It's the talk of 'The Town': Ben Affleck is back. Did you miss him?

the-townImage Credit: Claire FolgerJust five years ago, Ben Affleck’s career was in free fall. Once one of Hollywood’s most in-demand leading men, he’d had a string of dismal flops: Daredevil, Gigli, Paycheck, Surviving Christmas, Jersey Girl. His love life had made him a tabloid punchline. Hitting him when he was down, a 2003 South Park episode had shown him falling in love with Cartman’s hand puppet, mistaking it for Jennifer Lopez. He’d gone from a Best Screenplay Oscar win in 1997 for Good Will Hunting to racking up six nominations for the Golden Raspberry for Worst Actor in the space of three years. You get the picture.

And look at him now: His second film as a director, The Town, which he also co-wrote and starred in, trounced expectations this weekend to open in first place at the box office, with $23.8 million. The critics lavished praise on the movie, to the tune of a 94 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. (Our own Lisa Schwarzbaum gave it an A-.) There’s talk of Oscars. The Town has burnished his reputation in the town of Hollywood, where he now has to be considered a major director, and, with positive buzz for his next movie, The Company Men, his acting career has heat again. He could be shaping up to be a star-auteur in the mold of Clint Eastwood. Or maybe the more apt comparison is that Affleck is this year’s Sandra Bullock: a once-easily-dismissed ’90s icon on a major career rebound.

That’s the storyline coming off this weekend, at least. But are you buying it? Did you see The Town? Did it wipe your memory banks clear of all trace of Gigli, or is there still a little bit of “Bennifer” rattling around in there? How would you like to see Affleck cash in his newfound capital: by taking more leading roles in movies or focusing primarily on his directing career?

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  • Nick B

    Thanks for not letting my positive comment show up, EW.

    • Nick B

      Fantastic, the comment I write that has nothing to do with the article appears, but the one I wrote that had everything to do with it doesn’t.

      • Maureen

        I know. EW has been kind of weird with letting people post lately. :(

      • shelby

        I’ve had comments disappear as well…and yet spammers looking for love on the internet are allowed to post. How annoying.

      • Lisa Simpson

        It’s been terrible. It won’t accept real comments, but spam is fine. This board is screwy.

      • Idle

        EW is messing up if they don’t realize we won’t visit the site if our comments don’t get posted.

      • JB

        I know these comments seem repetitive, but the comments people write are just disappearings and not being posted lately.

      • TQB

        Adding my voice to the fray – it always seems to be my thoughtful and carefully written comments that just vanish into the ether. And then if you try and rewrite, you get that smug “you just posted that” message from WordPress. Grrr.

      • Dick Whitman

        Yeah, a lot of my comments don’t show up, either.

  • Jmaes Franco

    No.

  • Dude Z

    My useless comment showed up too!

    • Stacy E

      Mine too!

  • Sam B

    Congrats, I enjoy it as well

  • Chris Price

    Affleck should keep directing movies I think. But this will only be confirmed when he scores with a movie that’s outside of his Boston comfort zone. Or perhaps he stays in that mode as a director and just gets deeper into it. Either way he’s 2 for 2.

    • Elaine M

      I saw Gone Baby Gone twice, and want to see it again after watching The Town, which is probably the best movie I’ve seen this year! He has found his niche, as both an actor and a director. I don’t know if he could make the same quality movies outside of Boston, but it’s refreshing for a Mass native to enjoy a movie and not wince at the accents or local references. Both movies were Oscar-worthy and I look forward to more quality dramas from him in the future.

    • Freddie

      How long did it take for Woody Allen or Martin Scorcese to make a movie that wasn’t set in or about New York?
      I’m not saying Ben Affleck is the new Allen or the new Scorcese. But I am saying that directors can be considered great without moving outside their niche.
      Let him find his legs.

      • llevinso

        Agreed Freddie. He is new at directing and I think so far (I saw The Town last night and it was really good) he’s doing a great job. Boston is clearly his comfort zone right now. Maybe in a little while he’ll move outside it but give him time. Right now he’s doing great work.

      • slade

        Technically Scorsese’s 2nd and 4th movies were not set in NY, and Woody Allen’s first few movies weren’t set in NY at all. Just sayin.

      • Jake

        But Scorsese and Allen set their best movies in NY

  • Gina

    Either Ben Affleck fell prey to a common disease of celebrities — believing their own press — before getting back in touch with his real interests and abilities as a writer and director, or Jennifer Garner is the greatest rehabber of ALL TIME.

    • manish

      Yeah, I was just going to say that his success started with marrying Jen Garner who is amazing and wodnerful

  • rebecca

    in junior high i was madly in love with Ben Affleck, like I wanted to marry him. yeah it was crazy, but i am so over him and now i don’t like him anymore. i really don’t like him, as in i refuse to watch his movies or get interested in them only because i don’t like him.

    • Dave

      I can’t decide if you were less mature in junior high or now.

      • Dman

        Nice one, Dave.

      • shelby

        @Dave – Sipping red wine while reading this comment was a BIG mistake.

      • Michelle

        What rebecca forgot to mention was that it was only last year.

