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Good Will Hunting (1997)

R · 126 minutes

Directed by Gus Van Sant
Written by Matt Damon, Ben Affleck

 · Robin Williams
 · Matt Damon
 · Ben Affleck
 · Stellan Skarsgård
 · Minnie Driver

Review by Thom Stricklin

Yes, it's "that movie with Mork from Ork in it." I hesitate to admit this, as it seems almost cliché at this point to say it, but what the heck...  "This is my favorite movie." There, I said it.  And yes, it seems to be the movie that every young aspiring screenwriter looks up to these days.  But there's good reason for it.




For such an inaugural attempt in so many areas, it's amazing how well made this film is.  Van Sant's directing could be better, but it is never lacking.  He takes scenes that could be quite boring visually and turns it into something greater, like a psychiatrist's transformed into a makeshift baseball diamond.  His camera work is somewhat static, but effectively so, reserving motion for times of heightened tension and emotion.  And in spots where the camera stays too still, Van Sant makes up for it with effective angles and verticle tilts.

Acting is solid across the board.  There's no doubt Robin Williams deserved the Oscar he took home for this role...  Think what you might about his work since, but Good Will Hunting is the best of his career.  The same can be said for Matt Damon, who is never less than convincing in the titular role as an isolated, temperamental youth with a detachment disorder.  Damon and Williams both execute perfectly, exhibiting precisely the jumble of anger and other emotions we'd expect from two people with such hidden demons.  Supporting cast is no less impeccable; Affleck must wish he'd given himself more screen time, as it's general consensus that the Southie roughneck Chucky is his best role.  Stellan Skarsgard, Casey Affleck, and Cole Houser, do splendidly, though their roles are far less complex.

Yes, there are some simplicities taken in the screenplay.  The cowriters admit themselves (in the DVD feature commentary) that the ending is rather typically "happy-for-all".  Rather than hurting the story, however, I think this is exactly what propelled it to the Oscar stage and to the hearts of people everywhere.  That Affleck & Damon were capable of making idealism & optimism shine through such morally ambiguous characters is their great feat.




If anything could keep people from enjoying this film, it is the understandable but liberal use of profanity.  It is understandable, as Affleck & Damon grew up in Boston culture and felt the language contributed to the film's authenticity.  Even still, I imagine some might not be able to get past it.

Thankfully, it doesn't bother me a bit, and I'm left to enjoy a movie front to back.  The rapport between the characters--in fact, no doubt, the actors at well--keeps the rather serious tale surprisingly enjoyable throughout.



If you're quite sensitive to profanity, you take a bit of a risk seeing this movie.  For the most part, however, I have no doubt this is a film anyone with an appreciation for heart and depth will enjoy this film.  Now, if you'll excuse me...  I have to go see about a girl.

475 Words · Published: 12 March 2003

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