Good Will Hunting

Gus Van Sant does it again. It's nice to know that somebody out there remembers that filmmaking is about telling stories and captivating audiences. It's true that this film runs much more along the normal road, than the winding, somewhat offbeat (and fascinating) path of his previous films, but is probably assured of attracting a larger scale audience than his previous work. Van Sant already has a dedicated following, but the more the merrier.

(c)copyright: RCV/MiramaxFilms

Among the exciting entourage of attractive young men present on screen this time around is 27-year-old Matt Damon, a real- life ex-Harvard student who plays an MIT janitor in a movie which he also co-wrote. Some stairway to paradise, huh? A real knock out. (Damon's actual debut, for those of you who may not remember, was a one-line role in "Mystic Pizza" with Julia Roberts.) Co-writer and co-star Ben Affleck is a buddy from way back before high school in Cambridge, Massachusetts where the two boys shared acting ambitions. Looks like friendship and dependability are still qualities extant in this world. (According to Robin Williams, they were both so happy and overjoyed when shooting started, that they began to cry. Williams, touched, reassured them that the ultimate reason they were there was no fluke. They had written something special.) The script began life as a scene Matt wrote for playwriting class that afterwards grew into forty pages of dialogue which he and Ben finally spent a year developing until it turned into Good Will Hunting. Without going into the disturbing, frustrating details of the Hollywood machine, purchasing, and turnaround periods during the early stages with Castle Rock, let it suffice to say that, in Damon's and Affleck's struggle to make this the ultimate vehicle for themselves as actors, Miramax became the boys' saving grace and Van Sant continued on board as their leader.

Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is an orphan who likes to go drinkin' with the guys and is not opposed to a good fight; he also happens to be a bit of genius, but nobody of any importance has taken notice of this fact yet. He passes his days working and hanging out with a gang of Southies and imbibes his mental nourishment from the endless books he consumes privately at home. This fluid source of mathematical and historical knowledge, combined with a photographic memory and a knack for problem solving, becomes the source of fascination for math Professor Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgard) who sees in him the incarnation of a natural genius. Managing to get the adolescent thug off on parole with a promise of therapy, the prof calls upon the services of ex-friend Sean McGuire (Robin Williams), a psychiatrist whose unorthodox methods and ideas seem to make him suitable for this case, despite Lambeau's near contempt for the man's shortcomings. The relationships between this trio make the real meat of the movie, as tempers and concepts fly at each other from different directions. Along the way, of course, as boy meets girl in movie-land, Will meets Harvard senior Skylar (Minnie Driver) and a love relationship ensues (naturally accompanied by all the necessarily associated difficulties). When all is said and done, the story is rather conventional and eventually casts all issues, intelligence, and aspirations to the wind, but the viewer feels so good watching it and getting to know the characters, that it doesn't matter at all. (Most will accept that the more important issues of the film are of less importance, as long as there's a happy ending. For General Release.)

Actor Matt Damon as Will Hunting is a good-looking butch lad with what appear to be evenly matched and mixed amounts of temper and sensitivity. Ben Affleck gives a damned good performance too as Chuckie, the buddy from Boston, but the screen time allotted to his character doesn't leave quite as much room for development and his "heart-to-heart" with Will borders on the ridiculous. Robin Williams' Sean is touching and subtle in a different way than he has appeared in his serious roles previously, but many will most likely make unfortunate comparisons between this performance and the ones he has given in "Awakenings" and "Dead Poets Society". Minnie Driver, as Skylar, has finally been cast in a role that will attract the appreciation and admiration she has long deserved time and again for past performances.

Along with stardom and lots of attention, Matt and Ben have already been immortalized in stills by the lens of Bruce Weber. It makes one puff for the rough.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett