run time: 126 mins
director: Gus Van Sant
starring: Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Ben Affleck, Stellan Skarsgard, Minnie Driver, Casey Affleck, Cole Hauser, John Mighton
movie summary: In one of the country’s most renowned schools, Boston’s own MIT, Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgard) teaches advances mathematics. One day he writes out a math problem on the hallway chalk board that no one has been able to solve for years. The very next day his students crowd around the board with amazement because someone solved the problem! Professor Lambeau offers a reward for the student who steps forward and explains how they solved the equation. No one steps forward forcing him to write another problem but this time he will be watching from a distance for the whiz kid to make a move and solve the new problem.
In the middle of the night Will Hunting (Matt Damon) puts down his janitor mop, picks up the chalk, and begins to solve the equation. Professor Lambeau catches him in the act and Will storms off like he did nothing wrong, over the next two days the Professor searches the records of employees who work for the janitorial department in search of his next prodigy. Sadly Will has quit his job and now spends his free time drinking and getting into trouble with his best friend Chuckie Sullivan (Ben Affleck). Together with their two best friends Morgan O’Mally (Casey Affleck) and Billy McBride (Cole Hauser) the four of them get thrown into jail for assaulting a bunch of basketball players.
Professor Lambeau finally tracks Will down in the county jail where he offers him a chance to get released on parole as long as he reports to work for him at MIT solving advance math problems. There’s one other catch, Will must see a therapist once a week to help with his transition from thug to math genius. Will laughs and shrugs off the Professor but since he is willing to bail him out, he’ll play along with the game long enough to stay out of jail.
The two begin to meet on a daily basis where Will turns in his homework which pleases the Professor because some of these homework problems have been unsolved for decades. In accordance to the plan, Will begins to see a therapist which turns into one disaster followed by another. After going through seven different therapists because of his cocky attitude and inability to open up, Professor Lambeau heads to Bunker Hill Community College to find his old college roommate Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), he begs and pleads Sean to take a chance on Will and agree to see him. Their first meeting is cut short because of Will’s attitude and rude comments about Sean’s career, lifestyle, and wife. Sean kicks him out of the office and vows never to see him again.
The Professor can’t figure out what it’s going to take to get Will to open up and the tension builds between him and Will because Will is getting tired of solving these problems. He’s been working with Chuckie’s construction, dating a beautiful girl named Skylar (Minnie Driver), and staying out of trouble. Everyone is trying to open him up but Will is so closed off that he has locked away all his potential and has no clue how to harness it. Sean agrees to see him one more to give him another chance to prove himself. In order to stay out of jail and avoid going down the dark path of being a career criminal, Will reluctantly agrees to corporate one more time but refuses to open up. Sean and Skylar will try their best to get him to open up but their efforts might be for nothing because he refuses to change anything about himself to take advantage of the opportunities in his life.
my thoughts: Good Will Hunting came out in 1997 and went on to win several awards while launching the careers of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. In all these years I have never managed to watch this movie until last week. Despite being from the Boston area and recognizing many of the filming locations, I just never bothered to watch this film thinking I wouldn’t like it. This is my boss’ favourite movie and really pushed for me to watch it so I can appreciate how great of a story it is. I will admit there were a few moments where I wondered which direction the movie would go, but was thrilled with the way the story ended.
Matt Damon is the wanna be gangster, someone who acts like he was born in Charlestown (Boston’s roughest neighbourhood), and is more concerned with running with a gang of troublemakers than hitting the books. To keep up appearances with his friends he hides his smarts and only breaks out his educated charm when they end up in court and need him weasel them out of going to jail. He is a man who could make significant contributions in the world but is too dumb to stop tripping over his own two feet. To be fair to his character it’s not really his fault, the problem lies deeper than anyone can imagine. All these years no one has ever bothered to give him a chance, a chance to open up, and a chance to be himself. Until he ever gets that opportunity he is only going to continue down the same path that will get him no where in life.
Robin Williams is fantastic as the breaded wise professor who has survived through his own fair share of bad things in life. He loves his job but unlike other professors he is also shut off and guarded from everyone else. He is threaten and challenged by Damon’s character at first but because he cares and sees the same potential in Will, as he did himself, he vows to give him a chance no matter what. Neither of them would have ever imagined the impact they would have on each other’s lives because most therapists are professionals and will never break a doctor/patient boundary. Williams is willing to throw everything out the window to make this friendship work which turns into an inspiration for each other to move past the rut they are stuck in at this certain point of their lives. Robin Williams deserved his Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor because Sean Maguire is a dedicated friend who will never give up on you if you ever need his help. He comes into the movie around the half way point but pulls Damon and the rest of the story to the finish line.
In minor roles Minnie Driver is super charming as Damon’s girlfriend Skylar. She is a smart girl who wears her heart on her sleeve, and even though her boyfriend isn’t in the same school she recognizes the potential in him and only wants to be there for him. Stellan Skarsgard gives Damon a get out of jail free card and pushes him to follow in his footsteps. He applies an enormous amount of pressure on the young kid to become a genius instead of allowing him the chance to be himself. Stellan turns out to be the bad guy in the story who may or may not even learn a true life lesson from this experiment. Ben Affleck is Damon’s best friend in real life and on the big screen who is a down on luck kind of guy who only wishes he could Damon’s character but accepts his destiny has other plans for him. He wishes his best friend would take advantage of his gifts while pushing him away. Ben’s real life younger brother Casey makes a small appearance as their idiot third wheel friend who is just there to prove that both Ben and Matt are the smartest people in the group.
my final thoughts: Good Willing Hunting is an amazing movie that I feel bad about only watching recently for the first time. There are a lot of emotional moments that will make you wipe away a tear or two, while leaving you with a huge smile on your face when the credits start. This story is great story about the human spirit and overcoming adversity.
my star rating: 8 out 10
imdb.com: 8.2 out 10
rottentomatoes.com: 97% out 100%
rogerebert.com: 3 out 4