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Good Will Hunting (1997)
- Top Ten Buddy Movies (#4)
Good Will Hunting is a 1997 drama film directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver, and Stellan Skarsgård. Written by Affleck and Damon, and with Damon in the title role, the film follows 20-year-old South Boston laborer Will Hunting, a genius who is forced to see a therapist (Williams) and study advanced mathematics with a renowned professor (Skarsgård) in order to avoid jail time. Through his therapy sessions, Will re-evaluates his relationships with his best friend (Affleck) and his girlfriend (Driver) while confronting his emotional issues and making decisions about his future. Good Will Hunting was both a critical and financial success. It grossed over US$225 million during its theatrical run, more than twenty-two times its $10 million budget. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning two: Best Supporting Actor for Williams and Best Original Screenplay for Affleck and Damon.
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.