Good Will Hunting

1997



This might qualify as a "boy" movie. Not like TOP GUN or CON AIR but like DEAD POETS SOCIETY or FIELD OF DREAMS. My theory about "girl" movies is that usually the most important idea in a "chick flick" is that a woman learns to believe in herself so that she isn't dependent on something [a man, job, motherhood]. She is declaring her independence. I usually like these types of films, because as a boy, I have completely different things to prove. A "boy" movie, like GOOD WILL HUNTING has the main character declaring his independence from fear. Since our society has completely different roles for men and women to play, these roles are reflected on screen as well. I say this because I absolutely loved this movie, but I'm afraid that it might be a 'boy thing'.

Will, Chuckie, Morgan, and Billy grew up in South Boston where they still live. They get and lose jobs, drink in a local pub, and look for women and fights. There isn't much money, but they have each other. They realize that they'll probably die in South Boston without having made much of a dent anywhere else in the world. Will is different than his buddies, however. Although he works as a janitor and, later, a construction laborer, he is a genius. Not like the smartest guy in his high school, but the smartest guy in the time zone. He explains his gift to a friend later. "Mozart looked at a piano and he understood it completely. I can't play piano or paint, but when I look at a Chemistry or Math book, I understand it. I know it." He reluctantly uses his gift, but seems more at ease drinking with his buddies.

As Will Hunting, Matt Damon is absolutely convincing. As is Ben Affleck who plays Chuckie. Damon and Affleck wrote the screenplay and it's obvious that they actually know the geographical areas they're writing about. The two of them have the accents down, the slang, the mannerisms. Anyone who knows a young person brought up in the Boston area, knows that it's a hard mannerism to fake. These guys do it perfectly. Not so convincing is Robin Williams. There's no way that his character grew up in South Boston. More about Williams later. I absolutely believed that these guys were all friends in real life. I believed that they thought that Harvard was a distant dreamland where spoiled kids with trust funds spent four years of vacation.

Minnie Driver plays Damon's love interest and it's apparent that they truly cared about each other while the filming was going on. At the time of this writing they're an off screen couple. [Wasn't Damon an off screen couple with Claire Danes after RAINMAKER? Maybe he's the new Mr. Beatty.] There's something special about real life people falling in love as their characters do. [Beatty and Bening in BUGSY, Winona and Johnny in EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, and the most magical in my opinion, don't laugh, Whoopi and Danson in MADE IN AMERICA. When they looked at each other I forgot all about the ridiculous plot points and the monster truck chase.] Anyway, back to this film. You can tell in cuddle scenes when the actors are fond of each other and while Driver is probably a good enough actress to convey these feelings, there was that something extra in her eyes that made their scenes together more funny, goofy, or heartbreaking than they otherwise would have been.

Now, about Robin Williams. Everyone has a certain actor or actress who turns their stomach. I have a friend who hates Sandra Bullock because she probably slept with Matthew McConaughy and how dare she? I'm not talking about that kind of (jealous) hate. There are people who are sick and tired of seeing Richard Gere speak about the god forsaken Dalai Lama, but I'm not talking about that either. A lot of people hate Pauly Shore because his movies suck. But this is different. Imagine a man who is a multiple award winner, top money-maker, constant talk show guest, winning the raves of people near and far, but STILL YOU CAN'T STAND HIM. That man to me is Mr. Robin Williams. I often try to figure out why he affects me in such a negative way. My father says it's because of some deep seeded jealousy I have for the speed of his brain. I don't think so.

I've lived the last 16 years of my life, mostly, in the Bay Area. In high school I remember hearing stories from struggling up-and-coming stand-up comics about how their best material was stolen by Mr. Williams and used as his own on some National special, maybe even on HBO. I grew tired of his 'ad-libbed' stage act where he would say such hilarious things as 'this place is like ed sullivan on speed', then he's switch to his valley dude voice, or his black voice, or his english accent. He never had an act, per se, and the direction of his 'ad-libs' were always predictable. Lately HBO has been showing clips of old comedians and the one they pick for Robin Williams is when he does 'Elmer Fudd sings Bruce Springsteen' It's literally a one joke bit but he does the whole song and the crowd goes wild. I must confess that he is funnier during the Comic Relief shows when his hyperkeneticness is offset by Whoopi and Billy. He's made dozens of critically acclaimed films.

