That Ain’t Boston “Tawkin” – Fiction

That Ain’t Boston “Tawkin”

by Jody Boyns
illustration by Michael Corcoran

Note: While the content of the following may seem to be of interest only to those in the Boston area, we present it in hopes of fostering increased understanding (and better dialect coaches) for those outside the region. As for the 900 numbers… well, some things are best left unexplained.

They got around to releasing the Harrison Ford/Brad Pitt vehicle The Devil’s Own (after starting only a few rumors about friction on the set to get some much needed publicity), and we finally saw what all of Hollywood salivated over. A Brad Pitt butt shot? Nope. Harrison Ford sporting another facial wrinkle? Nah. It’s Brad Pitt’s Irish accent that caused all the buzz. I saw his vocal training coach on ET trumpeting Pitt’s accent as, “one of the best Brogue accents I’ve ever heard.” I’ve just got one question to ask. Where was this vocal genius when all the movies revolving around Boston-based characters were being made?

Honestly, if I call one more 900 number and get an operator at the other end saying, “Oh, you’re from Boston. You don’t sound like one of the gang from Cheers,” I’ll scream! Worse yet, most actors have no idea how to parlay a true Boston accent to the big or small screen. A few of the more forgettable examples follow:

ONCE AROUND (1991) Holly Hunter plays a woman named Renata, but I was hoping it was “Piñata” because I wanted to beat the crap out of her with a stick every time she chirped in her terribly stereotypical Boston accent. The always voluptuous Laura San Giacomo fared little better with her diction.

Worst line “My brutha is a plumba.”

BLOWN AWAY (1994) Remember the other mad bomber movie in the summer of 1994? This was the one that really bombed inside AND outside of the movie theater. It didn’t fizzle because it was worse than Speed, though. No, the real reason was the accents. Jeff Bridges plays Jimmy Dove, an Irish born bomb specialist plying his trade in Boston, who must deal with Tommy Lee Jones’ IRA bomber (Dove & IRA – now I see the true brilliance of this movie). Bridges’ accent is probably the best of the bunch (that’s not saying a a lot) although Jones’ dialect changes at least three times during the course of the movie and I defy anyone to tell me what kind of accent he was using when he was flying that kite on the beach.

Worst line “My fatha got killed by a bomba.”

BEFORE AND AFTER (1995) Okay, we knew Edward Furlong would be terrible. That’s a given. But Liam Neeson and Meryl Streep? Come on. After hearing them speak one line of dialogue apiece I was about as convinced that they were from Massachusetts as I was that Michael Dukakis would win the presidential election in ’88.

Worst line “Offica, our son’s not a killa.”

CELTIC PRIDE (1996) I don’t know what made me feel worse – waiting in line for over an hour to be an extra in this stinker (can you say loser?) or Dan Aykroyd’s phony Boston accent. Daniel Stern, playing Mike O’Hara to Aykroyd’s Jimmy Flaherty, is no misplanted Bostonian either.

Worst line “I’m a plumba, he’s a teacha, put us togetha and you get two losas.”

QUIZ SHOW (1994) Hands down, the worst attempt at a Boston accent was made by Rob Morrow, playing federal prosecutor Richard Goodwin in this 1994 Oscar nominated film. It should’ve gotten a Razzy for Morrow’s butchering of the language though. I believe he probably listened to tapes of the atypical banter of John F. Kennedy for his vocal articulation. Aside to Mr. Morrow – No one in Boston speaks like the Kennedys BUT the Kennedys! What amazed me most about the performance (and something I’m honestly surprised no one picked up on) was the fact that it wasn’t really a Boston accent he was using. It was a Maine accent through and through. When he said, “Ah, actually I’m from Brookline” at the Charles Van Doren picnic table scene I screamed, “No you’re not! I used to live in the next town over and if you spoke like that, they would’ve pulled you from your house, strapped you to the back of a car, and dragged your tongue along Comm Ave until you stopped talking like a Maine-iac.”

Worst line Anything by Morrow including, “This cah has powah.”