movie film review | chris tookey

Good Will Hunting

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  Good Will Hunting Review
Tookey's Rating
6 /10
Average Rating
8.29 /10
Will ................ Matt Damon , Sean McGuire ........ Robin Williams , Chuckie ............. Ben Affleck
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Directed by: Gus Van Sant
Written by: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck

Released: 1997
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: US
Length: 125

The anti-hero Will Hunting (played by the filmís co-writer Matt Damon, pictured left) is a janitor in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A professor (Stellan Skarsgard, from Breaking the Waves) spots that he is a mathematical genius, and tries to channel his abilities away from a life of manual labour and petty crime.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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But the young man is happy to hang out with his undemanding, blue-collar pals (led by the other co-writer Ben Affleck, from Chasing Amy) and puts up a series of barriers against improving himself and finding emotional involvement - whether with the bright young student (Minnie Driver) whoís attracted to him or the not especially well-balanced shrink (Robin Williams, pictured right) to whom he is sent.

Will Will come good in the end, learn to leave the buddies who are dragging him down, lower his defences, find love and have tearful, man-to-man hugging sessions with Robin Williams? Since this is an American film, you bet. The predictability of the plot and simple-minded faith in psychoanalysis may leave cynics on this side of the Atlantic feeling that Good Will Hunting is a little too glib to rank above such darker analyses of the human spirit as The Ice Storm.

Wildly acclaimed in the States and nominated for nine Oscars, Good Will Hunting is in the tradition of feelgood psychological dramas, such as Dead Poets Society or Rain Man, which probe a little deeper than most Hollywood movies, yet not so deep that theyíre discomforting.

Gus van Sant directs efficently but anonymously, and the way the screenplay takes refuge in speechifying (each leading actor gets his or her own big monologue) is a tip-off that it was written by actors rooted in theatre. Theyíre also clearly fans of the plays of Britainís Peter Shaffer. The idea of a psychatrist learning from his patient is strongly remiscent of Equus, and the jealousy of an acclaimed hack for a younger genius is a dead ringer for Salieriís feelings towards Mozart in Amadeus.

Yet thereís something distinctively filmic about the scenes between Will and his chums. They are evocative of movies such as American Graffiti or Boyz N The Hood, where young men also tried to establish their individuality despite peer pressures.

Though about as innovative as Emlyn Williamsís old play The Corn Is Green, this is a well-crafted, surprisingly wise script to come from two actors in their Twenties; itís also admirably performed. Damon is charismatic and likeable. Even Robin Williams is bearable.

It isnít only patriotism that makes me think that the acting honours are stolen by Minnie Driver, as Mr Damonís love interest. Driver is an actress who inhabits every role - from the big, vulnerable Irish girl of Circle of Friends to the sparky, intelligent student she plays here - with rare realism.

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