With ‘The Town’ Ben Affleck aims for the A-list

Could Ben Affleck become for Boston what Martin Scorsese is for New York?

That seems to be the thought implied by a recent New York Times piece positioning Ben Affleck for a comeback. Not that Affleck, who is one of Hollywood’s most famous—and highly paid—faces needs any sort of popular resurrection. What he’s hoping for with his next film, “The Town”, which he co-write, directed and stars in, is to reassert his presence as one of Hollywood’s highbrow. That is, to make himself worthy of his Oscar-winning status; Affleck wants to be seen as more of an artist, less of a movie star.

“This is an emblem of the person I want to be going forward,” Affleck told the The Times about his new direction.

In the spirit of the upcoming high holidays, it’s the perfect time for an Affleck rebirth. His Jewish audience may even forgive his unimaginative work (as if any sort of repentance could compensate for the disastrous “Gigli” with J-Lo) if there’s reason to believe something better awaits. The real challenge for Affleck, it seems, is figuring out exactly what he wants to do. Now that’s he’s both movie star and family man, does Hollywood still hold allure? When he says he wants to do better, does he mean it?

Jewish tradition tells us that before one can move forward, it’s important to look back. If Affleck plans to recommit to his career, he might want to reflect on past mistakes. And since Affleck is rumored to be half-Jewish, that’s enough for us to suggest some teshuvah is in order.

Ever since he and pal Matt Damon won the screenwriting statue for “Good Will Hunting” in 1997, Affleck’s career took on a typical post-Oscar trajectory: boring parts and big paychecks. Here are five films we think he should apologize for:

1. Reindeer Games – Aside from the Charlize Theron shiksa appeal, we’re not sure how this movie got made.

2. Bounce – This film, co-starring Affleck’s then-girlfriend Gwyneth Paltrow (also half-Jewish by way of her father, Bruce Paltrow) not only dashed hopes for a rom-com revival, their subsequent breakup signaled the death knell for what could have been ridiculously good looking Jewish progeny.

3. Pearl Harbor – Historical narratives should not be left in Michael Bay’s hands. Period. But we give Affleck brownie points for going all biblical, marrying his “brother’s” lady and fathering his offspring.

4. The Sum of All Fears – Did anyone actually see this?

5. Jersey Girl – Not even the porno subplot could redeem this Kevin Smith rom com. You know it’s a bad sign when the leading man has better chemistry with his onscreen daughter than his lover, played by Liv Tyler.

A bright spot on Affeck’s resume appeared in 2007, with his turn as director in the acclaimed film “Gone Baby Gone.” Here’s to hoping his instincts as filmmaker win out over his proclivities as leading man.

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