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It's Not My Fault
You're all about to groan, "Oh God, he was in Boston recently, wasn't he?"
I was in Boston the other day. On a light morning jog, my friend and I made our way through Boston Common and past, to my delight, the Good Will Hunting Bench.
The bench is cool, yes, and the scene that takes place at the bench is something special. Robin Williams’ therapist character delivers one of his many monologues in the movie, this one a beautifully modulated speech about his wife and Will’s stubbornness and all the negative externalities of life.
Robin Williams, deservedly so, got much of the shine (and an Oscar) for this movie. But in a movie full of quotable lines (“Gotta go see about a girl,” “Chuck I had a double buuurgerrr,” etc.) and rewatchable scenes ( “It’s not your fault,” “She woke herself up?”, etc.) and off-putting characters (Stellan Skarsgard’s creepy professor, the guy with those two long strands of blonde hair who just got done reading “some Marxian historian,” etc.), there’s one man that I keep coming back to: Big Boy Ben.
This scene is perfect—one of my all-time favorites. My coworkers and I have a running joke in which we send this link to each other if one of us is interviewing for another job. I love it; I love the way it’s shot, the crane in the background, the way they sip and smoke and toss their cigarettes.
But it’s young Affleck that truly sells it. It’s a terribly affecting scene, and one I think about all the time, mainly because of him, and the way his character, Chuckie, has come to terms with the fact that his life will not be anything special. It’s a monologue—perfectly written—about acceptance on the other side of indignity, about knowing what your station is in life, and knowing you won’t make it out, and being angry with the ones that can but won’t.
And it works, Ben Affleck works in this movie, because of how stupid he looks. Throughout the film, his eyes occasionally glaze over; his mouth is always half-open, full of his not-yet-fixed teeth; he looks tall and dopey and gangly in his worn-out tracksuits. He’s not Ben Affleck yet, just Chuckie. There’s something transfixing about watching this guy, who would go on to be the action star of a Michael Bay film and Jack Ryan and date both J-Lo and Ana de Armas, tell Matt Damon to cash in on his stardom because he can’t do it himself.
It’s obvious, after this, what the end of this movie is going to be, and yet it delivers. I’m trying to explain why it hits me so hard, but I feel like I’m failing. Here, just look at this face:
Boston movies are the stuff of legend, tales of down-and-out, working-class Irish Catholics with something to prove and a lot of “fucks” they need to get out of their system. To my mind, they’re all perfect—you know, The Departed, The Town, Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, The Verdict, Spotlight, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, etc. But Good Will Hunting might be the one for me. It’s the one that distills, to its essence, what all of those movies are trying to say, in just one scene that ends with Ben Affleck taking a sip of his beer and spitting it out and a little bit of it dribbling down his chin.
I hope all of our subscribers here are like Chuckie. I would hope all of you would say, Hey, guys, if you’re still doing this dumbass newsletter in two years, I’ll kill you. And that the best part of your day is those three minutes in between 12pm EST (when we schedule these to send) and 12:03pm EST on Friday (when they actually get to your inbox), because you’ll check your inbox and you think maybe they didn’t do one this week—no goodbye, no nothing.