On a related note to my essay, Against Type, I nearly choked on my popcorn when Matt Damon uttered the Freud line in The Departed. (According to IMDB, his version was, “What Freud said about the Irish is: We’re the only people who are impervious to psychoanalysis.”) I had never heard that before and it really resonated.
Another dead-on perfect line was: “If we’re not gonna make it, it’s gotta be you that gets out, cause I’m not capable. I’m fucking Irish, I’ll deal with something being wrong for the rest of my life.” Whether that’s a particular trait of the Irish, I don’t know, but it certainly conjures an image I’m familiar with.
Great movie, despite some gaping holes at the end. See it. But don’t be surprised that the only convincing Boston acccent comes out of Leonardo DiCaprio. Damon’s accent is better than it was in Good Will Hunting, but for someone who grew up in the Boston area, he really has no ear for it.
Collectively, the movie with the best Boston accents is Gone Baby Gone, and Amy Ryan nailed it better than anyone. She was so good in that movie, I didn’t even recognize her in her recent guest appearance on The Office (which was very possibly the best season finale of any show, ever; you can watch for free at NBC.com). In the scene in Gone Baby Gone in which she’s remembering Casey Affleck’s character in high school, she gives a snide laugh. And in that laugh and her facial expression, you can almost hear the unspoken, “I would never have given the time of day to a loser like you.” We see, but she doesn’t, how the roles have been reversed. At that moment, we sense that she still sees herself as she was in high school at her apex, the queen bee popular girl. It’s a moment of such unintended sadness because we know that her best days are well behind her, and her own image of herself has yet to catch up with reality.
The movie didn’t get as much buzz as I expected it would, but I thought Ben Affleck did a great job pulling some perfect performances out of his actors. I didn’t even recognize Ed Harris, who’s always good. I just remember thinking as I watched the scene in which his character goes on a drunken tirade, “That’s exactly what someone would really say on a drunken tirade, and that’s really how they would say it.” The acting was so good, it was hard not to pull myself out of the movie to make these observations.
The other surprising thing that Affleck did, which only a Bostonian would think to do, was film a scene at the infamous Quincy quarries. My whole childhood I’d heard about the quarries, about kids diving in and dying in a range of ways, including being skewered by a junked car’s antenna. To actually see images of the place of so much lore was thrilling, not to mention that the opening shot of that scene coming in over the glass-like water is a beauty. Kudos to Ben Affleck on that flick.
Another movie with some convincing Boston accents is Blow, a Johnny Depp movie that didn’t go over very well at all, but which I liked for Depp’s performance, and for Ray Liotta’s. (Penelope Cruz as Depp’s coked up, anorexic wife is also convincing as a walking, talking amphetamine.) Both Depp and Liotta nailed the Boston accent, but Rachel Griffiths, who plays American so well, was terrible. To the untrained ear, you might not notice, but it must be similar to how the British hear an American’s attempt at an English accent. Similarly, consider Brit Emma Thompson in Primary Colors in which she played not just an American, but a southerner. Not good.
On the other hand, so many of the Aussies can do generic American accents quite well. Nicole Kidman, for example, in To Die For (another great movie) manages to completely erase her accent. Certainly there is no trace of Naomi Watts’s accent in I Heart Huckabees (her best American picture so far, in my opinion, which you must learn not to argue with).
Which brings us full circle, I suppose, because Mark Wahlberg, another Bostonian (and one capable of using the accent) appears, and is wonderful in, both I Heart Huckabees and The Departed.
Speaking of southerners and accents, my friend Angie from North Carolina had to watch The Departed with the subtitles on.