|If you want authentic insight
into the gritty neighborhoods of South Boston, the film
"Southie" will not disappoint. The film follows Danny Quinn
(former New Kid on the Block Donnie Wahlberg) as he returns to the Irish
Catholic working-class neighborhood he fled several years before. Not
much has changed in Southie, but Quinn has. He becomes the support
system for his ailing mother (Anne Meara); his alcoholic sister, Kathy
(Rose McGowan); and his two brothers who are in debt to tough guy Joey
Ward (James Cummings). It is rare to see such a remarkable film with
powerful dynamics and complex characters.
"I saw a lot
of truth in the film," Wahlberg said recently during an interview
at the Lenox Hotel. "I liked the part of this character that wanted
to take care of people and help people. I know what that weight feels
like, so I knew that would help me do a solid job in the film."
The events in
"Southie" were hauntingly familiar to Wahlberg. He grew up in
a large, supportive family in the working-class neighborhood of
Dorchester, MA, not far from South Boston but very separate. After
touring and gaining fame as a member of New Kids on the Block for seven
years, the story behind "Southie" is one to which Wahlberg
town) helped me to know what it was like to come home after experiencing
a new way of life--to see some people haven't changed; some people have
changed for the worse; some people tell you they've changed for the
better, but they haven't. So it's interesting to go away and come back,
because things haven't changed so much. The trick is not to get sucked
back into it, which is what my character is doing."
For Quinn, to
return to the problems in his family after so much time away is
difficult. His sister, Kathy, is on a collision course to
self-annihilation through her alcohol abuse. McGowan plays the role with
actually done two movies with Ben Affleck ("Going All the Way"
and "Phantoms") back to back," McGowan explained.
"When I came off of that, I did this, and I think it was a reaction
to a big special-effects thing that didn't have a lot of heart. I know
what I'm capable of doing as an actor; I just haven't had the
opportunities yet. I try not to be trapped by the thought that people
only like me in one or two roles."
In the past,
McGowan has appeared in teen and "bad girl" roles
("Scream" and "Jawbreaker"). This role in
"Southie" allowed her to stretch her acting muscles. Her
character Kathy is extremely conflicted and succumbing to the depths of
"This is all
from Danny's perspective," McGowan explained. "I'm where he's
come from, I'm what he fought to get away from, and I'm a walking
reminder of one misstep and you're going to be here. That's why she has
trouble with him."
South Boston is
often referred to as the "most dangerous neighborhood in
America" and the "last white ghetto." When McGowan, who
had never been to Boston, told others in Los Angeles that she was doing
a film in South Boston, they expressed concern.
in South Boston are really cool because they like people that don't have
airs, and I like people that don't have airs," McGowan stated.
"They were so lovely to me, and everyone had such big open
Boston has a myth about it," Wahlberg elaborated. "It is a
sheltered place with walls of whatever it is known for--good or bad. Not
many people get inside."
The story behind
the making of "Southie" is compelling. In 1993, a struggling
actor named James Cummings ("Ed's Next Move,"
"Swoon") finished the first draft of a screenplay he called
"The Brass Ring." A native of South Boston, Cummings wrote
about some of his own experiences.
"I had the
gift of aspiration instead of desperation," Cummings said. "I
wrote down what I thought. For me, my father died when I was 12 years
old, and there are a lot of questions that have been unanswered. There
are a lot of things I don't know. These are things I can describe and
put on paper. It's an every-single-day thing, and this movie was based
on love, and that's it."
reached actor and Springfield, MA, native John Shea
("Missing," "Stealing Home," and television's
"Lois and Clark"). Shea and Cummings rewrote the screenplay,
and Shea came on board as director. "Southie" was the first
film to shoot in South Boston ("Good Will Hunting" completed
production afterward, although it was released earlier).
"It was set
in a world that I had never seen done on film before. There was nothing
ever set in South Boston," Shea explained. "Thematically I
thought I could bring things to it that I had been
exploring--particularly this Irish-American tribalism. There was
something about this script that had a ring of truth in it. It is
written from the inside out. It is different and heartfelt."
There is so much
emotion and raw energy in "Southie." There is no doubt that
audiences outside of Massachusetts will emphasize with some aspects of
"Southie," a film about authentic characters with routine
struggles and which draws on the strength of a community to drive the
storyline and messages deep into the soul.
movie about hope, but in a realistic way," Wahlberg emphasized.
"Most people can't hope for the stuff they see in a Hollywood
movie. You can hope that you can work things out on an everyday basis
with your family. You can hope you can have better relationships with
people and strive for better things in a realistic way--to better
yourself, to try to do something good, to make good choices. That is
kind of simple, but people can relate to that."