It was reported last December that Ben Affleck, 45, was grappling with a drinking problem. Whatever progress he may be making in that realm now (and as a six-years-sober person I wish him all the best), he looks, no offense, like a guy who needs more discipline in his life. He’s put on a fair amount of weight over the last two or three years. I won’t be sharing, but to be perfectly honest I’ve heard stories. Whatever Ben has been doing (and the particulars are none of my business), he needs to turn things around.

If you’re a big-time movie star who started out buff and trim in the ’90s and then gradually became pudgy and man-booby when you hit your 40s as you grew a Charles Bukowski beard, you’re literally begging for adverse comment from journalists and Twitter and everyone in between. Hence, Naomi Fry‘s “The Great Sadness of Ben Affleck,” which appeared four days ago in The New Yorker.

“Affleck was on the beach in Honolulu, shooting the Netflix action movie Triple Frontier. As his younger co-stars, the actors Garrett Hedlund and Charlie Hunnam, wrestled in the surf like purebred puppies, Affleck, who is forty-five, was photographed wading into the ocean carrying a small red life preserver, running in the shallow waters, and towelling off on the beach.

“His back tattoo — so gargantuan that the bird’s tail found itself dipping below the waistband of Affleck’s blue swim trunks — was plainly visible. In one image, the actor stands alone, looking off into the middle distance. His gut is pooching outward in a way that, in a more enlightened country like, say, France, would perhaps be considered virile, not unlike the lusty Gerard Depardieu in his prime but, in fitness-fascist America, tends to read as Homer Simpsonesque. A blue-gray towel is wrapped protectively around his midsection, recalling a shy teen at the local pool.

“Staring at the water before him, his gaze obscure and empty, Affleck is a defeated Roman senator, or, perhaps, the most anti-Romantic version imaginable of Caspar David Friedrich’s 1818 ‘Wanderer in the Sea of Fog.’ The image suggests not just the fall of Affleck but the coming fall of man. There is something about this exhausted father that reflexively induces panic. We’ve been living in a world run by Afflecks for so long, will we even know ourselves when they’re gone?”