An old review of mine that still rings true, hence my old style of writing a review.
It’s hard to believe that a decade (note: now it has been 15 years) has passed since the release of Good Will Hunting. When you look at the careers of the actors involved in the film, and what they’ve gone on to since the movie, well it certainly makes the film out to be quite an interesting time capsule. This is the movie that skyrocketed Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s names into Hollywood, as well as providing a vehicle to honour the slightly psychotic and mostly annoying career of Robin Williams with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Casey Affleck also got the rub from the movie, and Cole Hauser to a somewhat smaller extent. He’s almost verging on That Guy territory. Speaking of That Guy, I would suggest that no one’s career benefited more than Scott William Winters, since he’s been in numerous projects since Hunting, probably because most casting directors probably just smack their foreheads and exclaim “OH, you’re That Guy from Good Will Hunting!” But enough about the present, let’s talk about this old movie.
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon co-wrote the movie – earning themselves a Best Original Screenplay Oscar – and it was directed by sort of maverick film director Gus Van Sant. You wouldn’t know that Van Sant was a director historically known for quirky or potentially controversial films by watching Good Will Hunting (or Hunting’s bastard step-child Finding Forrester which did nothing but spur on the creation of YTMND) since the subject matter is easily accessible for every audience. So easily accessible that this is another movie that the MPAA screwed over by giving an R-rating because of “strong language, including some sex-related dialogue”. Those fucking prudes. This is a movie about Southies from Boston and the movies have taught me that Southies all have filthy mouths and that is a normal and accepted thing and it feels real.
Okay, so for those of you that don’t know the story, Will Hunting (Damon) is an intellectually gifted youngster, flitting around from job to job, doing work that is far beneath him, carousing with his friends Chuckie (Ben Affleck), Morgan (Casey Affleck) and Billy (Hauser), and getting himself into legal trouble. Hunting was severely abused as a child and bounced from foster home to foster home and since then has built up an emotional wall when it comes to letting people get close to him. Soon Hunting’s life goes from shit to enormous potential, all thanks to solving a math problem written on a blackboard by an MIT Proffessor, Gerald Lambeau (Skarsgård) and beating the shit out of some guy in a neighborhood fight. Lambeau speaks with the judge in charge of Hunting’s case, and offers to take Hunting under his care as long as he gets therapy. Lambeau resorts to Sean Maguire (Williams) – an old school-time friend and Southie – to give Will Hunting the counselling he so badly needs before he destroys his own life.
I know that it doesn’t sound like anything better than a TV Movie of the Week, but the individual parts put so much into the movie that it rises above the level of your average tear-jerker piece of fluff film. Damon was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his performance, and it was a well-deserved nomination. Unfortunately he was up against his future Departed co-star Jack Nicholson, who won for his role in As Good As It Gets. As previously mentioned, Robin Williams picked up a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his wonderfully layered performance. All in all, the movie was nominated for nine Oscars, including a Best Picture nod and a Best Supporting Actress nom for Minnie Driver. There’s a lot to love about the movie, from the performances to the score to the realistic dialogue, it’s got it all.
Well, the only thing I think that Good Will Hunting is missing to push it up to perfect status is the style of directing. I’m not saying that Van Sant did a terrible job or anything, just that it seemed like he phoned it in a bit. He did coax career-making performances out of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, but their future work would show that they nearly always bring their A-games. I don’t want it to seem like I’m punishing Hunting for being an easily accessible film, but I expected a bit more of a challenging style from Van Sant. Still, Good Will Hunting is a tremendously enjoyable film that should be watched by everyone.
4 / 5