Food for Thought

Stir by Barbara Lynch

While browsing at my favorite local bookstore, I flipped through Barbara Lynch’s new cookbook Stir. Check out this choice bit of jacket copy:

Lynch’s cuisine is all the more remarkable because it is self-taught. In a story straight out of Good Will Hunting, she grew up in the turbulent projects of “Southie”, where petty crime was the only viable way to make a living…. Through a mix of hunger for knowledge, hard work, and raw smarts, she gradually created her own distinctive style of cooking….

The publisher has betrayed a fundamentally flawed—and, I think, commonly held—understanding of Good Will Hunting. True, Barbara Lynch and Will Hunting are both from Southie (notice the publisher’s timid quotation marks). But while Lynch’s rise to fame from unlikely roots as a result of her “hunger for knowledge, hard work, and raw smarts” is admirable, it is hardly the same as Will Hunting’s story.

Will Hunting does not work hard. Will’s remarkable gifts are unearned; as he puts it, he could “always just play.” At the beginning of the movie, Will is an under-employed genius with little more than (presumably) a high school diploma. At the end of the movie, he is an unemployed genius who has turned down multiple job offers and rejected academia to “see about a girl.”

Good Will Hunting is not the story of an underdog going up against the establishment and, against all odds, making good. That’s Finding Forrester, a much less satisfying film. Good Will Hunting is the story of a lonely orphan boy who learns to love and be loved. Will’s remarkable abilities are nothing more than a plot device.

But I don’t think that story will help sell cookbooks.

Damon Behind the Camera

In this Boston Globe profile, Matt Damon says directing is most likely his next big move. “I’m not in a race to start doing it,” says Damon. “I feel like I’m getting so much experience with great directors. All I’m doing is learning more.”

But is this the sort of behavior we can expect to see from Damon as director?

This video is fake, a promotion for the HBO series Entourage. But from what untapped emotional wells did Damon draw his inspiration? What rage lies just beneath the surface of Hollywood’s Golden Boy? And why does everybody want to direct?

Matt Damon: Blond Again

Just saw this on boston.com (my source for hometown hero news) this morning:

Damon

Blond Matt Damon is back! Hooray!

To readers of this blog, a towheaded Matt Damon has many nostalgic associations. But when was the last time we saw Matt Damon with goldilocks? A quick browse through his filmography leads me to believe that it was probably 2000’s The Legend of Bagger Vance, not one of Damon’s more memorable roles.

Which leads me to a second thought: while Damon hasn’t had the identity problems of his friend Ben Affleck and has managed to maintain a degree of both professional respect and profitability, I think we can all agree that there has been a second act to his career. And you can track it through his follicles.

Matt Damon burst onto the national scene as a fresh-faced young man ready to make good on all his potential, and it was a character we grew to love, from Good Will Hunting, through Rounders, to Titan A.E. As his darker roots grew out, though, he began to take on more serious roles (his turn as sociopath Tom Ripley being an obvious exception). The real shift came with 2003’s The Bourne Identity. Matt Damon reinvented his career. I think Paul Rudd’s character in The 40 Year Old Virgin best summed up the feelings of many pleasantly surprised viewers, who previously had ignored Damon’s talents: “I always thought Matt Damon was kind of a Streisand, but he is rockin’ the shit in this one.”

Yes, he was.

It was this Matt Damon we watched in the Bourne sequels, in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, in The Good Shepherd, in Syriana: a Matt Damon with a past he wasn’t ready to deal with; a Matt Damon with secrets he would hide from everyone, including himself; a Matt Damon driven by something he couldn’t understand or even name.

What will Matt Damon’s return to his blond roots bring for his career? We’ll have to wait and see. I will say this, though: It’s good to have you back, Blond Matt Damon. We missed you.