March 10, 2004
Okay, so, a couple of weeks ago, a reader did the greatest thing ever for me. She ran into one of my ex-Boyfriends, Billy Boyd, and scored me this autographed picture! As a huge, big-fat THANK YOU, I offered to make anyone she wanted a Boyfriend of the Week. (Yes, it's true, Meg can be bought. I hope this isn't leading to crushing disillusionment for you guys. Or some kind of crisis of faith. If so, I hear a screening of "The Passion of the Christ" can really put things back into perspective for ya.) She picked Matt Damon, someone I'd kind of purposefully avoided in the past. Not entirely sure why. But hey, I said I'd feature anyone she wanted, and so I dutifully started renting movies and gathering biographical information.
Then something horrible happened. The more I researched Matt, the less of a sacrifice this offer became, and the more I started to feel really guilty about the whole thing. Here I was, promising to feature anyone she wanted, as though that would be some kind of painful reward from me, and it's turned out to be one of the easiest things ever! I mean, can you call it payment for services rendered if it doesn't actually cost you anything? Doesn't seem quite right, does it?
Unfortunately for her, it's too late to go back now because, frankly, I'm all mad for Matt at the moment. I mean, Billy Boyd? Whodat? Gimmie Matt!
Hey! I'm a poet! Or maybe more of a rapper? Or, actually, far more likely, just a dork. . .
Now, after watching about eight Matt Damon movies (most of which I'd seen before, by the way), I realized that you can actually sum up his appeal with a single word. It's interesting, really -- everything you ever needed to know about Matt can be crammed tidily into seven simple letters. And those letters spell out the word EARNEST. Seriously, every time Matt stepped into a frame, this was the word that popped up in my head (you know, soon followed by the word "hubba" repeated twice).
For those of you who think "Earnest" is just one of those horrible names that gets little boys beaten up at recess, you are wholly mistaken. The name is Ernest. Earnest is an adjective. (And if you're still confused, please consult Oscar Wilde.)
Earnest (adj): 1. Marked by or showing deep sincerity or seriousness: an earnest gesture of goodwill. 2. Of an important or weighty nature; grave.
Now, this is not to suggest that I think Matt Damon is all serious, all the time. But, and this is based primarily on his looks more than anything else, he just has the face of someone eminently trustworthy. Someone kind and sincere, someone you could definitely take home to yo' Momma. And the roles I've seen him in only seem to add to this sense. Nine times out of ten, Matt is cast in the part of the serious, intense, decent, hardworking character. The honest, dedicated guy. The guy you just know would walk you home after a date and give you a shy little peck on the cheek when you got to your door. Even when he plays someone unlikeable (rare), it's hard to shake the feeling that that icky exterior isn't just a ruse somehow. It's not that he's not believable as a bad guy -- he can totally pull it off (see "School Ties" for an example). It's just that his bad guys are by their very nature a lot more complex than they would've been had they been played by someone less talented. Like, say, Matt's best pal Ben Affleck.
Note to readers: I do not like Ben Affleck. Actually, no, that's a lie. The truth is that I just don't care about Ben Affleck. Sorry. And before you email me to argue, let me just state for the record that this opinion is, at this time anyway, nonnegotiable. If you'd like to request a refund, please contact the Management at 1-800-BEN-SUKS.
Now, before we get much further, I have some actual business to discuss. Lately I've been feeling like these write-ups are getting downright insane in terms of length. I bet half of you aren't even reading down to the bottom anymore. So, I've been thinking I ought to try tightening them up a bit. But I'm not entirely sure where to make the cuts in content. Should I trim the funny? Cut back on the true confessions? Resist the urge to break into long-winded, parenthetical tangents? (Gasp! Never!) Or simply stop talking about every single movie I've ever seen the Boyfriend in?
It's hard to know just where to drop the axe. But I've decided to try featuring a more abbreviated version of the movie review section this week and see if it helps at all. And so, following is a list of Matt Damon movies I have seen (in which he plays a major character). Instead of giving you a lengthy description of each of them, however, I will simply tell you what Matt's character was, and then rate each film using a special Matt Damon scale I have derived for just this purpose. I've dubbed it the "Importance of Being Earnest" scale, or the "Ernies" for short. Three Ernies means it's a great movie. Two means I liked it and would probably watch it again. One means it was only okay, but I probably won't bother with it in the future. And none means it sucked rocks. These are in reverse chronological order (earliest movies first).
1. School Ties. (racist bastard)
2. Courage Under Fire. (junkie soldier)
3. The Rainmaker. (dedicated lawyer)
4. Good Will Hunting. (smart janitor)
5. Saving Private Ryan. (goodie two-shoes)
6. Rounders. (not-so-reformed gambler)
7. The Talented Mr. Ripley. (psycho)
8. Ocean's Eleven. (con artist)
9. The Bourne Identity. (reformed hit man)
Hey, look! Not a single one with no Ernies whatsoever. Clip and save!
