Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Good Will Hunting

Good Will Hunting; drama, USA, 1997; D: Gus Van Sant, S: Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Minnie Driver, Stellan Skarsgård, Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, Cole Hauser, Rachel Majorowski

Boston. Bad Will Hunting is a 20-year old orphan who constantly fights, drinks and causes mischief, but is incredibly intelligent which enables him to solve complicated math equations. Since he works as a janitor at the MIT, he one day solves a complicated formula and gains the attention of the Professor Lambeau who believes he is a genius. He sends Will to psychiatrist Sean hoping the lad will find discipline and inner peace. Will finds a girlfriend, Skylar, but she goes to study in California while his friend Chuck encourages him to not waste his genius on doing ordinary job as a construction worker. Will leaves to reunite with Skylar.

"Good Will Hunting" stood the test of time and proved to be a worthy, surprise coup for both Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, whose script rightfully catapulted them into the "new kids on the block" on the Hollywood scene. "Hunting" is a philosophical story of what would happen if Ramanujan were a jerk and a juvenile delinquent, a meditation on some people whose intelligence is very high, except for their social intelligence which is very low, as is the case with the title hero. The theme is reminiscent of "Five Easy Pieces", where the hero also decided to take jobs bellow his capacity. Will is indeed a puzzling, sometimes even downright incomprehensible personality: in a sequence near the beginning, he assaults and savagely beats up a lad just because the latter was a bully in kindergarten (!) and even ruins several good moments of building a normal relationship with his girlfriend, Skylar. However, he is a math genius, and is able to learn from his mistakes, which makes him more sympathetic. The story of a "problem child" who just needs some "polishing" is standard, but it is written so beautifully, with such magical dialogues that it melts you away at times, making one wonder why Damon and Affleck never teamed up again to write another script.

Some of the best of these dialogues are spoken by Will's psychotherapist, Sean, which culminated in the now legendary sequence on the bench, where Robin Williams gave the single greatest dramatic quote of his entire career: "I can't learn anything from you, I can't read in some book. Unless you want to talk about you, who you are." In another moment, Sean says: "You're not perfect, sport, and let me save you the suspense: this girl you've met, she's not perfect either. But the question is whether or not you're perfect for each other." Chuckie says some of the funniest tales in the film, but also gives a remarkably serious lesson to Will while they are working at a construction site:"'Cause I'd do anything to have what you got. So would any of these guys. It'd be an insult to us if you're still here in 20 years. Hangin' around here is a waste of your time." Truly strong dialogues. Some melodramatic moments tend to "get stuck" here and there: for instance, the "It's not your fault" scene is almost a soap opera, as is the sequence where Professor Lambeau is on his knees, holding a piece of paper, looking up at Will, giving a sappy monologue about how he wishes he never met Will because he cannot stand the idea that someone like him exists in the world. Other than that, the storyline flows smoothly, and the director Gus Van Sant crafts it untypically conservative compared to his earlier films, while all the performances are excellent, including Minnie Driver, who delivers a wonderfully gentle and lovable character. "Hunting" is a deceivingly relaxed experience: one gets engaged to its events in the opening act, thinking one will get only a casual story about four friends hanging out, but then gets a lot more than expected, and a rich spectrum of a viewing experience.


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