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"THE TOWN" and Morality - A Film Analysis - Lesson Now Playing


"THE TOWN" and Morality - A Film Analysis

Oct 02, 2010

In this special text lesson, Mr. McKee provides a study of the movie "THE TOWN".

 

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"THE TOWN" and Morality - A Film Analysis - Lesson Lesson Discussion


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at Mar 09, 2011 - 4:19 PM
on sentiment, my experience of this film echoes mckee's. i will re-watch it. the bubba gump shot where macray stares at the louisiana coast, or what-have-you, did strike me as a bit of a stretch. just leaving his whereabouts up to the imagination would have been more powerful to me. i think that the sense of justice of got largely came from the fact that he didn't get the girl and he lost his home, best friend, job, and role in the community. perhaps he wanted out. but few people can so easily walk away from everything with no sense of loss. that felt fair for a character in his circumstances. great film and insightful commentary. thank you!
at Dec 26, 2010 - 12:52 AM
Errr-- Robert Mckee always does this! He says that "The Town" ends on a positive note because the Ben Affleck character ended up rich, happily-ever after. !??! He left the money behind and it went for a hockey arena- "The Town" leaves Affleck broke, alone, and standing somewhere in the south looking out on a ravine. If it feels like there's justice, it's because Affleck lost all that seemed valuable to him.

And I don't understand why the Hamm character was a bad guy? He seemed like a typical FBI agent trying to get the bad guy- not really bad, not really all that good, just a guy doing his job.

Bass wrote
at Nov 27, 2010 - 6:05 PM
On the subject of how to design moral dynamics to keep the audience, I'd recommend seeing THE SOCIAL NETWORK. Ignoring the controversy of whether or not the events in it are true, and the social and cultural importance of facebook, the story is at heart, a disillusionment plot, the reverse of UP IN THE AIR in that it focuses less on a change of the worldview of the protagonist, but rather, substitutes an arc of self-awareness in lieu of a true change of their nature.

Nonetheless, what's interesting about the moral set up of the movie is that there are three characters who draw our empathy; Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg), Saverin (Andrew Garfield), and the Winklevoss Twins (both portrayed by Armie Hammer). Of the three, Saverin is by far the most likeable. He is loyal, a true friend, selfless and giving, completely unoffensive, and protective of his friend Zuckerberg. He's also very perceptive and intelligent (but then, as in all Aaron Sorkin stories, everyone is always extremely intelligent). The Winklevoss Twins are people you kinda want to despise; arrogant, self-aggrandizing kids who got lucky in the game of life, being born handsome, strong, intelligent, and rich. But, they're also gentlemen not bullies, they're honest and respectful, and most of all; they're really hard-working. Their central dimension is that they look like spoilt bullies but are in fact hard-working gentlemen.

But then there's Zuckerberg, the protagonist. Zuckerberg is a complete asshole; he's rude, vindictive, self-righteous, bitter, envious, cruel, and believes he's a victim. The plot details how Zuckerberg essentially steals the idea of facebook from the Winklevoss Twins.

What's remarkable is that Zuckerberg steals the idea from the Winklevoss Twins, lies about it in a deposition, and the filmmakers keep our empathy with Zuckerberg AND the Winklevoss Twins. The positive half of the Twins' contradiction of being hard-working gentlemen is kept hidden until after Zuckerberg steals facebook from them, thereby keeping us on Zuckerberg's side when he does it. "Good." we think "They deserve it, cocky bastards. They're the guys who probably gave him a swirly in fourth grade. Not that they would've gone to the same school as him. They'll be fine when daddy pays for their Olympic gold medals." It's only after he steals facebbook are we shown that these twins are diligent, honest, hard-working individuals who deserve their success, but by then, we're already in empathy with Zuckerberg.

Saverin plays Zuckerberg's best friend who lends him the startup capital to get Facebook up and running and never knew Zuckerberg stole the idea. He helps Zuckerberg make a huge deal and protects Zuckerberg's interests when the deal is struck, yet Zuckerberg screws him out of his entire share of the company on the celebration day of the 1,000,000th facebook member.

Zuckerberg wants the money from facebook, and screws over the original inventors and his best friend to get it, and they sue him for the money, and we still have more empathy with Zuckerberg than the other two.

The reason, as far as I can tell, is because Zuckerberg despite his competence, intelligence, and willpower, is a cowardly, weak, idiot. Eisenberg plays the protagonist with extreme vulnerability and sincere remorseful confusion; he doesn't get why everyone hates him so much, and feels bad that they do.

Just like us. We go, "Yep. I sometimes act without thinking, selfishly, and fuck people over. And I know I've done wrong, and I try to wriggle out of it, but I know that panicky fear that comes with guilt. I do bad things and I don't realise just what I'm doing until it's too late. This guy is just like me."