      • boymommy

        lol

      • Sara

        hahahahaha…love you Dave

    • Coletrick74

      Well that is kind of a way to look at it but…Deep in ur heart ask urself should it b rob patts directing this film or taylor laut!! Just kids Give Affleck a chance

    • Lisa Simpson

      Grow up, honey.

    • GingerG

      What a pointless comment. Who cares that you used to have a crush on him and now don’t like him?

  • Nikki

    I never lost faith in Ben Affleck. There are many actors who made bad choices that seemed to haunt them (David Caruso leaving NYPD Blue after Season 1) but when it comes down to it we shouldn’t write someone off because of a few errors in judgement (relationships included). Everyone’s tastes are different…and we have to remember that some actors are going to choose a role to suit their tastes and and they may not care if it’s commerically successful. I liked Jersey Girl and Paycheck. Whether anyone else does is irrelevant to me.

    • Kiki

      I liked Paycheck, too! It was a lot of fun.

    • rocknmovies

      I liked Jersey Girl. A bit sugary, but still good.
      In any case I am glad that Ben is relevant again.

      • meowser

        I liked Jersey Girl, too. I don’t know why so many people hate it so much.

    • Scott

      Jersey Girl is a great movie. I liked it. Paycheck as well. I would say Gili was his biggest mistep.

      • Dalla

        No. Getting involved with Jennifer Lopez was his biggest mistake, that and being so open with the press, who took him to the cleaners and just about destroyed his career with their nastiness. Let’s put some blame where blame is due. The press and the Pappo’s were vicious with Ben Affleck. That’s why he refused to give interviews for years. He was young when he won his Oscar. He’s now grown into his talent and knows what to do with it. Cudos to him and may his future be bright.

    • Ames

      Well, I’ll admit it — I like Daredevil. I still don’t really understand why all the fanboys hate it. Decent action movie I say.

      • RL

        I have to agree. I thought Daredevil was a decent movie. Never really understood where all the venom for that movie came from. It was good comic book fun, if you ask me (which I know you didn’t lol).

      • Jason

        And it made $100M. It was no Iron Man, but definitely not a flop. Gigli was a flop.

    • Anneka

      Ditto. I liked Paycheck.

  • jenny

    i think its funny that when an actor seen as “big” has a string of bad luck then they are seen as a joke. affleck has always been talented he just chose the wrong roles. the town was great, but really i don’t trust anything lisa schwarzbaum writes. this is the same “critic” who gave the last song a b.

    • Rich

      I’m just amazed an EW reviewer gave a grade besides B, B+, or B-.

  • The Jackal

    Comparing him to Sandra Bullock is an insult to Affleck.

  • tomm

    Yes, he was always talented, he just took on too many movies taht seemed like ‘hits’. But the whole J-Lo era also hurt. They were show offs, and him kissing her rear end in one of her music videos was also icky.

    But, if one works thier rear off and gets humble, it pays off.

    Also glad Jeremy Renner and Jon Hamm are A listers, too. Jon is intelligent and fun at same time. Isn’t out showing off for the paps!

  • Trixie

    Sigh, I’ve had it bad for Ben Affleck since I watched Voyage of the Mimi in my 5th grade class, in 1998. He has never left my heart!
    Anyway, it’s good to see him garnering respect for his work. I think people forget he was 1/2 of the writing team for Good Will Hunting.

    Plus when I was watching The Town, I felt that same twinge of “Oh my gawd, so hot” that I did for him when I was 11 and had a hunky poster of him from Armageddon on my wall.

    • ani

      whoa..voyage of the mimi. god, i miss the 90’s.

    • Coletrick74

      Lol…she said Garnering him…

    • mmskogs

      Ahahaha this is so me right now.

    • steph

      Thats so funny, I rememeber watching voyage of the mimi in sixth grade!!

    • AimeeB

      @Trixie – me, too! Ben has always been on my “laminated list”, even during what I like to call the “battling his personal demons” era (a stint in Promises Malibu, the J-Lo/tanning bed/slicked-back hair lost years, driving a blue Bentley–eek!). I no longer have to be embarrassed about my ongoing love for him. Next up for a complete career overhaul? Matthew McConaughey!!!!

  • AC

    I saw The Town, and loved it –great cast, and he was really good in it. Gone Baby Gone had more depth, but it was excellent as well. I hope he directs more. As for his past, I think if Charlie Sheen could come back from drugs and domestic violence, perhaps we can forgive Ben for Gigli…maybe;)

  • Jacob

    I always love seeing actors make comebacks. I love it even more when they find they’re skilled in other aspects of filmmaking, like screenwriting (most recently Wentworth Miller’s success) and even directing (too many to count).
    I loved Gone Baby Gone, but I didn’t get a chance to check out The Town this weekend. Hopefully soon. Can’t wait to see what BAffleck churns out next.
    Side note: I can’t help but notice a parallel between his career resurgence, and his seemingly stable, tabloid-free marriage to Jen Garner Bristow… Both happened about the same time (the marriage in ’05 and Affleck’s lauded performance as George Reeves in Hollywoodland in ’06). Stability seems to do wonders for his creativity.

    • jess88

      But he wrote the Gone Baby Gone script when he was with Jennifer Lopez though…

  • JMaG

    Awesome Movie. Go see it if you haven’t. SO happy for Ben, seems to have quite a career ahead of him.

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