Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rebecca Hall and "The Town"

For me the most entrancing and surprising parts of Ben Affleck's masculine, playing-by-the-rules heist flick, The Town, are the moments with promising young actress Rebecca Hall.  Hall plays Claire, a Prious-driving bank manager, recent transplant to Boston's crime-laden berg of Charlestown.  She's a bank manager held hostage by Affleck's gang of second-generation movie grifters, only to later embark on a romantic entanglement with Affleck's Doug MacRady.  Much of the press on The Town has been pointed on the media-bait hook of Affleck nicely calibrated career resurgence from Hollywood pretty boy and tabloid-magnet, to serious and committed filmmaker, and while that's all well and good; I agree the boy is doing well-- The Town is a nice companion piece to his first film behind the camera, the likewise Boston-set crime drama, Gone Baby Gone (2007), the prime motivation for me is the poise and subtle fragility of Hall's performance.  Certainly not set on making Claire a tragic portrait of a good woman done wrong, she anchors the otherwise well-made, if all-too conventional, film with a conscience; an adroit questioning of heart vs. brain desire, and delightfully serves the film with it's only non-movie-land cliche.

In the past few years, Hall has shown a great aptitude for impressing with her range and gameness in a variety of films.  From The Prestige (2006) and Frost\Nixon (2008), she may have only served as hangers-on to her more established male leads, but impressed as eye candy, essaying an intelligence and instinct her filmmakers perhaps weren't interested in.  Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008), netted Hall a Golden Globe nomination, and also a wonderful character portrait of a young, controlled woman who learns that perhaps what she thought she wanted wasn't so all; it's easily one of the better Woody Allen female characters in the past decade.  And earlier this year she brought such warmth and complicated humanity to the funny and smart Please Give (2010), a criminally under-looked chamber piece of guilt and pain, mixed with a remarkable sense of humor.  The Town gives her widest opportunity to shine, and see does, against a sprawling, well put together ensemble including Affleck, Jeremy Renner (whose "only in the movie" character benefits solely by the dangerous, unpredictable glint in his eye), Pete Posthewaite, Jon Hamm, Chris Cooper, and Gossip Girl Blake Lively (slumming it, in a gritty and mostly agreeable way.)

I liked the film, I swear, and for lively, adult-driven entertainment it's likely the best bet right now, however, I hope the films success will net more showcases for the ethereal and wondrous Ms. Hall.  The Town  B  Hall  A-

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