Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why "The Town" Is Such a Good Film

The Town is not just about a group of bank robbers in a town famous for its gifted bank robbers. This movie is about the primal dynamic that exists between Man and Woman. Yes, there’s a lot of heist action, and heat from the law, but it’s a lot about how men and women need each other to survive. (It’s also a little about how men rely upon each other, as explored through Doug’s relationship with best friend, Jem. But, that is a whole other conversation.) The Town subtley hones in on that age-old interdependence between man and woman, and leaves the audience feeling a myriad of powerful emotions along the way.

Movies often reflect our own world; display a refraction of our current reality. The Town does this with cinematic flair, and dialogue that leaves its mark. Ben Affleck’s stunning turn in the director’s chair affected me in a major way, with the story of a man who wants to break free of a life that is drowning him.  Doug MacRay, portrayed by Affleck, had already been looking to get out of the life of crime he was living when he meets the woman who helps him to finally break free. Claire is the bank manager unwittingly held hostage during one of Doug’s bank heists. She is the only person who can send Doug and his gang to prison, but thanks to the douchebaggery of Frawley, the FBI agent leading the case, she isn’t too eager to cooperate with the federal lawmen after them.

Doug still feels compelled to keep an eye on Claire, just in case she has a change of heart, and soon finds himself drawn to her. After getting to know each other, Doug and Claire find a natural attraction develop between them. She is everything that he needs: innocent, in need of protection, and very much unlike his world. Claire welcomes the needed strong arm of protection that Doug offers, and falls in love with him because of it. They fit together like a lock and key. However, the pull of Doug’s life comes over him like waves tugging him back out with the tide. His former girlfriend, and his best friend’s sister, Krista (portrayed by Blake Lively) needs him too; in the same way that Claire does. She goes out of her way to try and keep him, even using her body as her weapon of choice. Yet, Doug has already decided that he needs to break free of Krista, and the world in which she lives.

Of course, this is a heist movie and there is a huge score to be had. One last robbery to give Doug the money he needs to escape, with Claire. But, Krista proves to be at the end of her rope and when her begging doesn’t work on Doug, she is more than willing to cooperate with the lawmen that are after Doug and his gang.

Krista gives insight to a phenomenon that pervades our culture. She like so many women, are in the position of ‘use or be used.’ And, it’s usually both. The women in this film have little to no power. It’s reflective of society. Women are to be protected. Claire is kidnapped to ensure the escape of Doug’s gang, used by the feds to catch the bank robbers, or being used by Doug (Yes, he is using her.) as a way to escape his current life. Krista is left to fend for herself in that world of crime and poverty where the men treat the women like objects. 

Even her own brother, Jem, is quick to use her and her daughter as a way to keep Doug from leaving town. Krista tries to utilize the only power she thinks she has: sex. But that doesn’t work because she doesn’t have the most important thing Doug needs: a way out. He’s already moved on to another woman to use. So, in the end, Krista plays herself and becomes the mastermind behind her own undoing. She’s even smart enough to recognize this when she utters the most memorable line in the film for me to Agent Frawley: Why is it I’m always the one who gets used?” You can’t fault her for trying. She’s playing the cards she was dealt. Her hand just wasn’t as good as Claire’s.

Gender roles are what they are. It’s a man’s world. Women are more often than not, limited by their circumstances. The deck is stacked against them. So many women try so very hard to change that, yet fail to realize that it’s not the game that’s flawed. It’s the way they play the game that’s screwing them over. It’s the smart woman that figures this out, and devises a way to play the game, at the same rules, yet come out on top without being used. That’s the dynamic. Men and women will forever be engaged in this dance of use and be used.

This is why The Town is such a good film. It not only explores the primal theme of survival in harsh times, it simultaneously delves into that long-standing love/hate relationship between man and woman. That makes for an action-packed, drama-filled film that keeps your heart racing from beginning to end.