Good Will Hunting (1997)

I would like to start off this review by stating plainly that this is my all-time favorite film. I would never go to such lengths as to suggest that this is the “best” film ever made, but rather that it contains all the things that I truly care about in a movie — simply good writing, good acting, and an enlightening theme. I put a lot of emphasis on a film’s ability to speak to me in an emotional and personal way. Good WIll Hunting brought me to tears; it wrenched my gut with laughter; it inspired me, and it made me want to go out into the world searching for something special to call my own. This film won two Oscars in 1998, one for Best Original Screenplay, accepted by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, and one for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, awarded to Robin Williams. I would like to dedicate this review to the memory of this remarkable man, whose passing, even months later, pains me deeply. We love you, Robin.

It is no surprise that this film spends a lot of its run-time focused on Will’s (Matt Damon) therapy sessions with Sean McGuire (Robin Williams), considering that a major theme of the film is about overcoming the obstacles that we make for ourselves within our own minds. Will has serious difficulty with allowing new people into his life in any real and significant way because the first people that were meant to love him, his parents, deserted him. This is why Will hangs up on Skylar (Minnie Driver) after running out into the rain to call her on a payphone; this is why he simply cannot bring himself to say that he loves her, even though he wants to, even though it breaks her heart that he won’t. This is an issue that nearly all of us deal with to some degree or another. The complete desire to do one thing, but to be so inhibited from doing so because of various psychological dilemmas is undeniably a common and quite frustrating problem. Will goes further, masking his issues by adopting the persona of an aloof, no-shit-giving punk. He’s a janitor who evenly divides his time between batting cages and bars.

Damon and Affleck rightfully collected the Oscar for their first script. Good Will Hunting is a heavy film about domestic abuse, poverty, alcoholism, imprisonment, and most of all love, and the film is so good that all of these themes hit you over the head with a proverbial brick wall. The “It’s not your fault” scene alone is proof enough, but it is supplemented with so many scenes just as  powerful -i.e. the “Some days, I wish I never met you” scene and the “That’s a great philosophy, Will” scene. Yet at the same time, this is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. The humor is clever, and while it keeps the film from becoming boring, it also metaphorically plays to the theme of masking your pain and your problems. I feel that I can say this with confidence because most of the humor comes in the form of Will’s dismissing legitimate attempts at counseling and insulting the very people who are trying to help him the most.

I do not think it would be fair for me to dedicate this entire review to Mr. Williams without dedicating at least one paragraph to his absolutely brilliant performance. Despite several nominations, Williams won his first and only Oscar for his work on this film.  He grows a beard, puts on a scally cap, and develops just the right touch of a Boston accent without forcing it; instead, it feels quite natural. In this film, Williams’ always perfect delivery is utilized exceptionally well. The comedic lines are not thrown in your face; you might find yourself laughing out loud while everyone else is giving you a questioning look. That’s part of his brilliance. He is able to make you feel as though he is delivering his lines just for you to hear, makes you feel as though you’re together on the inside of the joke. But Williams’ ability to become totally serious is what sets his performance apart from the others in this film. When he needs to, Williams brings you into his hardened world of wisdom.

Good Will Hunting has spoken to me in ways that no other film has, and it contains all the things that I personally cherish in any picture. I love the performances, especially Williams’, and this is my favorite script of all the movies that I have seen. When it comes down to it, this film is about so much more than it seems to be on the surface, and when you really dig into it, you will, hopefully, find a message that you can carry with you forever.