Good Will Hunting is a 1997 American drama motion-picture directed by Gus Van Sant, also known for films such as ‘Drugstore Cowboy’, ‘Psycho’ and ‘Finding Forrester’. Starring an ensemble cast of Matt Damon, Robbin Williams, Ben Affleck and Stellan Skarsgard, the story centres on Will Hunting (Matt Damon), a brilliant but hot-headed janitor who takes a journey of self-discovery in dealing with his bitter past while also shaping his future.
Acting and Character performances.
Easily one of my favourite actors in Hollywood, Matt Damon barely missed a beat playing Will Hunting; his character is one I connected and empathized with substantially. As human beings, we often get discouraged and disappointed by what life throws at us and more often than not, we try not to let it show; basically puting on a mask to hide what we truly feel on the inside. For Will, he hides his grief and pain behind a know-it-all disguise; using his wit to incredible effect when people try to penetrate his mind and heart. He doesn’t want to feel vulnerable before others and that’s a major reason why he fails to take his therapy sessions with Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) as seriously as he should.
For a considerable portion of the film, an audience member might hate this character and understandably so. He picks up unnecessary fights, assaults police officers and talks back at his elders; what’s to like about the guy? Well, as the film progresses and Proffesor Maguire peels off the tough barrier that Will has created for himself layer by layer, you get to see him for what he really is and I liked how he rose above it all and became a better person eventually. There was a lot required from Damon in this role, to sell it as best as he could and boy does he sell it! It’s a beautiful performance from him.
Robin Williams, may his soul rest in peace, will always be remembered as an actor who always put his best foot forward in the various movies he featured in . Good Will Hunting is undoubtedly one of those films. His character has been tasked with succeeding where other therapists have failed, dealing with an errant young man in Will who for a better part of the 2nd and 3rd Act is a pain in the arse. At first it is indeed difficult and he even gets physical with Will but progressively, he is able to see through his pain and guide him to the light, if you know what I mean. I loved the character as well as how integral he was to the story-telling; all of which could not have been possible if it weren’t for William’s great performance.
As for Will’s friends in Chuckie (Ben Afffleck), Morgan (Casey Affleck) and Billy (Cole Hauser), they don’t get as much of the spotlight as the two previous characters do nonetheless, they play an integral role in making Will the man he is meant to be. Well, they might just be as errant and unruly as Damon’s character but that unit at least provides him a shoulder to lean on and a kick up the arse when he needs it the most; a factor that was very evident during the conversation at a construction site between Chuckie and Will in the 4th Act.
The Plot, Merits and Demerits.
As I mentioned early on in my review, stories such as the one that Will Hunting revolves around are the ones that move me the most. There are quite a bunch of films that came out in the 90’s which had incredibly rich plots that I hold in high regard e.g ‘Homeward Bound; The Incredible Journey’, ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, James Cameron’s ‘Titanic’ (my all-time favourite by the way), the list goes on and on. Does Good Will Hunting fall in the latter category as well? You bet it does. I was drawn to the Will’s story from the get-go, a story which has a satisfactory and moving arc and works seamlessly with certain essential elements to breathe even more life to the movie entirely.
One of those elements which I cannot overlook is the writing. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck each won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in the 1998 Academy Awards and it’s no surprise why; this is top-notch writing. Every single character in every single scene served their purpose very well to make the film the overwhelming success that it eventually turned out to be.
Though there wasn’t much going on in the cinematography department, which by the way I am not complaining about, the camera work used on here is accurate and appropriate; there’s not much to it. You’d expect any film that packs up the punch emotionally to incorporate a lot close-up shots in its story-telling to sell that emotion and this movie does that exceptionally. Every time Will rants about something or is faced by a moving predicament which forces him to break down, I could feel the weight of those situations not only through the character performances, but also the great camera work used in those scenes. The acting in this film is a work of beauty; that scene where Will has an energetic argument with his girlfriend who he feels insecure around just sums up how much I loved it.
Lastly, there are a bunch of themes tackled on here that I could not fail to take notice of. First off, we have the theme of transformation i.e Will despite the odds that he has stacked against himself, is able to transform himself into a much better person. There’s also the theme of overcoming adversity i.e Damon’s character is faced with a number of physical and emotional obstacles in which he eventually overcomes. And then of course, there is the theme of conflict which in this case is the human versus self conflict; the struggle that Will has with himself in not accepting that he indeed needs therapy in order to realise his full potential.
When a simple low budget film ends up grossing just in excess of $215 million at the Box Office, then you know it did a number of things right. The way I see it, I think it did almost everything right except maybe for a fight scene in the 2nd Act, I believe, which felt rather unreal. Aside from that, I think Good Will Hunting was awesome; this was my first time watching the film and judging by the way I enjoyed it, it certainly won’t be my last