There's a critic in San Francisco that points to his facial hair as the telltale sign of his 'seriousness' or 'wackiness'. I enjoyed DEAD POETS SOCIETY and I really enjoyed AWAKENINGS and I loved GOOD WILL HUNTING. That's about it. I believe he had a beard in all of them. I did not like GOOD MORNING VIETNAM although I love Barry Levinson and after that film was released the rest of the world crowned Mr. Williams the best actor in world history. I absolutely hated, in fact would rather go to the dentist than see THE FISHER KING again. He was terrific in this film, but I kept waiting for him to mess up, which is obviously my fault. My incredible digression is just about over, the point being, if you like Mr. Williams at all, then there is probably no other reason not to love this film completely.

This movie said some honest things about the state of intelligence. On a more personal level I was struck by a scene in which a Harvard undergrad begins dissing Will and his crew in front of a girl. The guy begins spouting economic theory that is way above the heads of three of the guys, but then Will steps in and quotes each and every book that the Harvard guy is citing, showing the others that the guy had no ideas of his own, he simply repeated what the 'great thinkers' had written earlier. At first I was stoked that the snobby, dickhead, spoiled Harvard guy was getting dissed in public, but then I thought how many of us have read something and repeated it to a less informed person, making us look smarter. How much thinking for ourselves do we actually do. Is Will actually brilliant, or is he just better at remembering things? I knew a girl in college who claimed to have a photographic memory. Once she read something, it was supposedly there forever. There was no thinking required, yet she was considered 'smart' to those around her.

This film creates a specific time and place and uses it as the backdrop to a story about what a person owes to their natural talents. Excellent.

Will Hunting . . . Matt Damon [Mystic Pizza, The Good Mother, School Ties, Courage Under Fire, Chasing Amy, The Rainmaker]
Sean McGuire . . . Robin Williams [Homicide: Life On The Streets (TV), Friends (TV), Good Morning, Vietnam, Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Awakenings, Cadillac Man, Dead Again, The Fisher King, Hook, Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar, The Birdcage]
Chuckie . . . Ben Affleck [School Ties, Dazed And Confused, Chasing Amy]
Skylar . . . Minnie Driver [Circle Of Friends, GoldenEye, Big Night, Sleepers, Grosse Pointe Blank]
Lambeau . . . Stellan Skarsgard [The Unbearable Lightness Of Being, The Hunt For Red October, Wind, Breaking The Waves, Amistad]
Morgan . . . Casey Affleck
Billy . . . Cole Hauser
Cinematography by Jean-Yves Escoffier
Written by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon
Directed by Gus Van Sant, Jr. [Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho, Kids, To Die For]

Theater
126 minutes
Color
R
USA

This Was Written On January 12, 1998

Synopsis:
A delinquent working-class youth with a gift for mathematics has a difficult choice to make: continue working as a janitor, and drinking and brawling with his friends, or become a highly paid resident genius with a powerful corporation.

Ratings:
8.3 A Consensus of 40 Critics
7.5 Ebert

Praise:
~~Best Picture of 1997 - - Academy Award Nominee
~~Best Director of 1997 for Gus Van Sant - - Academy Award Nominee, DGA Nominee
~~Best Original Screenplay of 1997 for Ben Affleck and Matt Damon - - Academy Award Winner, WGA Nominee, National Board of Review
~~Best Actor of 1997 for Matt Damon - - Academy Award Nominee, SAG Award Nominee
~~Best Supporting Actor of 1997 for Robin Williams - - Academy Award Winner, SAG Winner
~~Best Supporting Actress of 1997 for Minnie Driver - - Academy Award Nominee, SAG Award Nominee

Amazon:
DVD Collector's Edition
DVD Regular Edition
VHS
Screenplay
Soundtrack
Matt Damon
Robin Williams
Minnie Driver
Ben Affleck
Gus Van Sant




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