Good Will Hunting (1997)

Review

Good Will Hunting

Hype? Sheesh, like no other. This side of Titanic, Good Will Hunting has enjoyed some of the most baffling, gushing praise of the year. Does either film deserve it? Not really.

Let’s look at the facts: You have Matt Damon as Will Hunting — apparently the smartest man on the face of the earth who can also kick anyone’s ass over breakfast, and has a history of run-ins with the law. Oh no! Affleck is his down-to-earth best bud. Driver, the hoity-toity love interest. Williams and Skarsgård as Hunting’s mentors, the guys that rescue him from a prison sentence for assaulting a police officer. And it is made abundantly clear that the film is also about the class stuggle in Boston.

Now that I’ve typed it out, it sounds ridiculous, and the more I think about it, the more it really is. The plot and theme of Good Will Hunting hinge upon the idea that it’s tough for the smartest man in the world to make the move from crumb-bum to respectable member of society. Why? Because (a) ‘just because he has a gift he doesn’t have to use it!’ and (b) he had a troubled childhood. Well, boo hoo!

The more I write, the more it sounds like a topic on ‘Jenny Jones’: Boy Geniuses on the Wrong Side of the Tracks. Right. If any believable character had this guy’s abilities, this movie would have been much different… and probably much shorter, too.

I realize I’m ranting here, but the pop psychology of Hunting reaches such a high level of annoyance so that when Williams tearfully confronts Damon with the film’s signature line of — I kid you not — ‘It’s not your fault,’ it just gets silly. And it lost me.

The script, written by Damon and Affleck, is otherwise humorous and keeps you entertained. Van Sant’s direction is inexplicably amateurish and features some lousy voice dubbing. Williams is pretty good in his role, and for what it’s worth, so is Damon, even though the character is ludicrous. All told, the film has plenty of enjoyable moments, but it’s just not the deep experience the filmmakers want you to believe it is.

And neither was Titanic. That ought to guarantee me plenty of hate mail for the next few weeks. Fire away.

‘It’s not your fault you spilled paint on your clothes,’ says Williams in a tearful moment.