Good Will Hunting

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Bottom Line: Premise and Williams are great, but the rest is a disappointment.

“I got her number. How do ya like them apples?” –Matt Damon as Will Hunting

Directed by: Gus van Sant
Starring: Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, Cole Hauser, Matt Damon, Minnie Driver, Richard Fitzpatrick, Robin Williams, Scott William Winters, Stellan Skarsgard

Unambitious saga follows Will Hunting (Matt Damon), a janitor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Though this is a small job he has, Will possesses an incredible knowledge and an impressive skill for mathematics. Also, he seems to not care about the fact that he is wasting such talent and instead working as a custodian. Noticing this, the man whom he works for hires a psychologist, Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), to assist him in giving his life a direction.

There’s something suspicious about the story here. It’s quite ironic that the film itself is easily comparable to its lead character. Its script often seems to keep running on and on, similar to how Damon’s character speaks quickly in his sentences of interminable length; it doesn’t seem to care what its own outcome is; and, worst of all, it doesn’t seem to be moving in any specific direction. For quite a long time, the film consists of talky, in-depth explanations of the characters it details. Each character seemed to be studied to a certain depth, with Williams’s and Damon’s characters being expounded upon greatly. It takes at least forty-five minutes for the premise to be officially established, where we first see Dr. Maguire start to work with Will. After that, the film spends its precious time trying to explain upon this premise, but the pacing is so slow that it ends up going a very short distance.

Perhaps the greatest relief GOOD WILL HUNTING had to offer was Williams’s performance. Watching him break away from his comedic comfort zone is like listening to Afrika Bambaataa try to yodel. What’s even more odd (and impressive), he succeeds enormously. If there is one performance that makes this film watchable, it’s that from Robin Williams. I’ll include mention that this opened up the careers of other recognizable names such as Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Those two are impressive in their acting roles, but Williams is the one that seems to shine.

Other than that one performance, this film was a major disappointment. One would think that because of such a marvelous plot, the film would excel. Unfortunately, that plot must have been too ambitious for screenwriters Damon and Affleck, and director Van Sant, to handle. The film takes such precious time trying to craft the story into dialogue and actions, that once the standard two-hour length has been reached, it seems to be scrambling to find an even spot to end at. At least a good conclusion was chosen for this underwhelming tale.

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12 thoughts on “Good Will Hunting

  1. I saw this in theaters and it was one of those films where everyone who saw it loved it (including me). After seeing it again years later, I see it is fraught with mediocrity. Not the classic it seemed it would be at the time of release, but still a decent film.

    • I guess I’m alone on this one. I know every one loves it, and I guess I can understand, but the only thing here that struck me as truly lovable was Robin Williams’s performance. There were one or two scenes that I thought were great. Had there been many more of those moments, I probably would have loved it.

  2. This is our first major disagreement. Just like Mark, this is the first review that I have read that hasn’t liked it as much as you didn’t. I do think L.A. Confidential should have one that year. My next pick would have been Good Will Hunting. Then Titanic in third. They were all great movies though.

    My main gripe with the movie is that, yes, it is predictable. You know where the story is go. I thought it’s strongest points were the acting and the script. Don’t get me wrong, the script isn’t perfect. Still, there are some great lines of dialog.

    I still can’t believe you gave this a C. But, hey, I gave Crazy, Stupid, Love a C (using your scale). Outstanding review still.

    • Let me be clear: I, myself, am still having trouble trying to wrap my head around the fact that I gave it a C. I really wanted to like this. It wasn’t even that I wasn’t in the mood for watching it. In fact, I was rushing to get myself to watch it because I wanted to see it so badly. I considered giving it a B-, but I didn’t find it quite deserving. I don’t know if I should feel like an idiot for not liking this one, because everyone loves it, so it’s quite close to an established fact that it’s great. I just didn’t care for it all too much. Let’s look at the positives: Matt Damon wouldn’t have a career if it weren’t for this!

    • Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to love this film. A 97% grade on Rotten Tomatoes had me convinced it would be great. I was shocked by how utterly disappointing it was, and I now find it extremely overrated. I know there’s many who disagree with me (actually, I bet it’s more like anyone who’s seen this), but I didn’t like it. I can understand liking it, by I didn’t myself. That said, I’m quite glad the 1997 Best Picture Oscar was Titanic and not this.

  3. I liked the movie more than you did, and it is one of my favorites from 1997. I thought the story was well executed and Robin Williams did a good job.

    The beginning is a little slow, though, but overall I thought the film was great.

    • Let’s start with the basics: there is no question or debate about whether Williams did a good job here. His performance makes me wish he were a dramatic actor more often than a comedian. He can be funny, but I’d much rather watch him in dramatic roles like his Oscar-winning one here, than in his usual comic roles.

      If this is one of your favorites of ’97, let’s hope you also have Titanic, Men in Black, and As Good As It Gets on your list somewhere. I know, I still have quite a few from that year to watch, such as L.A. Confidential, but so far, those three would be at the top of my favorites for ’97. I was expecting Good Will Hunting to rank somewhere up there–I hadn’t heard anything bad about it–but it was just a severe letdown for me. At least it’s gotten Damon into a successful career. 🙂

      • I’d rather see Williams in serious roles too. He’s starred in way too many bad comedies, but he’s good in serious roles. And I’m glad to the movie gave Damon his career too.

        I’ve seen Titanic, Men in Black, and As Good As It Gets, and thought they were all good. But my personal favorite from 1997 is L.A. Confidential, one of the best crime movies in recent years.

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