"Good Will Hunting" Review
© 1998 Fontaine L.
- spoilers -

"It's not your fault."

Nothing like a bit of life, the universe, and everything (phrase borrowed from Douglas Adams) on a Saturday night.

"Good Will Hunting," like all good movies out there, touches the heart. That is an understatement. GWH does more than touch your heart - it shakes it, shapes it. It reaches deep into you and caresses your soul. It's one of those movie that you come out of thinking more about yourself and your life than about the movie itself. At least for me it was that way. A good movie, IMHO, reflects the lives of the common people. Art imitates life imitating art. Or so says somebody in "Scream 2." But that's not the point. My point, and I do have one, is that GWH was awesome. Not in a "Titanic" sort of way, but in its own quiet, unassuming sort of way. In many aspects, it was far superior than "Titanic" because it was less artificial, more heart and soul nitty gritty. We see raw emotion when Sean (Robin Williams) and Will (Matt Damon) challenged each other, we see real pain when Skylar (Minnie Driver) demanded that Will say he loves her. And finally, we saw the footprints everyday life has left behind in the lives of Will's friends and Professor Lanbeau.

Maybe I'm being partial because I've heard so many good things about this movie - but then again, it's funny because hearing so many positive reviews of "Titanic" made me disappointed after I saw the movie, whereas the good word-of-mouth made me enjoy this movie even more. I was finally seeing the sensation that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck created. I finally got to know why exactly these two are so famous now. It is with this optimism that I sat down in the theatre, and it is this optimism that carried me through some of the movie's slow moments. The movie is quiet, sort of like "Shine" - no big dramatic moments. Okay, I take that back. There are plenty of moving scenes, but not in the conventional cinematic way. Scenes accentuated not by music, but by our own feelings about life. What makes the dialogue between the characters so appealing? Ourselves. OUR lives. We give a shit about these characters because we can relate to them - a great success on the writers' part.

The movie is not perfect - there are a few cinematic stumbles, but overall everything about it was wonderful. The city scenes whizzing by the train window. The camera inspecting each character's emotions almost voyeurishly. Soft, almost nonexistent score and background music. The faint intellectual buzz. All of the actors as do the characters and their development get A's, especially our cover boy Matt Damon and Robin Williams who has just re-won my respect after "Flubber," "Father's Day," "Jumanji," "Jack" and . . . well you get the idea. I tend to be cynical about overnight successes, but Matt Damon amazed me. As I've said the film is quiet, seemingly uneventful - but it is in this reflective environment that some of the best "real conversations" I've seen in a while on screen are delivered (none of that "you jump, I jump" melodrama). For example, each session between Sean and Will is a pearl. The conversation between Will and Ben Affleck's character at the construction site. Even the playful banter between friends. When the movie isn't inspiring you, it's busy cracking you up. I like dramas with a sense of humor, and GWH definitely has one.

GWH flows around you like a stream of water - influential, but not in a loud way - in a way I'm doubly inspired by the ingenuity of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. I mean, WOW. Where did these two come from?? GWH will make you take a step back and do a little self-examination -- whether it is personal relationships or major crises, you'll find something you can relate to in this movie, something you can learn from. In the end we're happy that Will finally found his way because it is as if we've found our way also. I can go on and on about this movie, but no words can describe it, because you have to experience it yourself - and perhaps what you'll feel will be totally different from mine. In essence, GWH is not just about a guy called Will Hunting who is more endowed than any of us can hope to be - it's about the triumph of good will and the search for self.

The question is not whether we will achieve fame and fortune in our lives: it is whether we are happy with ourselves and true to ourselves. It's about living your life and being who you are. Will Hunting found his way, and so can we.

Rating: A- (First viewing, 3/7/98)

*One of my favorite scenes is the last one, where we cut between Ben Affleck's character arriving at Will's door, only to find in amazement and not a small amount of happiness that he is gone; and Sean finding Will's letter in his mailbox.

*Woah. A feel-good movie from Gus Van Sant. The world must be coming to an end.

*I've cited "Titanic" several times in this review. I have no intention, however, of deliberately comparing "Titanic" to this movie. Such a comparison would be impossible, for each is unique and has its own merit.