Monday Face/Off – Matt Damon

Megan (roleplays the “It’s not your fault” scene from Good Will Hunting every night before bed):
Ok… Time to be honest. When Matt Damon first hit the scene I didn’t get what all the fuss was about. He was passably good looking, certainly talented enough to pull off both acting and writing, but beyond that not really interesting enough to set him apart from the dime a dozen. All that floppy blonde hair, dumping Minnie Driver on Oprah and being Ben Affleck’s best friend just didn’t help to endear him in my eyes. I watched Saving Private Ryan because it’s Spielberg, people!, and Dogma just because the idea of Kevin Smith and Alan Rickman together cracks me up. When The Bourne Identity came out it was the promise of the action genre that enticed me into the cinema rather than his star quality but it is here that I came upon my transformation.

Watching Matt Damon as Jason Bourne was like drawing the curtain back on his talent as an actor. That moment when his whole face transforms from a dopey sleep to complete shock as his latent skills break the surface still holds a corner of my mind. Just that flip in emotion not only completely summed up our sense of the character but also proved his ability for impeccable conveyance. The man launched one of the most lucrative franchises and brought to each instalment a solid passion and some crazy fighting skills. You cannot deny that just this, if nothing else, pushes him well into the running for legendary status!


Kayleigh (didn’t even like The Departed):
You know how, in a really good sandwich, the butter is pretty much the most insignificant thing about it? Matt Damon is the personification of butter. He’s butter, Megan. And you know what? A lot of the time a sandwich tastes just as good without the butter – I’m thinking anything with mayonnaise, basically. Because mayonnaise is better than butter. You know who represents mayonnaise in this ridiculous sandwich metaphor? Pretty much all other actors out there. He’s even admitted it himself: “Usually the scripts I get have got Brad Pitt’s fingerprints on them, or Leonardo DiCaprio’s.”

You know why that is? Because he’s cool playing backup boy to all the other amazing actors out there. He does it well – apparently he even manages to trick some reviewers into praising his “impeccable conveyance” or some such nonsense. But no, I can’t pretend he’s the god of action heroes. I can’t try and pretend I don’t think a better man would have turned down the cinematic atrocity that was We Bought A Zoo. Or Contagion. Or, you know, Happy Feet Two. And I can’t keep pretending that I haven’t noticed his constant ramblings about how Jason Bourne is nothing like the “repulsive” James Bond. Because you know what, Matt? He’s EXACTLY like James Bond. Ridiculously so.


Butter? Butter, Kayleigh? That’s the only analogy you could come up with? That in itself says so much! But for the sake of our argument I shall continue on to disprove your unfounded assumption that sandwiches taste just the same without butter! The mere mechanics of a sandwich requires butter, for Pete’s sake! Without it the bread just won’t stick to the filling and everything will fall out, leaving you with only with dry bread in your hand and slabs of meat on your desk. Butter is pivotal as a binding agent but also has a added benefit of subtly bringing in another touch of flavour.

This is exact same effect Matt Damon has on any project he joins. Look at the big name directors who have been drawn to him, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Steven Soderbergh, Clint Eastwood, men of great stature and legendary appeal who saw in him as an actor capable of not taking over the show but complimenting the work. He can hang with guys and become part of a whole à la Ocean’s Eleven or he can take on the whole responsibility and pull of stunning character work like Mark Whitacre in The Informant. That kind of versatility is what butter is all about and what makes Damon a great man of acting.


You’ve clearly never had a sandwiched “buttered” with lashings of mayonnaise, Megan. I shall deliver you one tomorrow and, upon tasting it, I think you’ll take back everything you’ve ever thought about the humble sarnie. Your life will be TRANSFORMED. And, you know, your thoughts about Matt Damon will be changed forever too. Ahem. He can “hang with guys”, can he? I know many other far less famous humans who also possess this skill – but that doesn’t make them anything worth bragging about. And versatility? He’s done The Adjustment Bureau AND The Bourne Identity which, to be honest, are essentially the exact same movie. He’s not the sort of actor who slips seamlessly into the workings of his movies, either. Normally I forget I’m watching Robert De Niro or Jack Nicholson – they sort of dissolve into the story and become part of it. Matt Damon? I’m just like… so there’s Matt Damon. Again. A film shouldn’t be a collection of parts, it should be one seamlessly running machine – and I’m just not so sure that the Matt Damon cog does anything for it. Getting butter into the mechanics is never great, y’know?


