Casey Affleck has won all kinds of awards for playing the role of Lee Chandler. This was the main reason I decided to watch Manchester by the Sea. As is often the case when I go into a movie expecting to see something great, I was a bit disappointed.
Our hero, such as he is, is lonely loser who has a crappy job as a maintenance man. He lives in the tiny basement apartment that comes with job and has no patience for the people who bitch and moan about life as he tries to repair whatever needs to be fixed. In his spare time he gets drunk and picks fights in bars. Then he gets word that his brother is in the hospital. Now he has to go back to a city he hates for a couple of weeks to deal with his brother’s death. And he has to deal with his horny teenage nephew.
And then a lot of nothing happens. We see flashbacks of a time when something bad happened. We see flashbacks to a time when something fun happened. We see a lot of people muddling through life. We watch as the nephew fumbles around as he tries to have sex with a couple of girls. There are a lot of pretty pictures of water and quaint New England neighborhoods. I could see that Lee was a moody and often sad fellow, but nothing about his story of self destruction especially touched me.
A couple of minor goals were reached, there was much rejoicing, and life went on about its merry way.
I saw an interview with Jack Lemmon once where he talked about acting. He was working with Billy Wilder. Wilder kept making him do a scene over and over again, asking Jack to take it down a little bit more each time. Jack said:You don’t want me to act at all. Wilder said:Yes, please, don’t act at all. And this, I guess, is what all the critics see as they watch Manchester by the Sea. An actor who is so good he isn’t acting at all.