Boston has a long history of being depicted in movies. It is one of those cities which people associate with a certain character. It also has an identity that can be used in many different types of movie, with parts of the city lending themselves to various different themes. We mostly see Boston in its depiction as an intellectual capital (because of the presence of Harvard and other major prestigious universities) and as a location where you find the finest legal minds. The City is very versatile making it perfect for Hollywood filming, in that it can take on a darker aspect, which tends to surprise some people. Take 2006’s film "The Departed" for example: Boston is depicted as having a very different side, where mobsters and cops run around the City, playing cloak-and-dagger games with each other. "The Departed" shows film goers a Boston that outsiders rarely expect to see, where danger and manipulation mingle and form tensions as thick as fog. Thus, we see various areas of Boston through the eyes of mobsters and from the perspectives of those who look to entrap and manipulate characters in the film. This particular film went on to win four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Another great movie filmed in Boston is "Mona Lisa Smile". Although the film is depicted as being in Wellesley rather than in Boston, the City was featured in numerous scenes. The shots of the City were meant to depict the 1950’s era. What completed the effect was that the movie focused on people and the attitudes that defined this era. The set locations simply solidified the overall sense and feel of the movie. Mona Lisa Smile tells the story of a teacher who inspires her female students to go beyond what’s expected of them, while at the same time that going beyond expectations might also mean not conforming to what is expected.
The serious and intellectual air of Boston is also often used for comedic effect. After all, some people say that every comedian needs a straight man to bounce off. Since the atmosphere portrayed by Boston is so serious, it makes comedians stand out and seem even funnier.
An example of a comedic film set in Boston is "Legally Blonde", which is mostly set at Harvard University. In this film, Boston is depicted as a serious place where intellectuals and lawyers rule and where perky, preppy blondes who like to wear pink have no place. Of course, this provides a great contrast with the protagonist character and makes the inevitable resolution of the film that much more enjoyable. This movie is one of those fish-out-of-water stories where you just end up fascinated by the way the place changes the person and vice versa. Another film in this genre is "Mrs. Winterbourne", which doesn’t focus on the academic atmosphere of the City as much as it depicts the "old money" families and that "New England" attitude that conveys seriousness. When a down-on-her-luck girl with less refined upbringing gets to be a part of a wealthy Boston family through a comedy of errors, we see how she tries to adapt to the atmosphere of the city quickly without giving away her secret.
Now that we’ve broached the topic, one of the most commonly depicted faces of Boston in the movies lies in its character as a bastion of learning and knowledge. The community has long been held in high regard as containing some of the best learning institutions in the United States, if not the world. There are a lot of films that take advantage of this perception.
One of the best examples of this is the movie "Good Will Hunting". In this Academy Award-winning film, we see several spots in the City where students hang out and where debates often spark between drinking buddies. The film, written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and directed by Gus Van Sant, tells the story of a young genius who, despite having an extraordinary mind, is kept from fulfilling his potential due to some significant emotional and psychological issues. It also tells the story of how that same young man is guided to overcome these issues by a psychiatrist and more importantly, a friend.
There are a lot more great movies that have been filmed in Boston. Some are period pieces produced to showcase the rich history of Boston, while others are intended simply to capture a whole new facet of the cities personality. Knowing Boston through these movies will paint you a picture of an exciting and captivating city to come and visit.
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