Mmmm… Mayo… But no! I will stand my ground. Butter is essential and so is Matt Damon. Have we forgotten the Talented Mr. Ripley? Or Stuck on You? Or Green Zone? Would these movies be what they are without Matt Damon’s understated skills? No they would not! Damon made these roles what they are and in each he brought a different side of his talent out. In TMR he slipped from unassumingly endearing to quietly menacing. Together with Greg Kinnear he made being conjoined look easy and showed us what his shy side would be like. For GZ he not only got tough and burly but also took on the controversy of American relations overseas with dignity and determination. He is convincing at every turn so much so that you actually find yourself rooting for a character who is a POLITICIAN in The Adjustment Bureau.


He made being conjoined look easy? I’m just… I can’t… Megan, I can’t. I just can’t deal with that as a statement. He made being conjoined look easy. Wow. Okay. If that’s what you want from your favourite actors, then you go ahead. But I really don’t think he inspired people to couple up and run to their local plastic surgeon with a needle and thread, you know? It didn’t look THAT easy – and it’s horribly unrealistic. And why on earth are you citing Stuck On You as a good film in the first place? STUCK ON YOU? AS A GOOD FILM? Let’s just remind ourselves of what happens in Stuck On You, shall we? Ooh, look, Matt Damon and his conjoined twin Greg Kinnear are trying to sunbathe but they can’t. Because they’re conjoined. Cue the imminent LOLZ, right? Or maybe the bit where they try to cook a fancy meal, but can’t, because they’re conjoined? Hilarious. Or, you know, an awkward sex scene, which becomes infinitely more awkward when they remember that, oh yeah, they’re conjoined? It’s awful, Megan. He made being conjoined look easy. There’s just no dealing with people like you, is there?


Let’s get one thing straight! I wasn’t saying that Stuck on You was a particularly good movie… More that Matt Damon did quite a good job with the material he was given and the circumstances he was put in. I will now readily admit that the choice (given his body of work has much more to pick from) was probably a bad one but I should be excused for this oversight on the grounds that I am still quite high from my Dixit win!

But returning to my argument: Matt Damon is a hard working actor. Not just in terms of the number of projects he takes on but also in the manner in which he commits to them. He has lost, gained, lost and then gained weight again for numerous roles; he tended bar in Knoxville, TN, for free just so he could perfect his Southern accent for The Rainmaker; and he shaved his head so he could wear a wig in The Brothers Grimm. It’s this kind of work ethic that has led to Forbes Magazine naming him as Hollywood’s “best value”. And damnit they are right!


I’m excusing nothing; I told you I was a sore loser and you beating me at Dixit has only made me MORE desperate to win this argument. Sure, when Matt Damon is in the lead of a film, he’s memorable. But when he’s in something as a peripheral being like, say, Saving Private Ryan or Ocean’s Twelve, he kind of blends into nothingness. Otherwise, as I’ve mentioned, he just sticks out as Matt Damon. And it’s not just me who thinks it either; his acting skills are mocked mercilessly in Team America for that VERY SAME reason:

He lost weight. He gained weight. Is this a skill? Is eating or not eating food really a skill? IS IT MEGAN? IS PUTTING ON A WIG OR SHAVING YOUR HEAD A SKILL? Because Britney Spears did it and she got called out for having a nervous breakdown.

I just think we’ve established Matt Damon is very hard to have an opinion about. He’s neither here nor there. He’s not spectacular but he’s not awful. He’s not memorable or forgettable. He’s basically very alright. In short, he’s butter. And that’s the last word I’ll say on the matter.


Where do you stand on *stupid voice* Maaatt Daaamon? Let us know below!


By JLSB Sirisena and Kayleigh Dray

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