Getting Out of (the) Town

“Will, why’d you come all the way out here?” Skylar exclaimed.

“I wanted to see you. I wanted fate to take control. I let my heart lead me. You were right. I don’t hate you Skylar, I love you. Would you forgive me? Would you please forgive me? Without you, I don’t feel complete.” Will explained.

“Will, of course I forgive you.” Skylar kissed him again smiling.

“Can I come in?” Will asked. Skylar nodded.

“Come on in!” Skylar pulled away from him and grabbed his hand pulling him into the room. Will turned to close the door, only to find Chuckie Sullivan standing in the door way.

And where did this bit of script come from, you ask? A lost epilogue to the Oscar-winning Good Will Hunting screenplay? A deleted scene? Thankfully, no. The answer is simple: Good Will Hunting fan fiction. It’s out there, believe it or not.

But amateur screenwriters on the internet aren’t the only ones imagining a cinematic reacquaintance with Good Will Hunting‘s Chuckie Sullivan. I’ve been hearing and reading many a comparison between Affleck’s The Town character and his more youthful and naive Good Will Hunting character.

Does The Town‘s Doug MacRay represent Chuckie’s character all grown up?

Well, no. No more so than The Departed is about the corruption of Will Hunting by organized crime or The Bourne Identity is the story of Will working for the NSA after all.

But there are some interesting comparisons.

Ben Affleck in Good Will Hunting and The Town
The moment where the Ben Affleck character who does construction argues with his best boyhood friend the necessity of leaving town and going to a warmer state with lots of coastline. (Image comparison via robinjp.tumblr.com)

Global Comment‘s Mark Farnsworth writes:

MacRay could be Affleck’s Chuckie left behind by Will in Good Will Hunting, and in places The Town plays like an unofficial sequel about Chuckie’s life story. In that movie Chuckie berates Will for not taking his chance, “Fuck you, you don’t owe it to yourself man, you owe it to me. Cuz tomorrow I’m gonna wake up and I’ll be 50, and I’ll be doin’ this shit. And that’s all right. That’s fine. But you’re sittin’ on a winnin’ lottery ticket. And you’re too much of a pussy to cash it in, and that’s bullshit. Cause I’d do fuckin’ anything to have what you got. So would any of these fuckin’ guys. It’d be an insult to us if you’re still here in 20 years. Hangin’ around here is a waste of your time.”

So yes, the similarity between the scenes in which Affleck’s character argues for Will Hunting to leave Boston behind and in which he argues that he himself must leave Boston in The Town have obvious similarities. Affleck himself has said as much in an interview with AFP, recalling the Good Will Hunting “lottery ticket” speech, “I found myself back in the same scene.”

The AFP article continues:

In The Town, Affleck as the leader of a posse of bank robbers has a scene with Jeremy Renner, who plays his surrogate brother, which Affleck said was “heartbreaking in a different way and probably a more common way.”

It was “one guy saying, ‘I have to leave, I have to change, I have to do something different,’ and the other saying, ‘Stay with me, don’t leave me, don’t do that to me,’ and how hard it makes it to make that choice when you have your best friend, your brother … sitting there (saying): ‘I need you, don’t leave me.'”

Both scenes “spoke to that dynamic,” Affleck commented. “And in a larger sense they spoke to the importance of male friendships.”

Farnsworth’s Globe Comment analysis doesn’t end on a simple comparison between the two scenes, though. He goes on to describe the getting-out-of-town conceit as representative of not only Damon and Affleck’s respective characters, but their careers as well:

Chuckie’s words resonate loudly when applied to MacRay but they scream from the top of the Bunker Hill Monument in Affleck’s case. Whereas his boyhood pal Matt Damon has seen his career progress smoothly into iconic status with the Bourne films, Affleck has had to rebuild his after the whole “Bennifer” fiasco.

So is The Town Ben’s ticket out of the mediocre-film-career doldrums? (His “winnin’ lottery ticket”?)

And what other similarities between the films have you noticed? (Spoilers welcome.)

12 thoughts on “Getting Out of (the) Town”

  1. I haven't seen The Town yet, but i'm really looking forward to it. Also, Good Will Hunting is playing at the main branch of the BPL at 6PM tonight.