The film arcs Zuckerberg from a state of obliviousness to his amorality to someone who is acutely aware of it and what it's cost him. He ends guilt-ridden and alone, all of his own doing, having hurt innocent people along the way, and yet we still feel sorry for him.

We go, "Yeah. I've done that too. I hope someday someone forgives me for the things I can't take back."

Granted, it doesn't end up as THE TOWN does which makes it unique, but I think it's a fine, contemporary example of designing the moral dynamics of a story centered around an unsympathetic protagonist.
at Oct 11, 2010 - 1:08 PM
I don't exactly have the script in front of me, but isn't the emotional payback when Ben learns that his mum has been doped up by the flower seller? And the set-up for that is when Ben just says that his mother left him? Like he thinks she's abandoned him? And that's a set-up for for the flower seller using the mother's disappearance to get him to participate in the robbery? Or something like that. Pretty well organised, I'd say. And I think there was too much action for it to actually be "talking heads" - I'm not normally a fan of testerone-fuelled films, but they were too busy getting their heads blown off to actually talk.
Cosmo wrote
at Oct 10, 2010 - 6:36 AM
The Town is one of the worst movies i've seen lately. Boring and full of talking heads inbetween action sequences of no vaule. It doesn't matter how much the protagonist talks about his mother and his father and his past -  I just don't care... the script is really very poor
Bass wrote
at Oct 05, 2010 - 7:04 PM
It's weird; I saw THE TOWN today and while I enjoyed it somewhat, I didn't really feel like justice had been done, nor found the ending particularly satisfying because I just didn't buy it.

I think back to the movie and I'm reminded of a passage in WHICH LIE DID I TELL? by William Goldman, where he discusses the principle of protecting the star using an example of a scene where a father abuses and insults his son, and how it would be rewritten so that the father was only putting on the act of being a bastard to push his son in a positive way.

In that sense, I just saw Ben Affleck's protagonist as this character who's super fantastic in every way, except he just happens to be a criminal. But not a particularly evil one. For me, Ben Affleck's protagonist seemed to be that ever-present bad boy with a heart of gold, a heart of gold that only his beloved can expose.

It seemed remarkably safe, in contrast to the type of empathy I've had for gangsters like the cast of THE SOPRANOS (who are outwardly bigoted and detestable) or in THE WIRE.

I also found it a bit manipulative in the way that star vehicles sometimes are; the protagonist isn't just pretty much perfect, he wins every scene.

For example, John Hamm's FBI agent gives Affleck a terrifyingly brutal promise of how he wants Affleck to beg for help so he can say "No" and watch him die in prison. Hamm has engineered evidence to get Affleck in a room, just to tell him "I will destroy you." Hamm sold this scene and it was, at least for me, extremely powerful.

And then Affleck's criminal gives a smart retort back and walks away cocky, having 'won'.

Not only did I feel that Affleck's retort was nowhere near as good as Hamm's threat, I felt that it was a perfect moment for Affleck's criminal to actually get scared. Hamm kinda earned that victory. Instead, no, Affleck turns it around. He wins because he's the star. He has to win everything at all times, and when he fails, it's someone else's fault for not listening to him.

I wanted Hamm to get him. I would've felt satisfied if Hamm got Affleck, locked him away forever, but not the money, instead, Hall has the money.

Actually, when Hamm is walking up behind Renner and Affleck notices, I thought Affleck was going to walk up and put a bullet in the back of Hamm, in a parallel to the story Renner gives him as to why Affleck can't leave; because he owes them. I would've liked that, even though they get away with it, because we know that it would've cost a piece of Affleck's soul. By winning, he loses in some way.

I don't know. I enjoyed the film, but I found Affleck's protagonist lacking, and wanting for more Hamm.

But certainly I didn't despise Affleck's character: I loved the gelding scene. Boy, did Pete Posthlewaite deserve it.
Tony L: Right on!
at Oct 05, 2010 - 3:44 PM
As always, Mr. Mckee's comments are right on mark.  I totally agree with the other members that Mr. Mckee's comments "in the light of a movie" are inspirational and an invaluable teaching tool.
at Oct 03, 2010 - 4:15 AM
I saw The Town and thought it was terrific. Mr McKee's comments pinpoint so much and teach so graphically - I'll do as he suggests and get the DVD and work through it. Please please please - can he issue a collection of commentaries on films? It's so hands-on  (i.e. Casablanca in the Story book/seminars, his online analysis of Sexy Beast) so invaluable - it make me want to write, write, write.
Geoff wrote
at Oct 02, 2010 - 3:23 PM
This was definitely worth the wait!
Geoff wrote
at Oct 02, 2010 - 8:33 AM
Sorry - I just saw the note that you're working on it.
Geoff wrote
at Oct 02, 2010 - 8:32 AM
Ok - no video, and no text so far.

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