Matt Damon and Ben Affleck both won an Oscar for their work on this screenplay, but everyone knows that. What is great about the film is the fact that it is written from the point of view of Bostonians, guys who grew up in the shit they wrote about, drawing influences from past people and events. But at the same time it is so powerfully written that it is hard to remember that epople live this way, live this struggle, and for every Will Hunting that makes it out, there are others who can't.
The story follows a gifted young adult, Will (Matt Damon), who works as a janitor at MIT and constantly solves, to the annoyance of the professor, extremely difficult math questions left undone. And as luck would have it one of the professors spots him working and attempts to change his attitude from ambivalent to scholarly by personally tutoring him in all things math- A proposition Will is not extremely excited about.
Before the tutoring gets very far, one afternoon while hanging out with his 'boys,' Will ends up beating the hell out of some seemingly random kids at a neighborhood basketball court, arrested, and forced to complete counselling or else be throw in jail. His counselor, played by Robin Williams, really affects a formerly stubborn Will at a personal level and gets him to see the world differently- essentially helping him to mature and 'grow up.' After completing his counselling sessions and receiving some tutoring (the two introducing Will to contrasting societal ideals) he is left to find a job, of which he as the pick of the litter. However what he ultimately decides to do lets the audience into Will's head for the first time and helps to fully develop his character and also acts to bring the story full circle.
About halfway into watching this movie I became worried- there was no conflict set up, no adversity for Will to overcome, and although it was clever and funny it didn't really have any dynamic quality to it leaving me wondering why this film had been so highly regarded. But then it became clear the main conflict wasn't between two people, as is most often the case, but within Will. His life has extraordinary potential and he is talented enough to succeed in society, but he has become so complacent and accustomed to his below-average lifestyle and blue collar work ethic that he does not want to give it up. He would be happier living how he wants as opposed to what is best for him. Will ultimately has a very shapable personality and tends to follow his friends lead, so if he is going to change his friends are going to be the ones to convince him.
|"In 20 years, if you're still livin' here, comin' over to my house|
to watch the Patriots games, still working construction, I'll
fuckin' kill you. That's not a threat; now, that's a fact.
I'll fuckin' kill you."
Matt Damon was terrific as the lead, showing flashes of his future brilliance although there were times where he seemed a bit raw as an actor. His mix of superiority and vulnerability meshed seamlessly creating one of the most diverse and unique character studies in recent memory. However for as well as Damon played his character, Robin Williams was better. Able to play off Will's insecurities, Robin Williams is the only character in the film who can see the real Will Hunting and therefore has the best opportunity to impress ideas and advice upon him. Williams played his character with the bravado he is known for, scaled down to a degree, but also embodying reason and wisdom, explaining the brief and fragile nature of life. Williams also received an Oscar for his work in the film, very deserving even if he was overshadowed a bit by the boys from Boston.
The other notable performers in the film were the Affleck brothers, Casey and Ben. And despite his string of less than stellar big budget flops and the negative connotations associated with his career, Ben Affleck is actually a very talented individual and it is clearly evident in this movie, despite what Family Guy thinks:
The director of this film, Gus Van Sant, is probably known more for his turn playing himself on HBO's Entourage than for his small budget films but this guy has serious talent and his filmography is no joke- Drugstore Cowboy, Finding Forrester and Milk. A very non-mainstream director known more for touching on difficult subjects, he does an excellent job making the script come alive and stamping his own personal touch on this movie. It is evident in this film that he was successfully able to get the best out of his actors, certainly helping Robin Williams exceed his acting potential as well as making bona-fide stars out of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.
Good Will Hunting is one of the best movies that I have had the pleasure to see and one that I will always have a spot for in my Top 5 lists. With a cast and crew of competent actors and filmmakers combined with a charming, witty, well-developed script, there is little doubt that this film ranks up there with the best of them. A pop-culture lovers dream, Good Will Hunting is a film that will certainly stick around with you.