  2. I like how in both films, before the main character leaves town, he leaves a note for another character to find, and the other character reads it while standing on an incline. Obviously, the sentiments of the two notes are quite different, as are the characters' motivations for leaving. Still…

  3. I guess I'd never really thought of it before, but how are we to feel about both these films being all about needing to get out of Boston in order to fulfill one's potential? Good Will Hunting is about leaving one's safe comfort zone, which happens to be Boston. Seriously, though, why are these guys leaving this great town that has screenings of awesome movies at its historic public library??

  4. I see your point, but I think, in The Town at least, Dougie isn't so much escaping Boston as the particular cultural and economic restrictions of his upbringing. It's hard to stay straight when everyone you know is robbing armored trucks and snorting Oxycontin.

    And I fully believe that Will and Skylar will return to Boston when Skylar's finished medical school. Well, maybe not Boston, but definitely Cambridge, Brookline or Newton.

  5. I think the scene from GWH that I refer to in the film has always resonated strongly with me (I'm a working class boy from the East End of London) and I think Affleck steals the movie with it. Dougie nearly made it out as a hockey player and he must have had the same conversation with himself at some point.

    Great site everyone and thanks for using my work as a talking point.

    Kind Regards Mark

  6. Mark, Your talking point was a good one! The theme of getting out of town (even if it is Boston, which I love calling my current home) in order to grow up, fulfill one's potential, and self-actualize, is one that really resonated with me I think when I first saw GWH back in the 90's. Thanks for reading!

  7. Incidentally, I think you are right, Mike. They'll definitely be back to Greater Boston. In the end, Will and Chuck will still take their kids to Little League together.

  8. In The Town, Doug MacRay leaves Boston for Florida without Claire, for the following reasons:

    A) He's an armed felon and wanted fugitive, especially because he went back to Charlestown, took the law into his own hands, and murdered Fergie and Rusty.

    B) Doug got what he really and truly wanted out of Claire all along; a promise from her not to turn him in, which he got.

    C) Both Doug and Claire knew, at some level, that his days of hiding out in Florida were numbered and he'd be hunted down, caught (perhaps violently) by the Feds, and either tried and sent to serve long, hard time in a Federal penitentiary for his crimes, or perhaps gunned down by the law. The phrase "I'll see you again, this side or the other" is a euphemistic way of saying that they won't meet again, not on "this" side, anyhow.

  9. I think that in GWH, Will knows exactly where to find the girl, and he leaves a note on the psychiatrist's door saying "If the professor calls me about a job, I've gone to see about a girl". When we see Will going west, we know he's going to California to look for the girl. Who knows when or if they'll come back to the Boston area?

    On the other hand, I think that in "The Town", there's a more sinister undercurrent there; the quote at the end of Doug's "farewell, I'll always love you" letter 'I'll see you again, this side or the other" is a more darkly euphemistic way of saying that they won't meet up again, ever. There's no way that Doug could've ever come back to Charlestown to get Claire, because he'd get caught and sent to prison for sure.

  10. I would love to know the life experience that led Ben Affleck to write such different responses to the same situation: the possibility that someone would leave the "family". Clearly, the dialogue in GWH ("you leave … no goodbyes, no nothin' " is much more optimistic and growth oriented than the dialogue in the Town (you can't leave cuz I've sacrificed my life for you!). In GWH, Afflek's charector is almost an older wiser parent telling Damon's charecter to do whatever he needs to get his start in life and don't look back ("no goo'bye, no nothin' "), like a wise father. But in "the Town", Renners charecter is almost like a hysterical mother who can't cope with even the possiblity of her child leaving, moving on in life.

    What did Afflek experiance that gove him such divergent insights into how people handle the possibility of their loved ones moving on without them?

  11. I think the scene in GWH where Afflek charecter tells Damon to just go ("no goodbye, no see you later") is one of the greatest love scenes ever drafted or filmed. It is the epitomy of parental / family love: you have your limits (Damon's charecter can't verbalize his feelings), I know you need to move on but you don't have to conquer your limits ("no goodbye, no nothin', you just left") in order to move on. As the one left behind, I'll deal with my feelings [of being left behind] while you are moving on in life is the ideal parental response to a child moving on or out in life.

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