Monday, November 9, 2009

#433: Good Will Hunting (1997)

Director: Gus Van Sant
Cast: Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Minnie Driver, Ben Affleck & Stellan Skarsgård

At MIT, a professor posts an equation on a blackboard in the hallway which took years for the professor to solve. He assures the class that anyone who can solve it by the year's end is a genius. Somebody does in fact solve the equation, and only days after it is posted: Will Hunting, a custodian in the building who is under parole. The professor makes a deal with the court to have them release Will, under two conditions: he studies mathematics personally with the professor, and he undergoes therapy to reason out his previous criminal record.

Good Will Hunting is best known for putting Matt Damon and Ben Affleck into the spotlight. True, they had appeared in several films prior to this film (both in Chasing Amy, and Damon had the lead role in The Rainmaker), but this film confirmed their viability as greats in the film industry. This is one of two scripts the two had co-written, the second being Gerry, which was released to mixed reviews.

I don't think I'm alone in stating that Matt Damon is much more talented than Affleck, who paradoxically seems to have taken Hollywood to his head. Damon was able to demonstrate a great array of emotions in this film, which I consider to be one of his two best roles to date (the other being the title role in The Talented Mr. Ripley). Affleck, on the other hand, merely shows his ability to put on a Boston accent in this film.

This is the first role I've ever seen for Minnie Driver in which I was genuinely impressed. True, my knowledge of her roles are extremely limited (Grosse Pointe Blank, The Phantom of the Opera and... ahem... Ella Enchanted). This film makes me want to see more of what she's got to offer. One of the scenes between her and Damon was the most dramatic in the film, as far as I'm concerned, and she pulled it off flawlessly.

Of course, Robin Williams is as great as ever. Though since 1996, I just can't see him in any film without imagining him as Mrs. Doubtfire. Kinda spoils the effect.

But really, what makes this film so great is the writing, especially coming from two writers who we never knew could write before. The script is not only quite genuine, representing Cambridge, Massachusetts accurately, but it's also extremely smart (in both the mathematics talk - which, however, could be all b.s. as far as I know - and psychologically). Kudos to Damon and Affleck.

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):
  • Director Gus Van Sant at one point asked Matt Damon and Ben Affleck to rewrite the script so that Chuckie is killed in a construction accident. Damon and Affleck protested, but reluctantly wrote the scene in. After Van Sant read it, he agreed that it was a terrible idea.
  • The scene where Sean and Will are in his office, and Sean starts talking about his dead wife and her farting antics. These lines were ad-libbed by Robin Williams, which is probably why Matt Damon is laughing so hard. If you watch the scene carefully you can notice the camera shaking, probably due to the cameraman laughing as well.

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