Now for the stuff that will be on the test. Matthew Paige Damon was born on October 8, 1970 in Massachusetts. For the first two years of his life, Matt lived in the Newton district of Boston, an area considered pretty ritzy by those of us who lived in Rhode Island instead (I've heard it called "Snooton" by some, for example). When he was two, however, his parents divorced and he and his brother (Kyle, older, now a sculptor) moved, along with his Mom, to nearby Cambridge.
There, as most of you know, Matt met Ben Affleck and the two became best pals. They both enjoyed performing, and used to organize neighborhood plays together when they were kids (which, coincidentally, is something I used to do with my friends when I was a kid -- dude, we are so made for each other!). Affleck's parents actually had connections in the movie world, but Matt knew he'd really have to work if he wanted to be a star, and so, when he realized that was what he wanted to do with his life, he immediately got serious about it, taking acting lessons, accepting any offer to work as an extra, and essentially doing whatever it took.
At age 16, he decided to take off for New York to see what he could make of himself. Affleck went with him and introduced him to his agent, who instantly cast Mattie in "Mystic Pizza." But though he followed that up with another small role in "The Good Mother," his offers completely dried up soon afterwards. He returned home to fulfill Plan B, enrolling at Harvard University to study English.
While in school, he continued to audition for parts, scoring roles in a couple of films (like "School Ties"). When he was offered the starring role in "Geronimo: An American Legend," however, he dropped out of school (12 credits shy of his degree), thinking he finally had it made. But the movie wasn't much of a success, and pretty soon he found himself living with Ben, the two of them struggling to make ends meet.
As time went on, they began to collaborate on a screenplay, just for kicks. After years of rewrites and polishing, though, they decided to get serious and try to sell it to a movie studio. Nobody was interested, however, and they had just started to give up on it when Castle Rock called to say they'd take it. The caveat? They didn't want to cast Matt and Ben, relatively unknown at the time, as the stars. Lucky for both of them, things changed while they were in negotiations -- Ben's involvement in several of Kevin Smith's movies started to make him look like a good prospect. And when Kev stepped in to support both him and Matt, Castle Rock decided to take a chance on the two boys.
As you all know, that movie was a huge critical success, earning both Matt and Ben an Oscar for Best Screenplay. It was exactly the spark both guys needed, and pretty soon thereafter, they were international movie stars, pulling in millions for every picture.
In the interest of brevity, this is where I'll stop the bio. (And yes, I did just say "in the interest of brevity," despite the fact it's pretty much unheard of for me to be interested in such a thing. Look how hard I'm trying!) Besides, you guys already know where the story goes from here, right? There were the girls, the J-Lo's, the flops, the hits, the whole "Project Greenlight" thing, etc. etc. etc. You can read all about the rest of Matt's story at any one of the sites listed below.
Matt's latest blockbuster, "The Bourne Identity," earned him $10 million, and two sequels are already planned (to which I say, yahoo!). But before that comes a small role in Kevin Smith's next venture "Jersey Girl" (starring Affleck), followed by a starring role in Terry Gilliam's "The Brothers Grimm" (alongside ex-Boyfriend Heath Ledger). This one looks pretty interesting, actually -- it's about two con-artists (The Brothers Grimm themselves) who travel around from town to town pretending to protect people from enchanted creatures and fairy tale baddies. They are put to the test, however, when they themselves encounter a genuine fairy tale curse which requires genuine fairy tale courage to overcome. Sounds bizarre. Me likes. After that one comes "The Bourne Supremacy" and "Ocean's Twelve," both of which seem like pretty sure things in terms of success.
So, yep, it's official -- this week's Boyfriend ain't goin' nowhere anytime soon. His dirty blond hair, crinkly eyes, big fat grin, and earnest Ernieness are going to be everywhere we look for the next foreseeable future. Now, if we can just get a Democrat in the White House, life will be pretty sweet! Oops, did I just say that out loud? Just broke my own no-politics rule. That's it, I'm going to hell.
Hey, here we are at the bottom of the write-up, which didn't end up being much shorter than usual, actually. Anybody still with me? Okay, so Plan A was a miserable failure. Next week, I'll try leaving out every other vowel and see how that works. Don't mss it!
MacGyver Factor Score: 92.465% Points off for the whole Minnie Driver debacle. Remember that story? The two of them were dating, and he actually dumped her ON the Oprah Winfrey Show! How completely devoid of class can you get, Mattie? You're lucky you were young and stupid then, otherwise I might never have been able to give you the benefit of the doubt long enough to get this write-up posted. Points back, though, because I just love the way you laugh -- the way your mouth opens way up and the laughs just kind of burst out of your chest. It's infectious. It's charming. It makes me want to hang out with you socially. Or, you know, anti-socially. Like, for example, alone in a dark place. Wink, nudge.
(Note: as of March 11th, I've already received tons of email telling me this whole Minnie Driver thing ain't true. Every web site seems to have a different variation on what happened, so it's pretty hard to know what really happened. Good thing I just mentioned it briefly, then, and didn't go on and on about it, huh? Thanks for the info, everybody!)