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Monday, June 6, 2011



Good Will Hunting is a 1997 drama directed by Gus Van Sant that tells the story of an exceptionally intelligent young man who's not quite striving for his potential. When an MIT math professor writes a nearly unsolvable theorem on a hallway blackboard, young janitor Will Hunting (Matt Damon) takes a crack at it and solves the theorem with relative ease. Flabbergasted, Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård) seeks out the mastermind and finds him facing jail-time after a blacktop brawl. Lambeau cuts a deal with the judge, bringing Will under his supervision. He gives him two stipulations: first, he must work on mathematical formulas with him; second, he must see a therapist in order to rid himself of any demons from his past. Will isn't too fond of the idea but figures it's better than spending time in jail. After going through a number of psychologists, he lands on a community college professor named Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) who seems to be the perfect fit. The two work together - often times butting heads - to try to understand how Will's past has affected his current character of non-attachment.

What I've given you above is essentially the basic storyline offered by Good Will Hunting. There are a couple of sub-plots at hand that include Will's best friend Chuckie (Ben Affleck) and his love interest Skylar (Minnie Driver), but to go into detail about the sub-plots would take a lot more time than I'd like to spend on the synopsis. Just know that they're there, and they definitely add important pieces to the puzzle.

Now, I know the first thing you're all thinking is, "How has This Movie Guy never seen Good Will Hunting?" I know, it's probably a little blasphemous considering, but now I can say that I've seen it so we can all stop worrying about my future livelihood! I am a tad bit disappointed in myself for waiting this long to watch this film considering how much I ended up enjoying it. For a long time, I wasn't much of a fan of either Damon or Affleck, so that probably kept me from giving it a chance before today. That being said, let's get into the review.

I thought that the screenplay worked rather effectively. I've always had a bit of beef with any relation to this screenplay. Because Damon and Affleck wrote it and ultimately won an Oscar for it, they are always referred to as "Academy Award winner" so and so. It's not a bad thing, but because the driving force behind their careers has been acting, it just makes it seem like they might have won their Oscar for acting which isn't the case at all. Did they deserve the award for this film? Probably, although I haven't seen all the films it was nominated against. But I digress. The screenplay works well to craft a real and believable character in Will Hunting. It gives him an ambiguous back-story that slowly bubbles to the surface with the help and guidance of Sean Maguire, who's character is equally damaged. In a way, Good Will Hunting works more as a character study than a plot-driven vehicle. We have two major character arcs from our main two men, and they're so complete that I almost want to give Damon and Affleck a standing ovation for their writing effort. They also have a great feel for the setting, crafting dialogue that fits almost perfectly. Kudos, boys. You guys did well in my book.

Fortunately, the acting backs up everything that's so great about the screenplay. Damon is definitely fantastic as our lead, whether he's spouting his random bouts of knowledge or breaking down to his lowest point. Williams is a revelation in his Academy Award-winning role that's a drastic change from anything I've seen him do prior to this point. He's most well-known for his comedy, but he's dabbled in drama now and again, but this might be his most complete dramatic role. Simply brilliant, if I do say so myself. We also get some fantastic performances from our supporting cast, including Skarsgård and Affleck. Minnie Driver is great in her limited amount of screen-time, bringing the only real female presence in the film to the screen and knocking it out of the park. Even a young Casey Affleck brings some much-needed laughter to his small role. All in all, we have a fantastic cast to support the equally fantastic screenplay.

The psychology of the film was really the selling point for me. Having earned my Bachelor's degree in psychology, it's always a fascinating watch when a movie can realistically delve into the psyche of its characters. I was a little blind-sided by this particular film because I see myself as a bit of a combination of Will Hunting and Sean Maguire. In a way, each of them reflects a piece of me, so this film might have been a little more resonant for me than I had originally intended. Was it earth-shattering for me? Not quite, but it definitely opened my eyes a little bit to some of the stuff I've had to endure in my own lifetime. But enough about me - I won't get into my psyche right now; I wouldn't want to bore you.

Overall, I think Good Will Hunting is a fantastic film that definitely deserves a watch. I'm glad I finally had the opportunity to give it a gander as it's easily made it's way onto my list of "greatest films of all time." Oh, and for those of you who've seen this movie, you might enjoy this little clip from the 2001 film, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, where the boys come back to film a (fictional) Good Will Hunting 2:

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: A-
2 Thumbs Up

Addition to Rankings
Greatest All-Time - #174

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