Good Will Hunting Movie Review
Director: Gus Van Sant
Starring: Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Stellan Skarsgård, Minnie Driver, Casey Affleck, Cole Hauser, John Mighton, Scott William Winters, Jimmy Flynn, George Plimpton
Oscar Wins: Best Supporting Actor (Robin Williams), Best Original Screenplay
Other Nominations: Best Actor (Matt Damon), Best Supporting Actress (Minnie Driver), Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Musical Score, Best Song ("Miss Misery"), Best Picture
My final creative writing assignment in college was to write a short story about something that was important to me. Matt Damon’s was to write a scene…instead, he wrote a movie. How do you like them apples?!
What started as Damon’s final assignment in his Harvard University playwriting class eventually morphed into Good Will Hunting, an award-winning “Cinderella” dramedy about a group of boys slumming around the streets of working-class Boston.
MIT may be known for its math and engineering programs, but the smartest kid to walk its campus isn’t a student, it’s the guy who sweeps the floors. Headstrong and stubborn, Will Hunting (Damon) is a blue-collar kid with a genius IQ who can tackle the hardest math problems, yet can’t seem to score in the category that counts – his own life.
In mathematical terms, Will’s life is governed by chaos theory. Janitor by day and reckloose by night, Will spends most of his time drinking with his buds. Though he has the smarts to study math, he prefers spending his time doing something he actually enjoys. After all, being a janitor is good, honest work and allows him the freedom to spend his nights as he pleases.
Within the educational walls of MIT, professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård) is attempting to challenge his students with a near impossible math problem, posted outside his classroom. When the problem appears to be solved the next day, Lambeau surveys the class to see who cracked it, but no one fesses up. After a second problem is posted, Lambeau catches Will in the act and attempts to chase him down, only to discover the cops have beaten him to it.
Indeed it’s Will’s temper rather than his intelligence that dominates his life and, when he finds himself in trouble with the law for assault, he’s offered a deal, courtesy of one Professor Lambeau. In exchange for receiving probation, Will must enter private study with Lambeau at MIT and attend mandatory therapy sessions. Begrudgingly, Will agrees.
One by one, a succession of psychologists tries to reach Will, but he won’t cooperate. After putting upwards of five shrinks through the ringer, Will finally meets his match in Sean McGuire (Robin Williams), a college professor and old roommate of Professor Lambeau.
As Sean breaks through Will’s tough exterior, a beautiful bond is formed, and Will comes to realize that the only one holding him back is himself.
Also starring Ben Affleck and Minnie Driver, Good Will Hunting is a classic coming-of-age story that showcases two gifted writers. Damon actually re-wrote his script with fellow actor and childhood friend, Ben Affleck, and their chemistry shows onscreen. Having grown up in Boston, Damon featured his city in a way only a local could, bringing to life the beauty of its ivy league schools, as well as its lower-class slums.
Both Damon and Affleck took home Oscars for Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting. Robin Williams, whose performance was somber and tender, also earned his one and only Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the film.
In the long run, Good Will Hunting is not a groundbreaking story. The ending is sappy and predictable. Taken for what it is, there’s little that’s really special about it. But, as is the case with most character-driven films, it’s the little moments – a talk on a bench, a fight in a bar – not the payoff, that makes this story so memorable.