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Good Will Hunting

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Good Will Hunting

Starring: Matt Damon, Robin Williams
Director: Gus Van Sant
Rated: R
RunTime: 126 Minutes
Release Date: December 1997
Genres: Drama, Romance

Review by Andrew Hicks
3 stars out of 4

At the time of the 1998 Oscars, I had seen four out of five Best Picture nominees. The only one I hadn't seen was GOOD WILL HUNTING, and it took another three months to remedy that. I don't know why I had the motivation to go see theatrical movies like WILD THINGS and GODZILLA while neglecting this movie, but now that I finally have seen GOOD WILL HUNTING, my question is, why all the hoopla? It's a good movie, yeah, but not really Oscar quality.

My personal theory is that the Hollywood community didn't expect much out of a movie written by pretty-boy actors like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, and the fact that GOOD WILL HUNTING actually was good bowled the Oscar folks over. Otherwise, it's a routine Prodigy Rebel Who Doesn't Want To Get Close To Anyone Or Do Much With His Life drama that comes complete with a cross-tracks, cross-continental romance that begins, ends and resumes on schedule and an eccentric father-figure who is the only person who can break through to the Prodigy Rebel.

Damon is the genius in question, a 20-year-old janitor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That must be impressive when he comes across someone who mops floors at a state university. ("Oh yeah? I'm an Ivy League janitor!") Even more impressive is the fact that he solves a medal-winning professor's proof that is posted in a hallway. He's a very smart boy, you see, but he hangs out with slackers like Affleck who spend most of their time drinking and getting into fights.

It's after one such fight that Damon heads off to prison, where they love guys with butts as nice as his. The judge is unimpressed with his citing of legal precedents from the 1700s and only releases him when the MIT professor intercedes. In addition to helping him with difficult mathematical formulas, Damon has to see a therapist every week. A few amusing scenes ensue as Damon manages to drive away a series of therapists.

We know from seeing Oscar-boy Robin Williams' name in the credits that he's going to be the one that ends up helping the kid Love Life. The Williams character is dangerously close to the DEAD POETS SOCIETY mold but is a complicated and well-written one. If there's any one good thing about GOOD WILL HUNTING, it's that all the characters know what each other's problems are and can have the kind of articulated arguments that only come across in movies.

Still, it's a copout that the only thing holding Damon's character back is that he was beaten as a child. His diatribe about having cigarettes put out on his body made me wonder just how many movie characters have been used as ashtrays. It's a pretty convenient dramatic device that dates back, at least, to John Hughes and THE BREAKFAST CLUB. And even more of a copout that all it takes to solve Damon's problems is for Williams to keep saying, "It's not your fault" over and over again.

I can complain all I want but the truth is Damon and Williams both did terrific work in this movie. Affleck, on the other hand, isn't around much and, when he is, he more or less plays the same addled but charming character he always has. You know, the kind that inevitably says, "I ain't the smartest guy on the block, but I do know this..." And Minnie Driver, she's charming, but why the hell was she nominated for this movie? As the Harvard pre-law love interest, her British ass is around for maybe 20 minutes total. I think she did better in GROSSE POINT BLANK.

Good work for a couple of kids, but it's no TITANIC.

Copyright 1997 Andrew Hicks

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