of times. The January Oscar season, where Hollywood drops its finest films and and its most decrepit garbage in to foreign cinemas, cinemas such as those in my locality. Among the american films I have seen lately, the most interesting ones in a way were Manchester by the sea starring Casey Affleck and live by night starring Ben Affleck.
These two brothers are unquestionably both brilliant actors, however Ben has always been more prominent than his sibling, I know people who did not know Casey existed. However they have begun to drift apart when it comes to the type of work they are doing and the manner in how they do it. In Live by night Ben looks tired portraying his role, said role being reminiscent of a better movie he directed and starred in, that movie being The town. The difference being the character in live by night is much tamer and boring.
This tiredness probably stems from the fact Ben has a lot on his plate these days. Involvement with the shit show that is Warner brother’s superhero cinematic universe, Directing and starring in his own film projects in addition to having to promote all these films by attending days worth of media interviews. And all that without mentioning his strained personal life with Jennifer Garner.
Because of all this live by night is a muddled mess. The script seems to have been written by someone with either not enough time or with an attention deficit disorder. I thought the movie was about a gang war with the Klu Klux Klan, but it is not. The movie has no idea what its about. In fact I have a sneaking suspicion that the KKK were shoved in there as Ben’s ‘response’ to ‘racist Trump voters’. Ben has a become a bit of a fool when it comes to his public appearances, coming across just as closed minded as the ‘racists’ he looks down on.
There was a time before and after his Jennifer Lopez phase, that Ben starred as an ordinary guy. His characters in The company man, Good will hunting and his appearances in the films of Kevin Smith, were all very human. He seemed like one of us mortals. Now he has joined the ranks of Merlyl Streep and Leo Di Caprio, making us swallow their political views. Funny that he now plays Batman, a guy who is an ordinary fellow who’s only real power is inexhaustible wealth. A peasant in kings clothing, if you will.
And then there is Casey in Manchester by the sea. Where he stars as an ordinary guy who has a traumatic past, for which he atones for in the most stereotypical catholic way of being miserable, drinking and starting fights with strangers. Casey is very much one of those blue collar working actors, he’s in movies! Look there he is! Kind of like what Ben used to be. Casey’s performance in Manchester by the sea is a masterclass in what Chris Stuckmann called “Subdued acting”. No showing and no telling, the audience must read between the lines. The quality of this performance puts his brothers recent work to shame.
So what now? Will Casey Affleck supersede Ben? The answer is “maybe”. Certainly not in the financial category, or most likely the directorial category. But I feel the next decade will be career defining for him as a performer. Whilst Ben may suffer another Gigli episode should he continue down his path of ever bigger roles and more in your face public appearances.
Thank you for reading.